"What an eye opening experience our visit to Amrita has been!” stated Dr. Judson Harward, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who recently spent some time visiting our large campuses at Amritapuri, Coimbatore and Kochi.
Dr. Judson was accompanied by his associate Mr. James Hardison, also from MIT. Both men are associated with MIT’s Center for Educational Computing Initiatives, the former serving as its Associate Director and the latter working there as research engineer.
“All three Amrita campuses that we visited feature exciting research,” noted Dr. Judson, upon the conclusion of the visit. “The faculty are clearly deeply committed to their students, the institution and their fields.”
“It has been a very inspiring visit.”
Back home, Dr. Judson is involved in MIT’s celebrated iLab Project, that provides access to real laboratory experiments to students via the Internet, allowing educators to provide an online lab experience for distance learners.
“Scientists and engineers typically believe that laboratory experimentation is a critically important part of training in their fields,” stated Dr. Judson. “Due to logistical or resource constraints, however, students are often denied such laboratory experiences.”
“During a decade of the project’s evolution, iLabs have allowed us to reexamine what the role of labs can and should be in education. We have found that online labs help introduce students to the fundamental engineering cycle of requirements analysis, design, implementation, testing and evaluation.”
Dr. Judson also spent some time learning about the MHRD-funded virtual labs initiative at Amrita, very similar to this project at his own university.
As part of the initiative, Amrita is collaborating with a consortium of several universities, including many IITs; Amrita is developing virtual labs mainly in the areas of physics, chemistry and biotechnology.
The endeavor won much praise from the MIT visitors.
“Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham is devoting great originality and energy to their program of remote labs,” stated Dr. Judson. “They need to publish their efforts more widely to let the field know what they are doing.”
“We very much look forward to partnering with them on remote and virtual laboratories.”
The collaboration can only benefit Amrita. As we draw upon their experience, we might find, like they have, that virtual labs can open up a world of exciting possibilities for students as they learn that modern science and engineering are inherently global and interdisciplinary fields.
January 23, 2011
University HQ, Coimbatore