With ever increasing use of technology and the internet in India and ever growing demand and need for expanding the coverage of Higher Technical Education there is a wide scope of introducing technology in the way the Higher Technical Education is imparted in India. In today’s environment mostly the methods employed are labor intensive, limited to class room interaction, access to which is not available to students in the event of they missing out the classes due to certain reasons. In addition there are difficulties in explaining and demonstrating the complex subjects involving three dimensional figures/models. More over it is an accepted fact that it is difficult for the students to concentrate on a subject in a typical classroom environment for more than about 20 minutes. The best of students have often been found to be losing concentration after about 20 minutes of classroom teaching which mostly becomes monotonous in traditional class where teacher mostly resorts to one way transmission without initiating interactive discussion. Though interactive sessions offer little improvement but it is not always possible to initiate the interaction till the time the students have developed certain level of understanding of basic concepts and fully understand the prerequisite required for a typical course.
In order to improve teaching learning process it is important that we go beyond the boundaries of classroom and fixed timetable limits. The teaching material must be delivered to the student at a time, pace and place which provides best learning environment for him. This may have lot of variation depending on individual students needs. The EDUSAT program launched at the initiative of the government has also not achieved the desired success though large numbers of terminals have been established all over India and best of Professors are delivering lectures in real time environment. The root cause of failure can be attributed to the fact that it is still not getting out of a typical class room environment. Though virtual classrooms have been created but still it is limited to formalities of a classroom.
Use of technology in improving the teaching learning process normally termed as Educational Technology – also known variously as e-learning, instructional technology and learning technology – is the use of technology to support the enhancement of learning process. It impacts upon the learning process, e.g. in delivering learning materials, facilitating communication and providing assessment and feedback. This technology can effectively be used to enhance and supplement the classroom teaching wherein the material is once again made available to the student at a time, pace and place that is best suitable for his needs. It will fill in the blanks which he must have drawn while he was in the classroom and could not clarify his concepts due to certain reasons. More ever certain other things like tutorials, tests, assignments etc can also handled effectively on line thereby saving the valuable time of the competent faculty members which can be used for other more useful activities.
Course management systems (CMSs), which are online systems, were designed and developed to support classroom learning in academic settings, such as universities and other Educational Institutes. CMSs provide instructors with the ability to perform the following tasks:
• Place course materials online. Most CMSs provide pre-programmed buttons for the course syllabus, course schedule, and course materials linked to specific lessons, such as copies of readings and PowerPoint slides from lectures.
• Track student progress through assessment features, which enable instructors to give quizzes and tests online, and an online grade book, where instructors can post student grades.
• Discussion board, where instructors and students can discuss readings and continue class discussions between formal class sessions.
• Other communications tools, which let instructors send announcements to classes and communicate individually with students.
• Lock box for students, where students can store class materials in a safe place-either a presentation to give later in class or backing up class assignments in a safe place.
• Course statistics, which provide information on the use of the course site, including who used the course site and when.
• Examples of CMSs include the commercial products Blackboard and WebCT, and the open source system like Moodle.
With ever increasing need for automation in the education system and the Government having decided to go for decentralization in Higher Technical Education in a big way there has been mushrooming growth of Engineering Institutions all over India. Good faculty members with thorough understanding of basic through advanced topics are difficult to find. With the current system of the faculty resources being utilized only for the benefit of the students enrolled with the Institute/University employing the concerned faculty, the scarce resources are not being utilized optimally. With the current developments and availability of Information Technology tools it may be possible to share the rich experiences of the distinguished faculty resources of certain key institutions in a typical University by other inexperienced faculty members of the same university engaged in teaching similar or same subjects.
The basic idea will be to introduce two tier system in the higher technical education. The first tier will involve a continuous and consistent effort made to train and educate the fresh and inexperienced faculty members by using real time interaction with a group of experienced faculty members located at a center of excellence. This will involve creation of a “Nodal Center of Excellence” for each of the course being offered by the university. Such nodal center will design and develop a course by using the best suitable and simple to operate tools available in course management systems to perfection. This course will compulsorily be subscribed to by all faculty members engaged in teaching same course all throughout the University. They can share the expertise available at the nodal center and also clarify the intricacies of the subjects on a day to day basis as the course advances in the semester.
The second tier of the system will involve Individual teachers who are already subscribed to the first tier discussed above. Such teachers will run their own course management systems for the benefit of the students attending their lectures.
In this manner all the center of excellence established everywhere can be shared by all the institutes affiliated to the university and also the university campus colleges. This will result in:-
• Uniformity in the coverage of the syllabus and its standardization.
• Discovering the shortcoming of the syllabus and a common platform for discussing the same for future revision.
• Clarification of the basic through advanced concepts through the chatting/tools offered by concerned selected service of the CMS.
• Standardization and sharing of the grading and assessment of the students without significant variation form teacher to teacher.
• Moderation of the grading centrally.
• Readily available standardized course material which can be developed by networking of teachers sharing same subject in the university but at different institutions.
• Standardization of reference books and the topics to be covered.
• Standardization of the depth of individual topics to be covered for each subject.
• Typical standardization of question bank.
• Development of reference standard study material at the center of excellence which can be shared by all other institutions.
• Automation of tutorial submission, FAQ answers, question paper generation, and response to earlier similar question asked.
• Provision of authenticated links to related and useful material for further higher study for research.
The System can be Implemented in these steps:
Conceive, design and develop a two tier education system based on nodal concept of center of excellence in Engineering Education (Higher technical education) typical to Indian Universities by selecting the best suitable tools offered by Course Management Systems (CMS) available and demonstrate the viability of the concept.
(1) Step one:
(a) Identify the essential and desirable features which should be offered by the nodal center of excellence, in typical Indian University environment, to make it effective in sharing and updating its resources.
(b) Carry out comparative study of the available course management systems world wide and selecting the best suitable system for this purpose.
(2) Step Two: Developing a comprehensive module in selected course which should preferably support following features:-
(a) Learning Tools
• Book marking
• Student Area
• Library and Information Access
• Course Index/Search Engine
• Learning Exemplars/Guidance
• Access to Grades
• Student Guide
• Self-Assessment Exercises
• Study Skill Building
• Student Web Pages
(b) Collaboration Tools
• Discussion Options
• File Sharing
• Work Group Areas
• Course Planning, Design, Templates
• Automated Glossary
• Automated Course TOC/Index/Search Engine
• File Management
• Instructor Guide/Course Exemplars
• Web Search Tools
• Multimedia Capability
• Course Pages
• Student Management
• Automatic student assignment reminders (currently none of the CMS offer this currently)
• Course Archive/Backup/Replication
• Course Revision
• Online Help/FAQs
• Administration Tools
• Automated Registration
• Student Transcript
(3) Step Three: Implementing the nodal concept of center of excellence in real time and initiate the process for demonstration purposes.
Nodal concept has widely been applied in service, telecommunication and repair & maintenance industry wherein certain nodal centers are created with all the facilities and expertise available at easily accessible place which can be accessed by the prospective customers. In telecommunications wherein certain communication nodes are created and users can hook on to these nodes for getting the desired services. In education system the concept has widely been applied in various admission management systems and placement services.
The concept of creating the Nodal center of excellence has been experimented in India by EDUSAT which is based on real time lectures in virtual classroom environment. However it has not invoked much enthusiasm. The root cause for this can be attributed to the fact that the lecture tends to be monologue and is not at a place, pace and time as may be required by the perspective learner. More over it lacks personal contact between the teacher and the students. The proposed two tier system of education involving nodal concept is intended to supplement the classroom teaching. It will be designed to optimize the contact time between the teacher and students in a way that the most important tings are attended to during the contact period and things of lesser importance can be attended to by the course management system like tutorials, class tests, assignments etc.
This concept can be related to the service industry where in a nodal point, which can be termed as centre of excellence, is established which caters to the training needs of service engineers who are placed all over the operational areas. These service engineers in turn provide service to the customers. In case they find they are not able to address the problem they consult the nodal point for further advice. Almost same concept is applied in case of maintenance support provided by most of the companies for maintenance cover provided to their customers.
The defense forces are known to have been using multi tier system for their training, maintenance and repair needs, though their system is not automated but the nodal concept is well established. In the proposed system we intend to use the two tier system with automation by using Course Management Systems.