What was once a supplementary tool in colleges is now sweeping its way into college classrooms, often as a substitute for teachers.
To tackle the shortage of faculty members, many colleges are in the process of installing e-learning systems in their laboratories. Many of them are also intended to assist teachers and aid students with extra training.
While SRM, VIT and Amrita University already have their e-learning platforms, most of these colleges also invest in audio-video training for students. Jayam Group of engineering institutions has their own e-learning platform to assist students too.
E-learning might be the best way to tackle poor-quality teaching, says E. Balaguruswamy, former V-C of Anna University. Colleges too have realised it. For instance, an engineering college in Karapakkam has been struggling to find a programming tutor for the past three years.
“Teachers quit frequently so we have developed a package of 200 commonly-asked Java computer programs. Third-year students use that in labs. We are trying to develop similar programs for students of other branches, with the help of our faculty members,” says the principal.
Other colleges, too, have realised the reach of e-learning initiatives. “For instance, we are offered five electives in the fifth semester but we had teachers only for two subjects. Students interested in graphics were provided with a software application that trained us in developing graphics. It was interesting because there were minimal audio instructions but more practical sessions,” said R. Selvam, a student of a university in Avadi.
The need for such media also arises because there is not much native content in engineering curriculum, say students. “We are asked to refer books by English authors which are often inaccessible.”
ICT options such as e-learning and EDUSAT are available for educational institutions but experts say they are not being utilised properly. “You have lessons at untimely hours. That is why many of these programmes are not used by students anymore,” says Prof Balaguruswamy
However, e-learning platforms such as NPTEL, a collaborative attempt by IITs and IISc, have been received well by students.
For the first time now, Anna University syllabus, too, is available to students via the BSNL tablet launched recently. The tablets will be pre-loaded with Bodhi Access, an e-learning platform that delivers content to engineering students of all branches. “It is all based on the new syllabus of the university that was launched this year. Curriculum pertaining to all branches of engineering will be available in the package,” said R. Sahasranamam of Bodhi Access. With animation and stylised audio-visual content, the application is meant to keep students engaged via small modules.
BSNL will go to different college campuses to popularise the tool, officials said. “The focus should be on making the software interactive. Unless the student’s doubts are solved, they won’t find the medium interesting,” said Prof Balaguruswamy.