Friday, March 27, 2009

VIOLIN - Vidya Open Learning Initiative

Can’t we add more to the learning experience at Amrita with a better and more effective utilization of Vidya resources?

It is a fact that many would like to study a specific topic in depthand detail ( even after they are done with that paper from the examination point of view) but do not quite get at doing it because of a lack of initiative or being just not aware of the learning resources in Vidya. For example, a final year student could be longing to learn basic calculus or probability theory or fundamentals of electronics in his on pace (self paced learning) . Resorting to the text book or consulting others used to be the way so far, but it has limitations in terms of varying motivation levels and available time that others can spare. This is where “Group learning” becomes
relevant. Let us take a typical case of a final year student wanting to revise ‘Calculus’ thoroughly with a view to deepen his understanding. Now this is the scenario:

a) He has set apart couple of days to accomplish it.
b) He has the routine options of taking his old text book or approach some one who might spare some time for him ( If this model worked well, he would not have felt the pressing need to study a topic again in depth)
c) Since we are talking about calculus here, let us have a lookinto these ‘video lecture collections on calculus’ in Vidya : ( These are INTRANET links that will work only within the campus )

1. Calculus Made Easy - A collection of 25 (each lecture 60 minutes )video lectures on fundamentals of calculus with focus on mathematical visualizations by Dr.Michael Starbird, University distinguished teaching professor of mathematics at University of Texas, Austin.

2. Differential Equations - A collection 33 (each lecture 40 minutes ) Video Lectures by the celebrated MIT professor Dr.Arthur Muttock.

Here’s the direct link to it:

3. Integration and Infinite Series - A collection of 29 Video Lectures by Dr. Dimitri hlyakhtenko Professor, Department of Mathematics, UCLA

Here’s the direct link to it:

Now this is just a calculus-specific example. For almost every major area Vidya has similar collections from the world over. But, how many are aware of this and how much of it is used in the best possible way. Yes, the students and faculty members with laptops will download it
all from Vidya and watch it . But how about the ones without laptop and no platform to see these video lectures in a systematic way, how about the ones who learn better in a group than alone?

It is here Vidya Open Learning Initiative can play a significant role.

This is the way it is envisaged.

1.One group comprises of not more than 30 people (students and faculty members) who would like to be a part of a specific session on a chosen topic.

2.Announcements are made in the classrooms and notice boards for registration on a first come – first serve basis.

3.Two video lectures ( not exceeding 2 hours including a 15 minutes discussion session, the rest of the discussions can happen outside the hall) are screened daily from 5.30 to 7.30 pm. In a week’s time a topic can be covered.

4.Each screening will be preceded by a summary of the previous lectures by participant. This can be done in turns so that every day , the previous day’s summary will be given by different

As it gains momentum, screening of video lectures can branch out to general areas of interest say areas like ‘world history’, ‘ global economy’, ‘string theory’, ‘ understanding the universe’ , dna- the science of life’ etc. Vidya has resources in abundance on all these and more !

Such informal learning sessions with members from diverse backgrounds and disciplines will gradually lead to the formation of knowledge communities and nurture an attitude of sharing of knowledge and experience. In a multi disciplinary-multi campus such as ours we can provide a ‘multi-university’ learning experience as well to amrita fraternity and this is precisely what Vidya stands for with the tagline “Study locally, Learn Globally”.

VIOLIN – VIdya Open Learning INitiative is an attempt to enrich and enhance the learning experience at Amrita through group learning activities.

Please do comment with your feedback, reflections and suggestions. Group learning is all about reaching out and coming together to learn , share and grow.

NOTE : When VIDYA first came into being in a very modest way over 8 years ago many laughed and ridiculed at it. But those who supported and contributed towards the growth of VIDYA did so with real visionary zeal. They are the visionaries who were not imprisoned within the walls of prefix and suffix and many did not have it either.

Look at what some of the best technocrats/ educators/ innovators say on a kind of education system they envisage now, which existed as VIDYA @Amrita over eight years ago.

  1. The National Knowledge Commision Chairman Dr.Sam Pitroda's letter to the PM on reviving Engineering Education
  2. Chris anderson, the founder of TED in his 2009 EDGE World Question Session on 'WHAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING?'
  3. ERIC DREXLER , Researcher; Policy Advocate; Author, Engines of Creation >> KNOWLEDGE SPREADING
  4. David G. Myers ,Social psychologist, Hope College; author A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Athiests >> INEXPENSIVE, CUSTOMIZABLE, INTERACTIVE e-TEXTS FOR WORLDWIDE USE
  5. Marti Hearst, Computer Scientist, UC Berkeley, School of Information; Author, Search User Interfaces >> THE DECLINE OF TEXT
  7. LERA BORODITSKY, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Symbolic Systems, Stanford University >> KNOWLEDGE ABOUT HOW WE KNOW WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING