Discussion between M. S. Ananth and K. Mangala Sunder
July 27, 2015
Professor Mangal: Let me welcome all of you to this program. This is a personal interaction with one of the architects of the Technology Enhanced Learning programmes in modern India for the last fifteen years or so. With me is Professor Ananth who has been the former Director of Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, and he was a Professor of Chemical Engineering here since 1972. Professor Ananth later went to Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore as a visiting Professor and currently he is a distinguished Professor in the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.
I am Mangala Sunder Krishnan. I am from the Department of Chemistry and the reason of my being here is that I had the privilege to work with Professor Ananth for about eleven to twelve years on the programme of the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning which has been funded by the Government of India since 2003 and which has led to many other larger programmes and national vision through a programme known as the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology.
Professor Ananth has been the architect of most of these initiatives and NPTEL is particularly his brain-child. So, we will discuss a little bit about the Technology Enhanced Learning in higher education in India and how this programme started, what are the highlights, what are the road blocks, the challenges, what are the ways forward, and how this programme has been co-ordinated by multiple institutions, and in what way we hope that this will contribute to a much more equitable and accessible technology learning initiative for everybody in the country, in India as well as everyone else in the world.
So, let me start off with the first issue of how we began this process of Technology Enhanced Learning in the year 1999. I may request Professor Ananth to have the history. Maybe you would like to tell us a little bit, how you perceive this and what went on.
Professor Ananth: Thank you. Thanks a lot Mangala Sunder. Actually, this programme wouldn’t have been possible without Mangala Sunder’s hard work from the beginning. But let me begin with what happened in 1999. I was Dean, Academic Courses, and we had a severe shortage of faculty in higher technical education in India. It was clear that IITs, which had one mandate of improving technical education in the country, could help best by producing courses that could be seen online by all students, especially students who did not have access to good teachers or teachers at all.
This is how it started and around that time, there was a visit from Carnegie Mellon, very fortuitously, by Professor Paul Goodman, who is no more. He was a great champion of Technology Enhanced Learning. He had helped the virtual university in Mexico to set up a programme of learning that became more popular than the brick and mortar universities in Mexico.
So, he suggested that we start with a workshop. It was a very good idea. We started at the workshop in 1999 called ‘Workshop on Technology Enhanced Learning’. This workshop was attended by people from the academia, by people from the industry, especially the IT industry, and people from the ministry. In particular, at that time, the Ministry of Information Technology was very interested. So, we brought together policy makers from the government essentially, people from the industry who were willing to administer what we eventually hoped would work out to be a very good technical university, a virtual technical university, and people from academia who would contribute lectures, who would also contribute to selection of students as well as declaring when they are qualified to get a degree.
But we figured that the first step was to create these courses. We wanted to create about 600 courses online before we actually took on the task of building a virtual university. Professor Paul Goodman had a tremendous experience in Mexico and he wanted to share it with us. He brought on participants from Mexico on video conferencing and they were so enthusiastic that it was infectious.
We also had incidentally, four Directors from the IITs at that time and two Directors from IIMs as well, participating in this workshop. The workshop came to several conclusions, but one of the major conclusions was to produce courses – open courseware. It was clear from the beginning that we were going to make it open; open courseware for students to access in India. But having said that, we said we’ll open it to the whole world.
We made a proposal. It is not easy to get funding for such projects in India. I guess, anywhere it is hard to get funding. At that time it was quite difficult, but we were able to persuade the Government of India, although it took quite some time. We wrote a proposal at the end of this for creating courses. The then Minister, Mr. Murali Manohar Joshi, told us that we should create video courses rather than stick to web courses alone. Because, he said, the rural student likes to see the face of a teacher. We agreed and he created an exclusive channel in which these videos would be played. He had a sense of humour. He called this channel, Ekalavya Channel, because Ekalavya in Hindu mythology was the first distance education student.
In any case, we did take his advice. Turned out actually that he was right and the video courses were not only more popular with the students, they were also more popular with the teachers. But we knew that we couldn’t at IIT Madras do it alone; we had to take the help of other IITs. At that time it was decided that the ministry would support courses in technical education alone and not in management in the first phase.
So, we had a proposal written up jointly with the IITs and we submitted it to MHRD. There was a Joint Secretary at that time, Mr. V. S. Pandey who was very supportive. But still, going through, getting the proposals to the government, and getting a funding of 260 million at that time in order to set up good digital studios in all the old IITs, in seven institutions and IISc, and getting people to cooperate and produce these courses, was a difficult task.
In any case, we finally got funding of 260 million.
Professor Mangal: 15 crores – so, that will be about 150 million Indian Rupees at that time.
Professor Ananth: The total was twenty…
Professor Mangal: Plus another… So, 210 million.
Professor Ananth: Yes, 210 million was given to us, out of which, about 60 million for producing studios, of high quality digital studios in all the IITs and the remaining was running expenses for creating these courses. We agreed to create, I think, 120 courses on the video and 120 on the web. It was a slow process of conversion, because we had to talk to faculty and get them to do this.
There were many conditions that we set ourselves. The first condition was, we said it would be a service; and if it is a service, like the classical nursery rhyme, the service is of no use if the customer doesn’t accept it. So, we needed to get the colleges, the principals, the teachers in rural colleges as well, all on board with us, and we had to create these courses. If they wanted us to explain some portions, we had to agree to do more lectures on this.
I am sort of jumping the gun, but let me get back to the beginning. We had to discuss what the syllabus should be for all the courses. The Indian system of education unfortunately still has affiliation as a large part of it. This was left by the British as a colonial legacy, and I am afraid, we have still retained it.
A typical university has 200 to 500 colleges affiliated to it. The colleges do not have the independence to change the syllabi and the curricular without the permission of the syndicate of the university. You can imagine that this is a very slow process. So, we had to discuss how to conduct these courses so that they would be useful to the students and yet have a curriculum that is current.
So, we divided the disciplines among the IITs. We said, one person from each IIT would participate in discussions on the disciplines and discuss the course syllabi. We started with the syllabus of three major universities for each subject and a syllabus that had been produced by the All India Council of Technical Education, which is a regulatory body at the national level, who had drawn up a common syllabus. Of course, the syllabi were somewhat short on topics that were currently important. So, we added those topics as well. And then, we also decided that since different universities had different syllabi, we would do this in modular form.
The course was typically of 40-hour duration; a 3 credit course would be of 40-hour duration, roughly broken up into 8 modules, out of which, 6 modules would satisfy the syllabus of any one university. There were additional topics that we felt should be present in the curriculum even if they were not included in the syllabus of the university. That was the first part of it.
The second part of it was we decided that these courses represented what we described then as the ‘cake of education’, whereas in the west, in particular for example, MIT’s open courseware, for example I felt, catered to the icing on the cake of education.
So, we were particular that not only should a course be taught according to the syllabus, according to these modules that were delivered, but, that the teacher should also identify the course with the syllabus, and tell the student what modules within that course will ‘cover the portions’ for his university.
Professor Mangal: It was very hard though. That was a difficult exercise.
Professor Ananth: It was a very hard problem. Initially, the faculty was sort of on revolt. They said: “It is too much work and I do not want to do that; I will do it exactly like I do it in IIT.” But I think, eventually, they all saw that if you wanted it as a service, we have to do it this way. And I must here record the complete cooperation that we got from some 325 faculty members in the seven IITs and in Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The seven IITs were the IITs in Chennai, Mumbai, Roorkee, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, and Guwahati.
I think these seven were the ones and we had state of the art studios created. Professor A. K. Ray from IIT Kharagpur was a great help here. He was a pioneer in educational technology in India. He knew everything about hardware and he was also very good at bargaining for prices. So, he is responsible for creating really good studios in all these institutions.
So, we did this, but actually the funding came to us only in 2003. That is when we started, and by 2007 or 2008 we had these 120 courses ready. They were all put on the web and you can add some more about it.
Professor Mangal: And the other 120 videos were also done. I think elaboration of this process is very important because the model in India is quite different from the open courseware models propagated throughout the rest of the world and also the way UNESCO had defined OERs in 2001 and 2002, and how to create them, etc. The model here is one of solving a basic problem of education and quality in education in India and in that process, of course, trying to identify what are the technological tools that we learn for ourselves as well as the way we would be able to communicate and get the others to also appreciate. So, in that sense, the course contents are all completely public and they are under the creative commons license now, Share Alike and attribution, which means it’s the same license as the Wikipedia. But, that is as far as the course preparation, the course organization and things are concerned.
But, I think, as of last month or something, if I understand, about 900 such courses are already on, and more than half of them, or about 470 of them are entirely video based courses, with 40 hours of video per course. So, you can see that we have a total of about 18,000 to 19,000 video hours on technical education and on science, basic sciences, which are free for everybody to learn.
This also, of course, Professor Ananth has summarized, the goals that we had early on, as well as the challenges that we had. I think the challenges were more in terms of the pedagogy that professors disagreed on to – what should be the way to teach and what should be the way to learn. 300 faculty members with about 600 opinions – that is the process in which I really want to say. As an assistant professor at that time – when this project started, I was an assistant professor – I had done nothing other than take notes by professors who were sitting in all the committees. All you did was to make sure that every one of them finally agreed to do things. I think that is something you might want to say a little bit more about.
Professor Ananth: I mean, the point is that, all the professors were committed, but they were also opinionated, like all of us are in education. So, we had to thrash it out, and we had to say finally that we won’t prescribe a unique method but we will prescribe certain boundary conditions. The boundary conditions were primarily that they should always be considered as a service. So, you have to convince the customer that this is of value to him or her. And the customer will be free to tell you how to change your presentation or add material and this was agreed on. Secondly, all the material will be open.
Professor Mangal: Which meant, excluding any copyrighted material or even quoting the websites as they were, but creating all the diagrams, creating all the animations, and I think that was a fairly large piece of work that many institutions really went through; I think that was an important step.
Professor Ananth: That was another important step. And the third thing was simply to convince people that if we did something like this, it would actually be used; because in practice, it is not easy to convince people that they should use courseware that is available readily. Because even a courseware that is run like this in the open still needs to be monitored in colleges by teachers. We had a problem since we did not have teachers in many subjects and some of the teachers did not really know the subject too well, and they had to cope with the lecture, and they had to deal with students who could be quite difficult to deal with under these circumstances.
We did not expect overnight change but I am now happy to say that over a period of ten years. See this, in 2003 when this was funded, I had become the Director in IIT Madras and I got willing cooperation from all the IITs, all the other IIT Directors. There were two national coordinators for the web and the video; Mangala Sunder was the coordinator for the web courses and Professor Kushal Sen in IIT Delhi became the coordinator for the video courses.
Professor Mangal: He ran the Ekalavya channel program for almost like 11 years, until it was discontinued last year, sometime June last year. Till then he was uploading the course and contents.
Professor Ananth: The other challenge was in the ministry as well because they had to be convinced that this is not a program that would be started enthusiastically and then would die out with them not having, not being able to show results for the investment. So, it is a concern that is very valid because academics generally are somewhat fragile, and if they don’t like bureaucratic practices they tend to walk-away from such programs. So, you had to keep them together. And I must say that I only kept them together by persuasion.
Professor Mangal: No, I think that was extremely important because the model difference and model uniqueness is one; multiple institutions which were competing for the good students in the country decided to do this for the purpose of well-being of everybody else, one. Whether in that process they have achieved the goals or not is something for the others to decide, but whatever has been delivered has been delivered with an honest effort.
And the second part was that it was curriculum based, making sure that no gaps will exist in the four year or five year undergraduate and dual degree curricula. So, all course contents were created in most of the major disciplines.
And third, we have given this without any conditions to anybody to use it; in full, in part or in whatever way they want to modify it, subject to the basic license conditions.
Finally, there are other institutions which are also contributing; it is no longer an IIT-centred and IISc-centred initiative. These are administrative bodies and you have the largest consortium of the program implementation committee members that any such program in the world can think about. So, it is not just about technology enhancement of learning, but it is about actually bringing a group together and deliver it. And its enhancement, as Paul always said – Professor Paul Goodman was one of our most enthusiastic supporters and well-wishers of this program till unfortunately he passed away…
Professor Ananth: He was a true friend, a philosopher, and guide in this area.
Professor Mangal: Absolutely, and I had many such interactions with him, both online as well as in person; and his centre for this strategic learning that he was the chairman of, is a model based on which the web studios of the institution in all this country, in all our partner institutions have been created, and so on. So, there are many people. It is just not about technology. Technology is one issue, but how to get the learning across from the best of teachers that we have to the students who are motivated to learn. I think that challenge is something that you might also want to say a few more words about how these are even in Chemical Engineering, for example. You chose for some reason, chemical engineering may not be the first set of courses…
Professor Ananth: No, because, All India Council of Technical Education had done a survey, and it turned out that the maximum shortage of faculty was in five disciplines which were in great demand at that time. These disciplines were Computer Science, Electronics and Communication, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering.
Professor Mangal: And basic sciences of course, we decided.
Professor Ananth: And basic sciences that were part of this program. So, what we decided was that we will do those five programs. In fact, the Joint Secretary asked me: “How come you aren’t choosing Chemical Engineering”’ I said: “What the country needs is what I should choose.” And I think that also helped; the fact that we chose people who were involved in it and were not choosing the program for their own sake – that helped. And that perception, slowly the faculty began to realise that this was something that was aimed at helping. This spirit, I mean the number of people who joined once they recognized this, was incredible. So we had, as I said, 325 faculty members doing this program and even Paul Goodman was very impressed. The first, of course it took a year for us to make these decisions.
Professor Mangal: About two years.
Professor Ananth: Yes, more like two years. Because we had very strong passionate discussions, but the good will had been established. So, you know, in the discussions we had such difference of opinions in that, you would think wouldn’t be reconciled, they were at the end of the meeting reconciled, and we also kept the meetings up. We used to have these meetings of the Directors in various IITs, roughly 5 times a year. And every time this meeting was there, we also convened meeting of the NPTEL coordinators of the various IITs. And it was really a great help because we sort of monitored what was going on and we shared ideas on it. And a lot of people were very enthusiastic about it.
Professor Mangal: The technology component here also evolved in time. I think that is more important for this particular interview, which has been initiated of course by the request of Professor Kinshuk at the University of Athabasca. Professor Kinshuk has been associated with our team for several years, and he is also the pioneer for the technology for learning series of conferences sponsored by IEEE computer society in the Technology for Education wing. Therefore, in addition to having a course content, in addition to having pedagogy, we also had to worry about several components of technology; what format of files, what would be the interaction mechanisms and what would be the pedagogical design of a course, and how would we distribute various recorded components, how would we record our video courses. I think those were many issues which were thrashed over 2 to 2.5 years, and in that process only, I learned pretty much how these things have to be taken care of.
Professor Ananth: I think these were done with the help of, actually Professor Mangala Sunder did most of it along with the help of Professor A. K. Ray and Professor Kushal Sen. So, these issues were sorted out; and also as you know the progress in ICTs has been remarkable. So, as new avenues came up, the delivery was really arranged in multiple formats. You should tell them about the number of formats that are available now.
Professor Mangal: The videos are available in multiple formats. In fact, private companies, private establishments helped us a lot in getting the videos from the actual, what is called the Broadcast quality 13.5 GB per hour lecture to something like about 300 to 400 MB. In fact, four formats for streaming on the internet, and many other partners, more importantly Google and YouTube for streaming the videos for nearly 5 years, before we set up our own parallel video streaming platform and so on. So, there are technology components in here and there are discoveries. People are try to bring this in the mobile format.
Professor Ananth: It has come in the mobile format.
Professor Mangal: Vaidyanathan at Classle has initiated something called ‘Kayyil’ which means in your palms, I mean what you can carry. In the sense, he created many of these courses into a format that is easily mobile downloadable and so on. So, a lot of these things – the state of the art technology tools, we used Adobe and many other professional software, what we produced, basically the course where, which would use only free format, in a sense, free tools that are available. So in that sense, a lot of things have happened; the technology has been learned a lot.
But, most importantly I mean, if we switch gears – it is already about twenty minutes into this – the NPTEL, eventually also was seen by the government as a method to enhance this into a national mission on education, which you were involved right, from the beginning.
Professor Ananth: Yes, the mission, I was involved. There was a Joint Secretary called N. K. Sinha who had become Additional Secretary afterwards.
Professor Mangal: Now, he is a Secretary.
Professor Ananth: Yes, he is now Secretary. He was in the ministry and he had a vision and a passion. He wanted to take education to every door, a grand passion. I must tell you at this stage, they were also worried about GER. United Nations had done studies saying that Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education should be about 30% for India to take advantage of the global economy. And India’s GER is currently, probably about 20%, a varying figure. But at that time it was 15%. So, N. K. Sinha was very worried about it. So, he started the national mission, NMEICT. It was a remarkable program that was conceived by the government, by N. K. Sinha. We helped and supported N. K. Sinha in presenting it to various forums including the Planning Commission, and to the Finance Ministry and so on. And N. K. Sinha really got a lot of money to do this, and then NPTEL in the second phase was subsumed into this program; it was part of this. And at that time, we also started the labs.
Professor Mangal: Yes, virtual technical, the virtual labs.
Professor Ananth: The virtual labs. The idea was eventually to work towards a virtual university; we still have not done that, but hopefully we will. The virtual university will have these lectures. It would have evaluation, of course. And then you would have these labs plus physically located labs all over India, distributed geographically, where in summer, the virtual university students can go and handle the equipment and get a feel for the equipment directly.
Professor Mangal: And also they can get a certification for done…
Professor Ananth: Yeah, certification for laboratories. So, that should, when that works out, we should be able to essentially mitigate the problems of meeting the demand for higher technical education in the country in a reasonable manner, because the number of people who are demanding higher technical education every year is probably equal to the number of undergraduate students joining programs in the U.S.
Professor Mangal: In U.S. or any other advanced country for that matter. Yes, I think at this point of time, we are the second largest student population next only to China. And it seems that we might even take over that, we have enough number of students. When Gross Enrolment Ratio reaches to 35 to 40%, I think the challenges of this program and any other would be much more.
The other important issue as far as the technology as well as the paradigm for changing education is concerned, I think the massive open online courses which was originally started by the Canadian team in the University of Manitoba and Athabasca University itself, which later on was picked up very seriously by the American Team – both Coursera from Stanford, Udacity from Stanford, and the MIT edX.
Group which started this massive online program with short videos, incremental learning and short duration courses, highly technologically popularised versions of videos and so on; this has now taken up the centre stage with respect to the open educational resources movement. There are more than 1200 courses in the MOOCs format now. In our own NPTEL itself, we have a little more than 70 massive open online course programs that we have done. So, given this shift towards what is called the quick learning, learning to understand the concept more, more than a, I think you might see a paradigm shift in the way people want to learn.
Professor Ananth: Yeah, hopefully.
Professor Mangal: What is worrisome is that these are like recipes; I mean short two months, one and half months. How do they add up? Education is not the sum of the whole, I mean.
Professor Ananth: It is bigger than the sum.
Professor Mangal: The whole is not sum of its parts; there is something more than that. So, how do we use that?
Professor Ananth: I do not know. We have our problems. But, I think the first step is to get minimum education available for everybody.
Professor Mangal: That is true.
Professor Ananth: So, I think in India we should not worry too far too much about what would happen afterwards, but right now we are at a stage where we want to make sure that education has the reach and quality improvement that is absolutely required – minimum requirement.
Professor Mangal: You want everybody to have the cake first. In India, this is probably the cake itself, as he said. But even then the catch up is going to be very difficult if we lag behind the technology. When internet was more or less in full bloom, when people started putting courses in, if I remember, it was in 1995-96, when…
Professor Ananth: 1999
Professor Mangal: When people started putting HTML courses in the west, I started seeing them. And by 2003 or 2004…
Professor Ananth: Open courseware from MIT came after 1999.
Professor Mangal: In 1999 it was announced and the courses started coming in 2001. This is one way by which we can supplement to the education. I don’t think this is ever going to provide a means. May be I am wrong. Your experience has much…
Professor Ananth: I think finally when the virtual technical university is set up and falls in place, hopefully it will device methods of not only giving these bits of parts of education and delivered individually but also indicate how the connections are made. So, I think that will come later.
Professor Mangal: I think we are evolving towards that, in a way. But this whole programme was at the request of a technology for education and the programme has been supported by Professor Kinshuk as I mentioned earlier. Therefore we might also want to leave with some thoughts of where we are and what we might be able to do.
Given the fact that the T4E conferences which create various mechanisms and various tools for technology enhancement in learning, perhaps can take a lot of these materials and come up with different ways by which students can learn. One most important thing in all this effort is what we have done so far, do we have a quantitative measure or a feedback in terms of how many people have learned? Have they learned adequately? And if not, what is the gap that needs to be filled up. After all, the public money is being spent. The tax payers’ money is on. And it’s a fairly reasonable sum. In terms of the US dollars of course it’s not a very large amount of money. The whole thing is less than 50 million dollars for whatever the 950 courses that we have put in and the 30-60 MOOC courses that we have run.
But still, in Indian terms, it’s a very large amount of money. So, do we collect feedback? Do we have inputs from people on where this programme should be? This is a serious issue. I think I have discussed this with Professor Ananth for many years. We have had even senior government officials getting interested in it. I think Dr. Jayanthi Ravi from Gujarat, the state of Gujarat…
Professor Ananth: She has done a study.
Professor Mangal:Former Technical Education Commissioner – and now she is the Labour Commissioner – has actually done a part of her Ph.D. thesis using some of the feedback data that she had from the Gujarat students, university students. And therefore, we are collecting a large amount of feedback from various users. There is always this number that you can project to when you go to meetings that 250 million hits have happened so far in the NPTEL and the YouTube.
Professor Ananth: We always have the great advantage of numbers in India.
Professor Mangal: And YouTube has alone managed to get 140 million as the channel views which is much larger than any and all of the programmes combined from any other country. But, that’s just a number. What is the meaning of that number? How many courses have been looked at? How many courses are being studied? In fact, those details will become slowly available. And they themselves create a very large paradigm for statistical analysis of how learning happens. I hope that is something that the ministry will also help us to do. We are registered under Google; therefore Google provides us all the data we require in this process. I think you might want to add some…
Professor Ananth: I thought you might want to add something about this.
Professor Mangal: The most important thing is the two stories that you used to tell. I think they are absolutely important in my opinion. One was the repetition story. How the technology may happen, whatever may happen. But at the end, it’s repeated learning. Professor Ananth has the anecdote. Since he is here, I don’t want to say the anecdote in my own words.
Professor Ananth: It’s just an anecdote. When I first went to graduate school, one of the professors dragged me off to listen to a pastor on a Sunday morning. And the pastor spoke very well but he repeated himself seven times. And I was a good listener in those days. I heard all the seven versions and at the end of it I asked the pastor why he repeated himself seven times. And he said: “Did I do that? Then I did it right. Because in the school of pastors, they tell me only one seventh of the congregation is listening at any time.”
Professor Mangal: That’s right.
Professor Ananth: That sort of made me think. But that’s true in religious discourses in India too. I mean they think the message is more important than the messenger. Even if the messenger is boring, if the message gets communicated to a sufficiently large number of people, then the job has been done.
Professor Mangal: That’s right.
Professor Ananth: That’s an important thing. These courses are available, when in India particularly, many of the rural students who don’t know English very well have to listen to the course repeatedly in order to get the material.
Professor Mangal: That way the video helps a lot.
Professor Ananth: The video helps a lot.
Professor Mangal: Because you can ask the Professor to repeat as often you want and pass him or her as often and whenever you don’t want to listen to and so on. Having said that, the videos now with the complete subtitling and the text of the videos being made available, are also ready in the sense, for language translation, partly. The language translation is not to convert every technical word into the appropriate language terms, but to keep the standard English terms as they are. The communication part of it is to be converted.
Professor Ananth: It’s important to remember that India has many languages. Twenty-six major languages with different written scripts.
Professor Mangal: That’s right. That is another… And this will also help any other country which wants to translate this into… Latin American countries want to translate this into Spanish, we are willing to share with them whatever the English texts that we have and the English transcripts that we have as well as the subtitles that we have. Same thing can be for the African countries – if they want to translate this into French and if they want to create their own learning mechanisms, the contents are freely available.
So, in a sense the learning traits of the individuals will also eventually become more important for each and every region and every nation which has its own language. But if the scientific language has been given in an unambiguous, peer-reviewed and clear-cut organised form of a courseware, I think that is quite different from any of the Wikipedia or any of the other open ended resources where one has to spent a lot of time to actually sit through the learning process to find the learning, the map that he wants to charter.
So, I believe that our idea is not just to stop at 600 courses or 900 courses but it is to create as much as open learning as possible and create a learning map and this was led by Professor Ananth in 1999. Now the ministry of the Government of India is very keen on taking this to all the disciplines – medicine, agriculture, law, business, everywhere, and they are quite happy with the models being created.
Professor Ananth: I think we do want to place on record, our appreciation of the ministry, because it seems like an absolutely unique programme and we don’t know of any other government that supports the programmes so generously.
Professor Mangal: A 100 percent until now. A lot of questions were asked for the right reasons and sometimes we felt for the wrong reasons. But it doesn’t matter. What is important is to ask all the questions and then justify. The government has so far funded 960 million for the second phase and 200 million for the first phase under the NPTEL. And almost like 4 billion… how much is it … I think it’s about a billion US dollars is the national mission on education for the last phase. Therefore, the government is very generous. It’s important for us to build a learning profile technologically, over the years.
Professor Ananth: Because the national mission includes education at the primary level, at all level and all disciplines.
Professor Mangal: The funding so far does not include the primary level.
Professor Ananth: For NPTEL, it’s been only for higher technical education.
Professor Mangal: Therefore, let me close this by thanking quite a lot of people who had requested us for this fairly extended, about 40 to 45 minutes interaction with Professor Ananth, who is of course the architect of the TEL in India since 1999. He has been guiding every one of us, both while he was a Director, and also even now from where he is as a visiting Professor, he is contributing to that.
And it’s been pleasure for me to work with him and many others and all my learning, all my 15 years I have spent so far, I’ll go back and think about it. It’s a challenge which has only been started to be understood and I don’t think we know the end, but many others will hopefully contribute to this process and take this forward in the next technological revolution of the social network, and the Twitter and the Facebook and this new generation, how they will learn using some of these materials.
The technology challenges are there. Therefore T4E can create many mechanisms and many research papers on how to use existing course materials using different technologies. We hope that these materials will be used by them and used by everyone to create an art of learning. I always have the saying that teaching is a delivery; very often we do orchestrated and do it beautifully perhaps once or twice, but learning happens through experience and it happens over a lifetime. However, the deliveries have to be there for people to pick up and learn whenever they want to. That process was started in the technology project by Professor Ananth. Therefore I want to thank him.
Professor Ananth: It is nice if you thank me but I left in 2011 although I have been associated with NPTEL even after that. I think the baton has been carried very nicely by the successive Directors here – Professor Ramamurthi and Professor Shevgaonkar in Delhi. Both took over the process, and Professor Gautam Bis was…
Professor Mangal: In Guwahati.
Professor Ananth: Now presently Director in IIT Guwahati also has been a great supporter of this. Professor Surendra Prasad in IIT Delhi was a supporter of this. He also initiated the virtual labs program.
Professor Mangal: The most important technology man that we cannot forget is Professor Srivathsan who has been, of course, in every meeting as a former Professor of IIT Kanpur and somebody who is very familiar with the teaching and learning processes in all of technologies. There is nothing that I would say that Professor Srivathsan does not know something about. Professor Ray and many others.
Professor Ananth: Professor Ray continues with the Pedagogy project which will probably be also combined with the NPTEL process for improving the delivery. We must acknowledge him as the first person who has really taken the education technology seriously in India.
Professor Mangal: Yes, seriously in India.
Professor Ananth: We had a large number of people. If we had omitted some, it’s not because of any design. We hope we will be able to list all of them sooner or later.
Professor Mangal: And I want to thank Professor Kinshuk for having initiated this discussion. Thank you very much.
Professor Ananth: Thank you.