Heralding Education-To-Home (ETH) through e-Learning | Vijay P Bhatkar
From Vedic times, India advented and nurtured a unique ‘Gurukul’ system of learning. Literally, entering Gurukul meant becoming a devoted member of Guru’s family of learners. In the Indian tradition, the supreme Guru has been equated with God, being the creator, the sustainer and the ultimate liberator of the aspiring learner. The Gurukul system still exists in India in many traditional branches of learning such as music, performing arts, indigenous medicine and traditional arts and crafts. Slowly, the Gurukul system however gave way to class room based learning at all levels of learning from pre-school to higher education. One of the earliest universities of the world were created in India, notably amongst them being Taxashila, Nalanda, Kashi, Ujjain, and Madurai. Learners from far and wide flocked to these great centres of learning. As long as India nurtured great universities and its unique Gurukul system, India remained in the forefront of development and prosperity.
Over the years, with successive invasions, India’s Gurukul as well as institutional system of education got declined. Britishers brought to India the British education system dismantling India’s great learning system. New schools, colleges and universities were created and many of them with English as a medium of instruction. Literacy at the beginning of the last century was only 6 per cent. Schools and colleges were far and few. Learners, boys and girls, had to travel several miles and even swim across rivers to attend the school. In 1893, Swami Vivekananda expressed in anguish, “If our girls and boys are unable to reach the schools, then the schools must be brought to the doorstep to every home”. And he made a prophecy that this will happen in the next hundred years and then India will create wealth and prosperity which She had never seen before in Her entire history.
The time has now come to bring education directly to home. Vikram Sarabhai in the 80’s launched the Satellite Institutional Television Experiment (SITE) and brought TV based education to rural farmers of India. This was a revolutionary experiment at that time. Now, it is my aspiration to see Education-To-Home (ETH) happen through the advances in ICT. Indeed, the coming of Internet, launch of EduSAT, decreasing prices of computers and networking, proliferation of CDs and DVDs, recent reductions in cost of projection systems and increasing awareness of e-learning will make the ultimate goal of ETH possible.
e-Learning is critical to this goal and to fulfill the prophetic prophecy of Swami Vivekananda. e-Learning is particularly relevant to India as the nation faces the challenge of making 400 million people functionally literate on one hand and to provide higher education to millions of aspiring learners on the other. India has excelled in ICT and now the challenge is to use this very technology for enhancing its education system and to bring education to home by dissolving the barriers of geographies, economic levels and languages. Intention for learning should be the only barrier for learning in the 21st century.
The general assumption that e-learning is synonymous with all education and training using ICT, including distance, is fallacious if e-learning is defined only as a tool for learning and not teaching. If learning has to make a difference in existing education system, then it must be integrable in the traditional education system in our schools, colleges and universities. Here, ICT must enhance learning, teaching as well as management of education institutions. The role of e-learning can be supplementary, complementary as well as alternative to the existing education system.
Like John Chambers of CISCO, many people view e-learning as the next killer application of Internet. Peter Drucker said, “Online continuing education is creating a new and distinct educational realm. There is a global market that is potentially worth hundreds of billion of dollars”. However, the initial hype about e-learning has now waned and the second wave of e-learning is about enhancing the conventional education system in a significant manner as well as about creating an entirely new educational paradigm for aspiring learners from not only schools and colleges but also from homes and workplaces.
This CSI Communications theme issue is devoted to e-Learning. e-Learning has been tauted as the biggest revolution since Internet. E-Learning has two aspects: one as a new paradigm of education and other is hype. The hype is over and now we need to get to serious business. There is a plethora of literature both on web and in print medium on e-learning.
In this theme issue of CSI Communications which has been brought out in an express manner, I have selected a few feature articles. They reflect neither the scope nor the depth of this growing body of knowledge. Our idea is to present select aspects of e-learning from authors who are attempting to impact this field in terms of technology as well as practice.
The paper by Shashank Hiwarkar explains what e-learning is and how it could be integrated with traditional education. Here, the author has recommended an inclusive model combing CD-based learning, class room-based learning, and web-based learning. An e-learning architecture is presented combining these three modes of learning. The paper presents case studies for implementing digital school, digital college and digital university based on real-life implementations.
There are several ways to build knowledge infrastructure for education and enterprise. Prof. K. R. Srivathsan of IIITM-K has advanced the concept of education grid in Kerala. In his paper appearing here, he has revisited five laws of information science that were originally enunciated by Ranganathan to delineate on architecture for building knowledge infrastructure for educational institutions and enterprises. He has illustrated the architecture advanced by him on the Kerala education grid which he is actually building for the State of Kerala.
Prof. M. S. Swaminathan has advanced the idea of building Virtual Universities for Agrarian Prosperity to bring the benefits of Knowledge-based agriculture to the farmers of India. A first such university will be launched in Maharashtra, called Virtual University for Maharashtra’s Agrarian Prosperity (VUMAP). Professor Ram Takwale, who has been at the forefront of the open university movement in India, is presenting here a model of VUMAP. The concept of VUMAP represents an attempt to bring the benefits of e-learning directly to million of farmers of India.
Until recently, e-learning has been largely used in leading enterprises and educational institutions. How can e-learning be used to bridge the digital divide? Bridging digital divide through e-learning is the subject of the paper authored by Vivek Sawant et al of Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Ltd. (MKCL). MKCL has done a sort of miracle by making one million people computer literate in a span of just few years without any financial help from the Government. Now, MKCL is setting-up distributed class rooms, creating high quality content, installing delivery mechanisms and bringing the benefits of e-learning to the masses of India. The person behind this movement is Vivek R. Sawant, the Managing Director of MKCL.
By far the biggest challenge in e-learning is not development or implementation of e-learning technology and infrastructure but to create high quality multimedia content. The biggest initiative in this direction in India has been the launch for the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL). The broad aim of NPTEL is to facilitate the competitiveness of Indian industry in the global markets through improving the quality and reach of engineering education. NPTEL will develop curriculum based video courses and web based e-learning courses through IITs and IISc and a large number of partner institutions. We have summarized here the goals and objectives of NPTEL for the benefit of our readers.
At different points of history, leaders at that time called for fundamental transformations in education and training to face the emerging realities. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are asking the question how education and training will get transformed through advanced technologies like e-learning. What is the 2020 vision of e-learning? Our Chief Editor Dr. T. V. Gopal has summarized these visions from the Report of the US Department of Commerce titled, “Vision 2020: Transforming Education and Training Through Advanced Technologies”. These visions from leaders in the field of education and e-learning will help us in shaping our own goals of bringing education to all aspiring learners of India by 2020. My own aspiration is to see the mission of Education-To-Home (ETH) accomplished by 2020.
Dr. Vijay P. Bhatkar is presently the Chairman of ETH Research Lab, Pune and Chief Mentor of the International Institute of Information Technology (I2IT). He is best known as an architect of Param series of supercomputers through C-DAC which he founded in 1988. Dr. Bhatkar has been the Member of Scientific Advisory Committee to Cabinet and also IT Task Force constituted by PM in 1998. He is credited with creation of several national institutions and innovation based start-ups. His vision is to make Education-To-Home (ETH) a reality, transcending the barriers of geographies, languages and economic levels.