Technology enables teacher to reach out to many classes at once

An expert team of National Institute of Technology-Tiruchi (NIT-T) has invented a low-cost technique to convert conventional classrooms into virtual ones, thereby opening up opportunities for more number of higher educational institutions to integrate themselves into National Knowledge Network (NKN).

Against the market rates ranging between Rs.1lakh and Rs.10 lakh for per-classroom conversion, a model that the NIT-T has come up with costs just Rs.20,000.

According to B.Venkataramani, Dean-Research and Consultancy, and S.R.Balasundaram, Head, Computer Support Group, who led the team behind the cost-effective initiative, their model for virtual classroom is more effective as well.

The NIT-T demonstrated this model on Monday and Tuesday to participants of a workshop on National Mission for Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT). The participants comprised about 100 faculty members from arts, science, engineering, law, and medical colleges from all over Tamil Nadu.

Ten classrooms in NIT-T have already been converted into virtual classrooms enabling two-way audio and video communication between a remote teacher and a number of class rooms. These rooms have successfully been tested with video conferencing/virtual class room software. The Institute is in the process of converting all the other classrooms into virtual ones.

The proposed infrastructure in these rooms enable the lectures delivered by both remote teacher and the local teacher to be recorded and stored in the local area network so that the students can revisit these lectures later. According to the expert team, the technology enables a teacher to reach out to a number of classes at once; students can opt for a variety of electives while teachers can concentrate more on research and tutorials. This is particularly important where there are common subjects between a number of branches. Several institutions in developed countries have multiple sections per branch to ensure better attention to students. Research scholars perform the role of moderators in each of the virtual classrooms, and gain from their exposure to best teachers and opportunity to evaluate students.

NIT-T Director S.Sundarrajan said the institute proposes to create video lectures similar to National Programme on Technology-Enhanced Learning and make it available over the NKN/ NMEICT. Lectures by NIT-T faculty will be made available for other colleges, particularly self-financing institutions. Virtual classrooms will enable the students to be taught by experts from industries and reputed academic institutions in India and abroad, he said, presiding over the inaugural session of the workshop.

Inaugurating the workshop, Kannan Moudgalya of Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, elaborated on the progress made through the Spoken Tutorial initiative to train 10,000 teachers with collaborative open source software efforts. Sessions were handled by experts drawn from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, IIT Madras, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Amrita University, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, and National Institute of Technical Teachers’ Training and Research.