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IIT gurus on video teaching grid

New Delhi, Dec. 10: Classes in Jadavpur and Besu, lessons from IIT.

That is what will happen from next month when students of the two Calcutta institutions get lectures from top IIT and NIT professors through video conferencing under a plan to enhance the quality of technology education.

The Bengal duo are among 100 engineering colleges from across the country selected for the video lectures from January 2 under the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT).

The top professors of five IITs — those in Madras, Delhi, Mumbai, Kanpur and Kharagpur — some from NIT Surathkal (Mangalore) have joined the programme that experts said would enrich learning experience. Students can clarify doubts by sending questions through email or SMS.

A team of experts under Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT Madras has designed the programme. Sources in the Union HRD ministry and IIT Madras said the institutions selected were run by state governments and faced faculty shortages of around 40 per cent.

The lectures will cover mathematics and engineering courses in the electrical, computer science, mechanical and civil streams. Each semester will have 15 such lectures. The uncovered portions of the syllabi will be taught by the resident faculty. The students will also get access to lectures by lab tutors.

Experts hailed the initiative but some suggested “tele-teaching” could not be a substitute for direct classes. Kushal Sen of IIT Delhi said video lectures, while enriching learning experience, “are not a replacement for teachers”. “It will, however, help students improve as they will get access to top professors.”

According to Sen, a major drawback of tele-teaching is that there is hardly any scope for practical experiments. Though some lab experiments can be simulated through computers, most of the practical training has to be imparted in the institutes in real-life conditions, he said.

Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu) vice-chancellor Ajoy Kumar Ray backed the move, saying it would help sharing of scarce human resources like good teachers among institutions. “We are keen to have some of the lectures by our professors aired. We have good faculties in several departments such as space, energy, defence and new material science.”

NIT Surathkal director Swapan Bhattacharya — a faculty member of computer science at Jadavpur University — said the move would benefit other institutions. “Jadavpur University has good facilities and faculty strength. But there are many state government colleges with more than 40 per cent vacancy in the faculty. They (the video lectures) will be able to bridge the gap to an extent.”

IIT Kanpur chairperson M. Anandkrishnan said many foreign universities were using such methods to provide quality education. “Foreign universities are providing e-content in various subjects. This is a similar effort. But the scope for doubt clearance is limited in this mode. By writing a mail or SMS, a student may not be able to get clarity.”