A former journalist with a passion for engineering and cyberspace, he is one of those who believes that universities will turn digital, and bring together a variety of learners, irrespective of the vast distances and different time zones that might separate them.
On a visit to the PSG College of Arts and Science to inaugurate a virtual learning programme for a group of teachers developing electronic content, G.L. Shekar, Special Officer, E-learning Centre, Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), SJCE Campus, Mysore, spent some time talking to A. A. Michael Raj on how the University was going digital, and uniting people in a virtual learning environment very different from the traditional classroom.
BY THE end of the year, VTU was likely to offer 100 to 150 courses, and host a vast collection of academic material at a full-fledged data centre being planned in Bangalore.
Though headquartered in Belgaum, the University was establishing the centre in the software capital of Karnataka, because of its strategic location.
'We are also creating a network management system to take care of the online traffic to the data centre,' he said, adding that the new facility would have a set of computer servers for data storage and web streaming. Digital material would be in a form that was compliant with Sharable Content Object Repository Module (SCORM), the internationally accepted format.
Electronic learning was a familiar concept on the VTU campus. 'We have provided laptops to all students in the three masters' programmes. That is about 100 students. Four digital classrooms are connected to the laptops, and the entire campus is WiFi-enabled so that students can be on the network whether in class, in the hostel or under a tree,' he observed.
Content from the electronic board in the classrooms could be downloaded into the laptops of the students, so that no time was wasted dictating notes or writing with chalk. The aim was to make the entire campus experience 'learner-centric.'
Technology was helpful when there was a shortage of teachers who could handle subjects in engineering and medicine.
At present, there was a paucity of teachers for mathematics, 'C' programming, Internet programming and digital signal processing (DSP).
Faculty knew that their role was to be facilitators rather than repositories of knowledge.
'Good old methods' were obsolete and if teachers did not give students the information and guidance they needed, the youngsters would get what they required from some other source.