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An initiative in sharing knowledge

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G. KRISHNAKUMAR

Cochin University of Science and Technology is at the centre of activities to build a network to interconnect all universities and colleges in the State.

Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) is exploring the advantages of the digital route to becoming the knowledge hub of the State.

Work on building a backbone network connecting all universities and colleges has begun on the campus. All universities and colleges in the State will be interconnected with this network to improve the quality of education.

It will be done by sharing programmes like talks, seminars and classes conducted in various universities. Educational resources like video clippings of classes of eminent teachers will be exchanged among partnering universities.

Elaborating on the proposal, Joy Job Kulavelil, Syndicate member and general convener of the project, told The Hindu EducationPlus that the virtual classroom project would be launched in January.

“Virtual classrooms will help in sharing resources effectively. For example, the lecture given by an expert in a university could be utilised by students of other universities. All universities in the State, 84 colleges and 400 schools are already part of the EduSat network. But it is under utilised,” he said.

Stating that EduSat could be fully utilised to set up the initial backbone network without any extra cost, Dr. Kulavelil said that the immediate task was to make this network fully operational.

“Five universities and 84 colleges have satellite interactive terminals (SITs) with more than 5,000 IP addresses. This can be visualised as a wide area network. Each SIT has to be connected directly to the local area network of the colleges or universities concerned. This can be done without any additional expenditure,” he said.

Nearly 400 schools are connected through receive only terminals (ROTs). Classes conducted by any of the 89 SITs can be displayed in classrooms. These stations will receive multiple tasks simultaneously. In the second phase, an additional virtual private network will be set up using the BSNL backbone to augment the existing EduSat network.

The remaining colleges will be connected to this network by a lead line internet network. Overhead fibre cables will be laid in the third phase to interconnect universities and other educational institutions.

Dr. Kulavelil said that a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) centre will also be established on the campus, as part of the knowledge hub project.

“The aim is to ensure access to quality higher education in an equitable manner at affordable cost to everyone in the State. This also contributes to democratising and strengthening the educational system as a whole,” he said.

The FOSS centre will provide opportunities to young talents from the State to develop their skills. They will be invited to participate in collaborative efforts of the global FOSS community. All the advantages of FOSS, including the freedom to use, learn, modify, copy and distribute for free or for a cost, will be made locally available for the entrepreneurs.

The virtual university to be set up by Cusat will have the facility for delivering quality higher education to the student community. The remote classroom facility will be used by educational institutions to reduce the cost of higher education. The flow of resources to outside the State will also be checked to a great extent using these programmes, said the report submitted by the university to the government. It said that the remote interactive classrooms will help in reducing the disparity that exists between rural and urban students in terms of access to teaching and learning infrastructure. The visual and physical interpretation of the topic will be better conveyed to the students through demonstration or animation intensive teaching content.

A teaching resource archive will be developed to reduce the repetitive, mechanical and monotonous efforts of the teacher for creating teaching material. Dr. Kulavelil said that the public content creation portal would increase the public interaction with the universities. The public utility portal will be used to provide email, chat and web hosting facility to the public.

Centre for Information Resource Management on the campus will be used to build knowledge in the public domain. The proposal said that the large collection of books owned by the Bhasha institute could be converted into web documents.

The Centre is also ready to add other public documents, books and study materials to the public domain. Computerisation of government organisations and utilising the opportunities emerging in the field of biotechnology are some of the other projects being planned by the university.


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