With an IIT education now available on YouTube, Anna University is getting set to join the ranks of those offering video lectures by its professors on the Web. This will help to maintain quality education at a time when quality faculty are in short supply, according to Vice-Chancellor P. Mannar Jawahar.
On Wednesday morning, Electronics and Communication Engineering professor N. Kumaravel delivered his weekly one-and-a-half hour lecture on digital signal processing from a studio on Anna University's Guindy campus. Thanks to the educational satellite EDUSAT, he was heard by over 500 students in ten classrooms scattered across the State.
It did not matter that students of Vel Tech Engineering College in Avadi were sitting in a well-equipped acoustic hall set aside for the purpose, while those at the Sree Sowdambika College of Engineering in Virudhunagar were crowded into plastic chairs in a badly-lit room with ceiling fans disrupting the sound quality.
Both sets of students had equal access to the professor's 24 years of expertise in teaching this subject, and both took advantage of it with a series of doubts and clarifications.
The new Web proposal aims at expanding this access to quality teaching beyond the 39 colleges who have subscribed for the EDUSAT programme and take it to any student who can find a computer and an internet connection.
"Whether they are from a good college or a bad college, affiliated or not, we feel that the university should give the benefits of the best teachers to all students," said Higher Education secretary K. Ganesan.
At a meeting held two days ago, the government asked Dr. Jawahar to hold discussions with his fellow Vice-Chancellors at Anna Universities in Coimbatore, Tiruchi and Tirunelveli and identify a common university curriculum as well as a team of reputed teachers, current and retired, from the universities and self-financing colleges, to teach it.
The EDUSAT programme currently offers about 15 hours of lectures for selected courses in four popular streams. The Web project would ultimately include all streams and subjects, with 45 to 60 hours of lectures per course, said Dr. Jawahar.
Apart from being put online on the university server, the lectures would be available in CD and DVD format and through EDUSAT.
The IITs have been carrying out a similar project with Central funding, but Dr. Jawahar said the Anna University lectures would cater for a different category of students. Most IIT professors offer a high level of teaching that assumes the student's fundamental knowledge, he said.
"At least 85 per cent of the students in our self-financing colleges need to start from scratch. We want the best teachers who can be understood even by a poor student," he explained.
Dr. Kumaravel agrees. "I focus on the basic concepts and principles, because many teachers at these self-financing colleges are only interested in working out the problems that will come in the examination."
Naresh Kumar Thapa, a Vel Tech student who listened to his lecture, felt that the video lectures were an essential supplement to his own teachers.