Changing Trends, Shaping Minds: AIP Adopts E-Learning to Transform Education in Indian Agricultural Universities
Stefan Einarson
Director of Transnational Learning and the head of IT for International Programs
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University

 

Anantha Murthy
Information Specialist
Sathguru Management Consultants
 
Most of the educational institutions have been following the traditional chalk and talk method for imparting classes. However, in the past few decades, the advent of digital technologies has been a game changer in enabling many communities and groups who previously had no exposure to formal or informal education benefit from innovative educational products. Cognizant of the tremendous success of digital technology in education, the Agricultural Innovation Partnership (AIP) is trying to transform communication, knowledge delivery and learning and student engagement in Indian state agricultural universities through effective use of information and communication technology.

E-learning has been a tremendous transformational force in the United States for the last 15 years. In 1999, 12% of instructors in the United States used some form of e-Learning in the classroom. By 2002, that portion grew to 30%, and by 2006 it had gone over 55%. That trajectory is continuing into the present with Massive Open On-Line Classes—or MOOCs. Today, more than 100,000 people at a time are taking on-line e-learning classes, and institutions are rethinking how class content should and will be delivered in the future.

A confluence of factors is driving this current makeover of e-learning. Radical changes in cloud-based infrastructures make terabyte+ level storage and computing affordable, and tools like on-line video make capturing knowledge easier and virtual classrooms more accessible.

India, with its large amount of available bandwidth and its thirst for learning and instruction, has potentially reached a turning point for millions, and perhaps billions, of learners. The AIP project has the potential to start to lead a major shift in education for the country.

AIP has been working with three institutions as incubators for these new technologies: Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi; Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology (SVPUA&T), Meerut and Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Assam. All three offer unique situations for e-learning delivery. Cornell University and Sathguru Management Consultants have been teaching and mentoring each of these institutions with introductions to these concepts and materials.

Today, all three institutions have an OLAT learning management system and personnel at each university have the necessary training and equipment to help capture and create cost-effective digital learning materials.

“We are bringing these new technologies to India as part of the AIP project. ‘Blackboard Software’ type services, with which most U.S. students are familiar, includes calendaring, assignments, readings, chat, and other resources through the Online Learning And Training (OLAT) tool. And the MOOC style on-line video lecture capture capability of Cornell’s Transnational Learning experience brings classroom lectures from around the world,” says Stefan Einarson, Director – Transnational Learning at Cornell University. Einarson and his team of experts have been instrumental in training the faculty members at BHU, SVPUA&T and AAU in providing necessary support in establishing the e-learning centers.

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