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September 9, 1999
The brain behind India's first indigenously developed supercomputer, the PARAM, is launching an entirely Web based programme leading to a postgraduate master's degree in engineering from the Anna University of Tamil Nadu.
Dr Vijay Bhatkar pioneered India's massively parallel processing initiative and built the first of the country's supercomputers in the PARAM series at the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing that he set up.
He, now, is the chairman of the Pune based Education To Home Research Lab and Dishnet Limited, an Internet service provider.
Bhatkar tells Rediff that "The content team at ETH has created a comprehensive educational Portal that will make learning at home over the Web a distinct reality. The entire content package for the ME courses have been designed by the ETH Research Laboratory in collaboration with Anna University."
Portals are gateways in cyberspace that usher surfers to a vast body of knowledge.
Bhatkar claims "It is a major breakthrough in postgraduate education through Web based learning. For the first time in India it will now become possible to take professional education at postgraduate level through Internet based learning."
ETH is to formally unveil the Education to Home Portal on Monday, September 13.
The course uses the American concept of credit banking for the first time in India as recommended by the Information Technology Task Force set up by the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, explains Dr Bhatkar, who is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee to Cabinet.
Professor Kalanidhi, vice-chancellor of the Anna University, points out that "The master of engineering courses of Anna University through Web based learning would contribute to continuing education and knowledge upgradation of engineering college teachers as well as industry professionals who can simultaneously continue with their jobs."
Thousands of teachers, professionals and students are expected to register for the Web based ME courses of the university, he claims.
ETH Research Lab has developed a comprehensive Web based education environment for creating, administering as well as for examination and testing on the Web. "This is being layered on Microsoft's MCIS, using the latest tools and methodologies for Web based education and learning," Dr Bhatkar assures.
He says the ETH Research Lab is investing Rs 1 million per month on creating facilities for Web learning. "It is a self-supporting Rs 120 million educational venture with an initial 1,000 students taking the ME course from the Anna University," Dr Bhatkar says. But over 3,000 students have been targeted for the course.
Bhatkar elaborates that the duration of the ME course is to be two years and the final examination would be administered personally to the enrolled students at the Anna University itself. And successful students will be awarded the degree certificates. "It will be a boon for the non-resident Indian student as the university degree will cost only $3,000 for a student," he points out.
The programme and the degree is recognised by the All India Council of Technical Education, New Delhi.
Dr Bhatkar believes that the possibilities of education-to-home portals are immense and expects many universities to use the media for offering graduate and postgraduate degree courses.
The ME courses of Anna University are just the beginning, he predicts.
With new features being added every day, the educational portal is sure to emerge as India's most complete education portal, Dr Bhatkar promises.
He explains that it will also be a boon to Dishnet's subscribers who will have the added advantage of backend value added services such as personalised guidance, counselling and educational resource centre services.
Explaining the unique features of education-to-home portals, Dr Bhatkar says it is designed to provide everyone a way of being up to date with all that concerns the student and career life, from children, young students and collegians to parents.
He says each section of the portal opens out into an expansive store of knowledge that will be updated every week.
The portal begins with EDUCATION NEWS where viewers can learn about all that is happening in the education field all over India.
These include notes on college news, admissions and problems faced by students.
According to Dr Bhatkar EDU CALENDER section on the site is probably the best Internet calendar designed for students. It keeps track of admission deadlines for all universities in India. The EDU calendar provides accurate, detailed information about when and how to submit admission forms to their respective institutions.
The SCHOOLS section looks into the life of younger students. The online curriculum with animations and illustrated text and model exam papers begins with the syllabus of the Maharashtra SSC Board.
The section will also have an enrichment section that will provide additional information on the history of particular topics, Indian contribution on the subject and real-life applications of knowledge. It is expected to give students a wider perspective and help them develop a positive attitude to their studies.
The additional general knowledge section is also aimed at this.
JUNIOR COLLEGE is another similar section. To begin with the HSC Maharashtra Board model exam papers will be available here as well as preparation for tough exams such as the SAT and the National Defence Academy entrance exams. It is expected to help relieve apprehension towards these tests.
SPOTLIGHT is a valuable section containing information on all possible careers. Beginning with engineering, the section will be an encyclopaedia on how to pursue a career in a particular field.
Dr Bhatkar says the younger generation today tends to be lacking in one or all of these aspects and the section will help ease their difficulties.
Information on the various colleges in India that cater to a particular degree, their curriculum and pre-requisites etc will be available.
Founded in 1998 in Pune, the ETH Research Lab has developed technologies and content with a mission of bringing education to home by using technologies of Internet, digital satellite broadcasting and digital video disk.
The aim of the laboratory is to take education directly to the doorsteps of aspiring learners, dissolving the barriers of distance, language and economic levels.
This new education will be complimentary, supplementary and in certain areas, alternative to conventional education which is being provided in schools, colleges and universities.
ETH is at present working with the Maharashtra state government to deliver digital education to 18,000 schools all over the state.
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