|Most popular video courses|
Computer Science Engineering
Principles of Programming Languages: Prof. S. Arun Kumar, IIT Delhi
Data Structures and Algorithms: Prof. Naveen Garg, IIT Delhi
Computer Networks: Prof. Sujoy Ghosh IIT Kharagpur
Software Engineering: Prof. N.L. Sarda, Prof. Umesh Bellur, Prof. Rushikesh K Joshi , IIT Bombay.
Strength of Materials: Prof. S.K. Bhattacharyya, IIT Kharagpur
Fluid Mechanics: Prof. T.I. Eldho, IIT Bombay
Structural Analysis II: Prof. P. Banerji , IIT Bombay
Circuit Theory: Prof. S.C. Dutta Roy, IIT Delhi Control Engineering: Prof. S.D. Agashe , IIT Bombay
Power Electronics: Prof. Kishore Chatterjee, Prof. B.G. Fernandes, IIT Bombay
Electronics & Communication Engineering
Digital Circuits and Systems: Prof. S. Srinivasan, IIT Madras
Communication Engineering: Prof. Surendra Prasad, IIT Delhi
Probability and Random Processes: Prof. Mrityunjoy Chakraborty, IIT Kharagpur
Digital Image Processing: Prof. P.K. Biswas, IIT Kharagpur
Wireless Communication: Prof. Ranjan Bose, IIT Delhi
Robotics: Prof. P. Seshu, Prof. P.S. Gandhi, Prof. K. Kurien Isaac, Prof. B. Seth, Prof. C. Amarnath, IIT Bombay
Fundamentals of Operations Research: Prof. G. Srinivasan, IIT Madras.
THE delight in Professor Srinivasan’s (IIT Madras) voice is unmistakable as he shares, “We are more popular on the web, than even MIT’s Open Courseware Programme.”
Prof. Srinivasan is the National Coordinator of National Programme on Technology enabled learning (NPTEL). A not-for-profit consortium by IITs and IISc, NPTEL is a depository of course materials across all engineering and science disciplines.
Goldmine of free information
A veritable goldmine of content is available, that too for free. In the first phase of the programme (2002-2007) content was developed for about 125 web-based courses freely accessible through their website.
The syllabus for about 110 courses is delivered through lectures in video format. Five major engineering disciplines and some core science courses have been made available so far (See Table for details).
Basic Courses (Semesters I & II)
Computer Science & Engineering
As Professor G. Prasad puts it, “The courses are at times superior to, or at least comparable to content available through MIT’s OCW.” According to him, NPTEL scores over the MIT material in terms of depth and completeness of the offerings. Ashwin Kumar, a second-year engineering student and an avid user of both channels, echoes the sentiment.
“The MIT offerings are at times advertisements for textbooks by the professors. The material is sketchy. The IIT courses are much more in depth and complete,” he says. A tad too tough, is his only critique.
Course selection and offering
A national programme implementation committee headed by Prof. M.S. Ananth, Director, IIT Madras, decides the broad directions. Discipline coordinators decide on the courses, which need to be developed based on proposals received from individual professors.
Prof. Srinivasan, Coordinator, NPTEL claims, “It is the post-production constraints that are restricting them from increasing the number of courses.” Video content is available in MPEG-4 format with a bit-rate of 512 kbps with H.264 compression for streaming through the Internet on Youtube/iit.
How to access the course
The easiest way is through the Internet and it is completely free. But not even half the number of colleges have good download speeds. And very few students have personal broad band connections. So the alternative is to buy DVDs of individual courses either in video form for Rs. 200, or your college could buy the entire course material on a hard drive. NTPEL offers the entire course content in a set of three 500 GB hard disks at a price of about Rs. 50,000.
With acute shortage of qualified faculty, one would imagine that most engineering colleges would have jumped at the idea of buying these courses. But as an NPTEL staffer points out, not more than 350 colleges of the over 3,000 colleges in the country right now buy the courseware.
As Mr. Balakrishnan, a research fellow at Madras University comments, until the faculty resources match that of IITs, AICTE must make it mandatory for all the colleges to have these resources and make them available to students through a local server.
Can I buy the courseware online?
NPTEL has tied-up with Bodhbridge Educational Services to promote and distribute courses. Bodhbridge, an IIT Madras incubated company, manages engineering guidance portal BTechguru. You can order individual DVDs of courses online for Rs. 200 (plus postage) from the company.
Why do students access NPTEL?
According to Balaraju Kondavetti, Director, Bodhbridge, majority of the students buy the material, either to crack a competitive examination like GRE or GATE or they buy it just before the commencement of university exams, as a preparation tool.
To ease the burden of such students, Bodhbridge is now mapping individual university curriculum with the NPTEL offerings so that, for a particular university syllabus, the student can identify the correct courses or even lectures.
1,000 courses, 42 disciplines
With a Rs. 100 crore outlay, in the second phase NTPEL would offer over 1,000 courses, which would cover almost all disciplines at IITs and IISc. In an interview, Prof. Ananth said, “We basically want to make quality education accessible to many more students instead of setting up brick-and-mortar campuses.”
There is also a proposal to set up a Virtual Technical University, which will conduct courses and certify students in the long run. The day may not be far off when one could earn a degree sitting in the comfort of one’s own home, at least for most part of the programme. Till then one could always study from the best professors for free.