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India’s first virtual tech university taking shape

Seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have teamed with Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to set up India’s first home-grown virtual technology university. The IITs involved are those based in Mumbai, Delhi, Guwahati, Chennai, Kanpur, Kharagpur and Roorkee.

Officials of these IITs have said they will meet in Delhi next month to firm up the details of the project, which could be a reality in the next two-three years. “This will purely be an effort of Indian technology institutes. We have learnt a lot from our international counterparts; we have also been running NPTEL (National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning) successfully for all these years. This is a step forward for us,” said Kushal Sen, professor, IIT-Delhi.

The virtual university could work at two levels -provide a degree directly and second, tie up with other universities to transfer credits for a degree.

Initially, the online NPTEL content delivered by the IITs (on the website http://nptel.iitm.ac.in) could serve as the base for the proposed university. NPTEL is a joint venture between the seven IITs and IISc. The programme offers web- and video-based course material for basic sciences, engineering and humanities. It was started along the lines of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare programme.

Students from 887 engineering, technology, science and management institutes in India use NPTEL courses. As of June this year, NPTEL had 372 web courses and 398 video courses. These courses are accessible freely through the YouTube channel.

So far, students across the world could download NPTEL courses, without the IITs being given any credit for this. Now, students can seek credits, certificates and degrees for all that they learn on the NPTEL platform. The virtual university will allow engineering students who cannot make it to the IITs to have access to these premier institutions’ learning material and bag online engineering degrees.

The IITs are also in talks with information technology and engineering companies for them to provide employment value to the degrees offered by the proposed university. “In India, the problem is when you give degrees, there is an employment value attached to it. We are thinking we should have on board some employers to give weightage to the degrees and certificates provided,” said an IIT professor.

To support the project, the IITs will seek grants from the ministry of human resource development.

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