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Vidya amrita-interview

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I think a lot went into the making of VIDYA..i have to thank a lot of people...without them, without you all nothing would have been possible ...for those who are interested in knowing the untold story of VIDYA..here is that interview that tells it all.

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Vidya amrita-interview

  1. 1. ANWESHI May2008 Page 26 In Focus - VIDYA The VIDYA Digital Knowledge Archive that is cur- * rently deployed in four campuses of Amrita University had its modest beginning in the year 2000. With an initial content volume of 64 Mb, VIDYA has grown to a 1600+ Gb knowledge base covering a wide spectrum of areas, comprising of extensive Audio/ Video lectures as well by leading academicians/ scientists from around the world. VIDYA over the years has become an indispensi- ble resource for every devout seeker of knowledge mak- ing the dictum “ Study Locally, Learn Globally” a living reality ! Mr. Ajai Narendran (Con- website fascinated me immensely and tions that followed eventually propelling tent manager & Webmas- that kept me occupied all through my me steadily towards developing ‘Vidya’ ter) and the Architect of post-routine working hours. Since I further. I never had to look back since ‘Vidya’ speaks on his expe- worked in the Computer Lab, I had lot then…I literally breathed and lived rience of building ‘Vidya’ of opportunities to interact closely with ‘Vidya’. Yes, I had a big price to pay, while responding to a bar- the students and faculty members and sacrifices to make and tough stances to rage of questions. He elu- it was that interaction that gave me the take. In the end, it was all worth the ef- cidates on how Vidya could better be utilised in a way that helps redefine learn- triggering pulse towards building Vidya, fort. I have the joy of having the task ac- ing and revitalise teaching. To be more specific Interacting with complished leaving it with further Dr.K I Ramachandran ( Currently with possibilities of enhancement and en- When did the idea of building Vidya CEN) and seeing him downloading richment. strike you and how did it happen? PowerPoint presentations and lecture To me, Vidya beckoned as that The first spark of idea occurred way notes which he used to write on a CD course of work which will add more back in the year 2000, few months after and use it to prepare his course notes meaning to my existence providing our I joined Amrita, Ettimadai. Well, my made me think of archiving it all in a students the opportunities I missed as a coming to Amrita appeared sheer co- way that could be used by the entire student, so there was that passionate incidence then which I now understand campus than just his class. So one day involvement. I feel the best way to ex- as nothing but providence. I was previ- I asked him for his CD of downloaded press it would be to borrow the terms ously trained in the area of Avionics En- tutorials, made a copy of it, configured used by Dr.Deepak Gupta of ASB who gineering and had no proper training in a basic Windows web server and remarked once “Vidya is a labour of ‘computers. Since I joined the Systems hosted the contents. It was a single love”. Group ( Now ICTS) and was put in one webpage index pointing to tutorial of the computer labs I had no other op- specifically on Mechanical Engineering. If you are to start building Vidya tion than to learn computers. Those I showed it to Ramachandran sir and anew, how different it would be? were the times I used to spend almost few other people, they were quite ex- Yes, it will be different and better organ- the entire day in the lab ( 6.30am- cited seeing it. It was the sort of thing ized with a content management sys- 10pm), if routine jobs kept me busy dur- many at that time thought was possible tem in place...and if it serves better , it is ing the day time, teaching myself the only on the Internet. Thus the initial at- only because of what I learnt from build- basics of computers kept me busy the tempt at Vidya became the first “In- ing the current Vidya. rest of the time and it was great oppor- tranet Portal” of Amrita. tunity to interact with students as well. I was in fact enthralled seeing the re- What are the other reasons that Since the campus did not have an in- action of students like Ajith Peter (now prompted you begin building Vidya? formative website at that time I took working on his PhD at IIT-Bombay), Those days library used to be in the upon myself to build a website, that Srinivasa Varadhan ( now working for main block (opposite to staircase in the meant learning HTML , JavaScript, and Cognizant Technologies, London) and ground floor). That used to be one tools like MS-Frontrpage and HotMetal- Shyam Divakar( who just completed place I used to frequent, looking Pro and later Dreamweaver. Here I his PhD in Computational Neuro- through magazines and journals to find must thank one of our alumni Mr.J science from University of Milan, Italy). relevant topics/ key words for down- Srinivasan ( Currently doing is Ph.D at For them it meant a lot, downloading loading material. During one such visits Edinburgh University) who first showed learning material from the internet to the library I found a good number of me a website he made, his personal across a slow connection was not quite quality text books authored by website. That was my initiation into the a feasible option for the students renowned professors from universities world of hyperlinks. then…the idea of making a down- abroad remaining untouched. When loaded collection accessible across the enquired many students expressed the It was just around that time Internet LAN appealed to all of them and it is view that they considered such text began to penetrate into the campus, we they who made me feel convinced of books abstruse. I knew that this view is had a few machines with internet con- the enormous potential in developing rooted in slavish dependence on local, nectivity, if I remember right it was a ‘Vidya’. Every one needed quality mate- popular text books. 64Mbps divided connection. So, rial in the quickest way possible. This emails,browsing the web and building a was the precursor to a series of convic- Contd on page 27 * This logo is designed by D G Suryanarayana & Irshad of 4th Year ( IT ) ANWESHI - ASTHA Newsmagazine
  2. 2. ANWESHI May 2008 Page 27 In Focus - VIDYA Vidya Story- Contd ... A comparison of a few local text books that ‘what’s the big deal…the informa- Which is your most favourite sec- and books authored by internationally tion available in Vidya can easily be tion in Vidya? renowned academicians revealed the googled out’. I do not contest that point, That’s hard to answer. Each section in fact that our students will end up miss- but it takes lot of discerning effort to se- Vidya is built with lot of care and it all ing quite a lot by the time they graduate lect the right ones for Vidya. The former had a specific reason behind it. For ex- if they relied only on local textbooks ab- remark is much akin to saying that ample it is on ‘Teacher’s Day’ that we horring books that have found interna- ‘what ever available in a library is avail- decided to build a separate section on “ tional acceptance. I tried getting able in a big bookshop’, the point is we Teaching & Learning”… another section presentation slides and class notes by do not call bookshop a library though ‘Envisage’ , the animation repository in the same authors and listed them in quantitatively the latter is a subset of Vidya. There is a whole variety of such Vidya under different categories ( this the former. Vidya is a sincere attempt to off beat sections in Vidya that has to be was the beginning of subject-wise list- implement the concept of ‘Selective dis- explored, to be experienced. I feel that ing with a basic collection of material on semination of Information”. This ap- it is the ‘Video Lecture Archive’ on a various engineering topics based on proach is of increasing relevance in this wide variety of areas that instantly ele- UG programmes). In a few weeks time, era of information overload. vates ‘Vidya’ to a unique position when I could see those untouched books of compared to any other repository/ digi- the library in circulation. Talking to the How will you define Vidya? tal library in the world. students revealed that the presenta- It is hard to define Vidya in any concrete tions helped them come out of the terms because ‘Vidya’ has evolved and Have you implemented all your ideas mindset and made them attempt to- will continue to evolve, each phase of you have on Vidya? wards learning from quality textbooks. growth in tune with the vision that initi- Not quite. What you now see as ‘Vidya’ This I would say, was the second con- ated it. Vidya is not a tutorial archive…it is just the core around which many lay- viction- adding a global touch to local- is much more. Vidya is envisaged to ers could be built. Better user inter- ized learning. On the other hand at the help one deepen one’s knowledge and faces, specific community portals, and personal level I was going through a cri- expand one’s awareness harnessing a whole lot of dynamic elements could sis that was emotionally gripping. I had the best of World Wide Web. be built around. I have the architecture to keep myself busy during waking I wish people get the experience of ex- clear in my mind, it is impossible for a hours to save myself from slipping into ploring a rainforest when they navigate single person to build it all. I have al- delirium. The best time to work on through Vidya than just walking around ways wished that I had atleast two ‘Vidya’ was of course late nights be- a landscape. If every one who visits more people good at programming with cause thats the time we used to get the ‘Vidya’ finds something interesting and me. Had that been the case the look best internet speed then. So it was just useful , then I believe ‘Vidya’ has de- and feel of ‘Vidya’ would have been far the perfect mix of reasons , both profes- fined the essence of its existence, in too different. Of course people are try- sional and personal, and what more short ‘ Vidya’ in functional essence ing to build layers around Vidya else could I ask for - if the very work I chose mean ‘Something for every one’. where in our campuses…if all those at- to plunge deep into ferreted out deeper tempts could be integrated we can meanings of my existence, enriching Is Vidya Accessible from outside the make Vidya one of the most formidable the lives of our student community. campus? knowledge archives in the world and No , ‘Vidya’ is not accessible from out- this is something ‘Amrita’ alone can How was Vidya received initially by side the campus except Amrita cam- claim of. The core is built, the layers the campus community? puses across the ISRO-EduSat link. need to be added. Vidya , where it There was a group of students and ‘Vidya’ is an intranet archive and it has stands now is just a fractional material- some faculty members who instantly re- to remain so adhering to the copyright ization of the enhancement ideas I have alized Vidya’s potential, and of course regulations. A great part of ‘Vidya’ is in- on Vidya. Here I must say that two there was the other category who tegrated with the ‘Educational fair use’ B.Tech teams have so far tried to build watched it all with a kind of disbelief ( laws that restricts the use of down- ‘search engines’ for Vidya, I must thank suspicion would be a better word I loaded material to ‘ within the campus, those teams and especially Mr. Adi- guess). For me what mattered the most for purely academic/ non-commercial narayanan of IT department and was not the number of people who purposes. Mr.Shivpratap of CEN who guided used Vidya, instead the difference Well, before we think of ‘out of the cam- them. We need more people like them Vidya can make in the lives of the few pus’ access to Vidya, let us get ‘Vidya’ and it is such people who can enhance who used Vidya then. Some even felt accessible to all our hostels within the Vidya and in turn enrich the lives of that I encroached into other’s domain, I campus. I am sure it can bring in a big thousands of students. guess it is natural for them to think so difference in the learning attitude of our because here’s this guy who is trained students because I have observed ( I You must have showcased Vidya to in avionics engineering working with have lived in our hostels for the last 7 numerous visitors, what was the re- the Systems group doing things on in- years) that most of our students study sponse to Vidya? formation science / knowledge man- late into night. Yes, those without lap- Yes, quite a good number of visitors agement with no formal training either tops need not feel out of place here, I from all over the world and Govt. of in IT or Information Science . I counted am sure that people with laptops can India ministry officials as well including it as a real complement anyway no mat- group with the ones who do not own a the UGC team. All of them showed ter how thwarting many remarks were. laptop and have combined study ses- great interest in learning more about Well, I remember a specific remark by sions, this will significantly strengthen some on Vidya during its fledgling days peer bonding as well. Contd on page 28 ANWESHI - ASTHA Newsmagazine
  3. 3. ANWESHI May 2008 Page 28 In Focus - VIDYA Vidya Story - Contd ... how it is built and was awe struck at the To a newcomer , how will you ex- make a positive difference no matter variety of sections in Vidya. We had vis- plain the potential of Vidya? what you do… all these primary factors itors from Chinmaya Mission Schools, Assuming that the newcomer is a first coupled with freedom at work can work Arvind Eye Hospitals and DRDO as year B.Tech student who is aiming for a wonders. Yes, I was fortunate enough well who spent hours with me dis- career in the Industry or core R&D, I to have that kind of freedom with no cussing on the possibilities of building would present Vidya to him/her as the strings attached all through my seven such archives. The most touching mo- prime source in that campus that will years here. What is the point in having ments are those when I see students help him learn with the aid of some of skills and ideas if one does not have the bring their parents to show Vidya . the finest tutorial material, ever created, freedom. In my case I had the freedom from across the globe. Vidya is un- in abundance and I owe a lot for it to Do you think that Vidya’s full poten- doubtedly one of the best assemblages Mr.M Sreeevalsan, Head , ICTS. tial is effectively utilized by the stu- of Audio/ Video lectures on almost all What are the significant phases of dents and faculty members? major areas taught here. This is on the growth Vidya went through? No, we are yet to even understand the academic front. Looking at an individ- My work on Vidya started as a pleasant potential of Vidya, let alone utilizing it ual’s overall development there is pass time activity, as one of my hobbies fully. I have been interacting with stu- enough material on Humanities, Apti- and soon it began to take huge chunk dents closely over the last seven years, tude and Soft skills, Philosophy & Com- of my waking hours. Routine working right from day 1 of my joining Amrita. A parative Religion, Management hours kept me busy with other respon- lot of awareness on ‘Vidya’ had been Sciences , Journalism & Communica- sibilities, of which working on the web- spread through word of mouth, informal tion and an array of allied areas. So site was the most demanding one for, it discussions etc. This does not work be- here is an archive that you can count on meant being on task 24X7. Vidya has yond a limit. I feel that the best ones to and grow along with. Vidya has also in- benefited immensely from lot of events help students understand the useful- corporated gateways to IEEE, ACM, and people in terms of ideas, input and ness of ‘Vidya’ are, the faculty members Digital Engineering Libraries as well. support. The first phase was of course because they get that unique privilege Journal papers can be accessed archiving few PPTs and PDFs on Me- of interacting with/ addressing no less through this gateway from any com- chanical Engg. downloaded by Ra- than 50 students at a time. This does puter in the campus. The best thing that machandran sir and later we worked as not seem to happen, students are can come out of utilizing Vidya re- a team. We shared the downloading never told about the learning resources sources to the fullest extent is aware- tasks, he could get some of the best tu- we have and I can tell this with total ness that one has learnt / explored an torials on Mech Engg and related areas conviction based on my interaction with area of interest listening to the masters and I began to do some kind of oscillat- the students. Innumerable times I have from around the world. Isn’t it great if ing downloads on many other areas. had students come to me and ask our students tell that they learnt Linear My love for reading came to great help questions like “do you have tutorials on Algebra from people around plus here, I never ran out of ideas on what to thermodynamics? … Do you have through video lectures by none other download on a specific day…I always books on Networking? Do you have in- than Prof. Gilbert Strang of MIT. Isn’t it had something to search for. It was just troductory lectures on Java? …etc. I great for our students to learn JAVA around the time I began developing feel that this would not have happened programming from the video lectures of Vidya, MIT released news on their had they been made aware of the the legendary Dr.Andy Vandam of OCW launch. The idea really fascinated learning resource we have here. Brown University - the same professor me and I wrote to the then MIT Presi- I have also had faculty members com- who taught programing to Prof.Randy dent’s Office at once appraising them of ing and asking me for material on areas Pausch. So here is an opportunity for our modest efforts in building local web that is already there in Vidya in abun- our students not to feel second to any in archives. The reply from the MIT presi- dance. So there is clear lack of aware- the world when it comes to learning dent’s office was really encouraging ness of our own resources among the using globally accepted tutorials from and that reinforced my belief in the po- students and the faculty members. The some of the best universities/ research tential of Vidya. So clearly the next best thing I could do from my side was centers across the world. In short major phase of development Vidya to map the entire B.Tech/ MCA syllabus here’s a resource that will help you went through was with the development to the content in Vidya. Despite this as graduate with, immensely more than of MIT-OCW. We were perhaps the first well I feel many have no idea what just a UG or PG degree. ones in the world to systematically mir- Vidya is all about. Of course here I must ror locally the choicest best ( based on say that there had been incredible sup- What is the single aspect or the most our requirements/ courses taught) of port from faculty members , I must vital element that one requires to MIT-OCW right from the day OCW was thank Dr.K.I.Ramachandran, Dr.Deepak build an archive like Vidya? launched to this day, this includes mas- Gupta of ASB, Prof Subba Rao of I cannot pin point ‘the single most sive collection of audio/ video lectures Chemical Engg Dept, Mr.Adi- thing’. I feel it is a combination of factors as well. In Vidya you will find an exclu- narayanan of IT Dept, Dr.Shanmug- that contribute towards building some- sive MIT-OCW section categorized mavelayutham of CSE Dept, Dr.R K thing like Vidya. Still, if I am to general- topic-wise and mapped to our Engi- Suresh of Mech. Engg Dept, Dr.K P ize I would reduce everything down to neering curriculum. In fact it is with the Soman, Mr.Rakesh Peter, Mr.Shiv- that single word “Passion” – passion to addition of MIT-OCW materials, Vidya apratap, Mr.Loganathan of CEN. gather, organize and disseminate infor- gained the recognition and trust of They are doing their best to bring Vidya mation, passion to reach out and inter- many in the campus, they believed they closer to Amrita fraternity. act, passion to read,explore and learn, Contd... on page 29 passion to share and give, passion to ANWESHI - ASTHA Newsmagazine
  4. 4. ANWESHI May 2008 Page 29 In Focus - VIDYA Vidya Story - Contd ... could expect more and Vidya will de- that was an eye-opener for me for, it is the oldest machine in the campus sub- liver it. Improved internet connectivity , then my reading background played a ject to the heaviest load. Right now the availability of a variety of download decisive role in the most efficient way 1.6 TB archive on three different tools, advent of peer-to-peer net- possible. Meeting and interacting peo- servers is running different services. works…all these have considerably ple like Prof.Deepak Gupta of ASB Once this is done, one can think of em- helped Vidya grow fast. The Indo-US added a lot of vigor to the development bedding Vidya into a good content man- initiative brought in a lot of eminent of Vidya. Deepak sir , Ramachandran agement system and giving external professors to our campus to deliver full sir, Dr.K P Soman (CEN), Prof, Gan- access through VPN ( restricted to our length courses, expert / guest lectures. gadharan (Chairman, IT Dept) and alumni) Most of these courses and lectures are Prof.Rakesh Kataria ( ASCOM) had recorded and archived in Vidya under always been excited about the new How do you decide on the content the E-Learning video lecture series. content added to Vidya and eager to in- that goes into Vidya? Is the usage of This is something significant that hap- corporate it into their teaching as well. Vidya monitored? pened to Vidya. Now we have our own In fact had it not been for Deepak sir, I Interaction with students and faculty video content and with that came into would not have possibly heard of some members helps a lot towards deciding being our own institutional video repos- of the best names in the area of man- on the content. Besides, one should itory. agement education world wide. Getting keep oneself well updated on the recent to know many things thus helped me developments. General reading helps a My colleague Ms.Lekshmi Prashant look for material on the net and archive lot here. Being a member of many on- who joined to work on Vidya played a it. line communities is of great advantage great role in giving a real face lift to because of the free flow of information. Vidya at a time when it was needed the Vidya blossomed further when our cam- For example I get regular updates on most. We could divide tasks, plan puses at Kochi, Amritapuri and Banga- MIT-OCW additions, Howstuffworks, schedules and execute it in a system- lore expressed the desire to have Vidya Edge and a number of other credible atic way. I could focus more on Content mirrored in their campuses. I had been sources. There are seasonal variations and Architecture and Lekshmi took up to Amritapuri and Bangalore campuses in the usage of Vidya. After the exams, the arduous task of rebuilding the inter- recently to deploy Vidya there, the en- I see increased access of Humanities, face and discover more useful content tire Vidya is mirrored there. I also built a Philosophy section and general reading on the web. Our working as a team for custom built archive for the Arts and sections. The placement season brings little over one year took Vidya through a Science campus in Kochi. Had it not in maximum hits on almost all areas significant phase of development. Lek- been for Mr.Vipin Pavitran of Amrita- with specific focus on the “Career Guid- shmi was instrumental in establishing puri campus, Mr.S Pyarilal of Banga- ance’ section in Vidya. Mindscape as well. She worked in a lore campus and Dr.Krishnakumar of truly inspired manner with total dedica- Kochi campus who took the initiative When there is so much of informa- tion to the task at hand exploring new to mirror Vidya in their campuses, thou- tion available on the Internet , when possibilities of enriching Vidya. sands of students there would have re- almost anything can be ‘googled’ out mained deprived of this precious what is the contemporary relevance Automation in Vidya was first tried out learning/ teaching resource we have. of Vidya? through integrating D-Space into Vidya. What you get when you search for All the major video lecture collections Is updating Vidya here synchronized something on the world wide web is pri- and E-learning video lectures are now with the mirrored repositories in the marily hundreds of links pointing to var- on D-Space platform. Now the video other campuses? ious information sources. A good lectures are searchable through key- No, it is not fully synchronized and I feel search used will be easily possible words (meta-tags) associated with each it need not be. I feel that from this point through the right combination of key video lecture. Recently, realizing the im- onwards, Vidya in the respective cam- words. It is not the case any more, your portance of forming interest groups/ pus must grow and attain its own iden- search results depend a great deal on communities to help disseminate the tity in tune with the requirements and who owns the key word auctioned by content through annotated entries/ rec- developments in the campus. It is like the search engine giants. This was not ommended links, we integrated “Wiki- having four different gardens with the quite the case few years back, page Media” as well to Vidya. Now the users same set of flowers and more based on ranking took into account the merit of can interact with each other and bring the climatic conditions of the respective the content of a specific website judged out information lying in the deep re- place. Of course the best things col- by various factors. Now many more cesses of Vidya. We owe it to lected at each campus must be shared variables and business interests have Mr.Rakesh Peter of CEN for deploying across. crept in and all these combined, de- D-Space and WikiMedia in Vidya and I cides the positioning of the search re- can never forget the day when he re- Which is the next important phase sults you get. In short a quick search vived D-Space, when the server it was you think Vidya ought to go need not take you to the right source of hosted almost crashed. I thoroughly en- through? information if you go only by the top few joyed integrating content to D-Space The most vital phase is the next phase. listings. The links to the best source of and WikiMedia and I guess it debunked Vidya must be hosted in a new- sturdy information you look could be listed a the myth that such specialized tasks server as soon as possible. Lest, I see few pages down, this is where human can be done only by people belonging all possibility of Vidya crashing because discretion comes in. to certain fields. Associating meta-tags the central repository of Vidya runs on a Contd... on page 30 to each video lecture was an exercise P-III machine, perhaps this machine is ANWESHI - ASTHA Newsmagazine
  5. 5. ANWESHI May2008 Page 30 In Focus - VIDYA Vidya Story - Contd ... The content in Vidya is carefully chosen test the student thoroughly instead of archive of Vidya) in the class when and one must not forget that Vidya has blindly awarding grades based on sub- there was a delay on starting the project material collected right from the year missions by the student. A smart presentations session. Such attempts 2000, of which a good quantity of infor- teacher will be discerning enough thus. are real exemplifications of how an in- mation is not available any more on the So the equation gets reduced to these spired teacher can inspire a whole class world wide web. facts: of students and how well we can use 1. Vidya can make a lazy students Vidya in effective ways for the overall The relevance of Vidya in terms of the smarter. development of our students. I have information archived lies in the time 2. Smart teachers can make lazy stu- also been overwhelmed seeing the en- span it consistently covered and care- dents work harder and do better. thusiasm of Mr.Satheesh Babu of ful content selection. Here I must add, 3. Only lazy teachers can make lazy Chemistry department every time I Vidya owes a great deal to Google students lazier. added a new collection of Chemistry search results and another lesser ...and I am sure one cannot afford to get material in Vidya. This is the openness known but effective search engine lazy in Amrita campus. needed and it is good that we have peo- called “Vivisimo” that gives categorized Well, it is like this-here’s a set of ple like them. search results. In short in this era if in- tools and book of rules, one can either How different is Vidya from other formation overload, Vidya does a load build a stepping stone or stumbling knowldege bases and digital li- balancing act through selective informa- block. It all depends on individual per- braries? tion dissemination. ceptions and attitudes. There is a com- Let me change the word ‘difference’ to prehensive section in Vidya called ‘uniqueness’. The term ‘digital library’ is Has Vidya been presented in any “Academic Integrity” that has well or- something that is getting redefined. Symposiums or Conferences? ganized information on plagiarism, There was a time when ‘digital library’ Yes, in 2005 we had in this campus an copyright regulations etc. It is good for meant a separate enclosure adjacent to International conference on digital li- students to be aware of all this from the central library with a few machines braries ( ACDL 2005) with participants their first year itself. dedicated to access digital contents. from the American and European uni- This is the concept of the 90’s. Digital versities. I had presented Vidya as our In the near future do you see video content is best disseminated if it is dis- initiative towards building a comprehen- lectures in Vidya being an integral tributed across the network . The very sive digital library and they showed a lot part of class room sessions, Can it term ‘digital’ means communication at of interest in the way we do things. I be an alternative to the teaching the speed of light. If some one has to must thank Prof.Prashant Nair ( methodology followed in most uni- walk across a few blocks to access dig- Asst.Chairman, IT Dept) for organizing versities in India? ital content in a an environment of LAN ACDL 2005 and giving me an opportu- I wish it happens that way and it does and WiFi, I feel we are following the nity to represent Amrita. Few months not take much time for such things to ‘vacuum tube generation’ practices in back I got an invitation to speak at the happen. A good resolve to teach better the ‘digital era’ .But it is great to have a Conclave - Freed.in 2008 organized and learn better can make it happen centralized location where people can by Jawaharlal Nehru University , right away. Students do take these meet and discuss. Looking at this way, New Delhi and SARAI Research Cen- video lectures and watch it on their lap- Vidya is a floating presence across the tre. They became interested to know tops, but then not all can afford laptops. campus, it reaches every one any time, more when they heard about Vidya and So one section of students miss out this one need not walk to it. this is a clear indication of how the mode of learning completely if they are All formidable digital libraries will have world looks at Vidya. not in a position to see video lectures gateways to a wide variety of online even in the computer labs. There is a journal subscriptions and other reposi- Do you ever get the feeling that lot our teachers could also benefit from tories, this surely needs seamless inter- Vidya might make lazy students viewing these video lectures. So when net connectivity . Vidya has IEEE, lazier ? a teacher is benefited thus, the whole ACM, Dig Engg Library gateways. We Vidya can make lazy students smarter, class in turn gets benefited. For exam- need to add more any way. The unique- not lazier. I guess you meant this - stu- ple Mr. J Shrikrishnan of Cisco Acad- ness of Vidya lies in the variety of mate- dents resorting to the copy+paste emy plays Vidya video lectures in his rial locally archived (even when internet method of solving problems and com- class and he remarked that such exer- is down, people can continue to learn pleting assignments. It is quite akin to cises make the class more lively and in- using global resources. Vidya is some- an open book exam( which is not despi- teractive. I wish there are more thing one can explore and experience cable at all). I am only happy that the practitioners of this approach. In fact almost any where in the campus across students could spot the information they finding right kind of video lectures to the LAN. One must consider each need from Vidya and I call that smart- play in the classrooms is not difficult at repository a unique one because it is ness. all since the entire curriculum is built primarily to cater to the community Now, it is for the teacher to use mapped to Vidya resources. I must tell it belongs. his discretion to judge the originality of that Ms.Smrithi Rekha of CSE depart- The true potential of Vidya can be such submissions. The nature of what ment has tried out playing motivational/ unleashed to our student community a student writes will have a clear imprint inspirational videos from Vidya in her only if Vidya is made accessible of the students style of talking and computer science classes which was across the campus WiFi , then Vidya other abilities (analytical/verbal) dis- well received. I was really surprised will begin to evolve into a ‘Learning played in the class. A smart teacher will when she told one day that she played Resource Centre’ immediately figure out the anomaly and a short video ( from the Social Sciences Contd... on page 31 ANWESHI - ASTHA Newsmagazine
  6. 6. ANWESHI May 2008 Page 31 In Focus - VIDYA Vidya Story - Contd ... VIDYA - The e-Guru@Amrita Which is the best feedback/ testimo- This is what I earned and I feel all the ...While the infrastructure development has nial you have received from students struggle was well worth it. been at a rocketing pace in Amrita, which on your work on Vidya? What were the most unforgettable scores well over many contemporary institu- These are the times of online communi- experiences related to your work on tions, I feel that the single largest influence ties and social networking portals, and Vidya? that changed the learning attitude of students testimonials seem to be the sponta- There are many incidents associated was initiated by Vidya – the e-Learning neous and easiest way (some times with building Vidya and my life in the repository of Amrita. When I was a student frivolous and superfluous too) one can campus, in fact too many of them. (2002) Vidya was in Her fledgling stage gift the other person expecting the Some day I will narrate it all in a novel (compared to what She is now), but even then She was my saviour for 2 of my final same in return. So I do not want to dig I am gearing up to write. I have worked year electives (FEM & Mechatronics). Vidya out anything specific. Being with stu- on Vidya with the conviction that every for me was an inspiration and guide to my dents really meant playing the changing speck of information that goes to Vidya future of opportunities, teaching me the es- roles of a friend, critique and mentor is precious, it could inspire, inform and sentials of engineering, management, philos- and brother. I have tried to do my best . transform some one’s life and that is ophy, humanities, spirituality, and creativity just what I have experienced all through – all capsuled within a mouse-click. Within a But, there are two reflections from stu- the process of building Vidya. At the couple of years Vidya has changed academic dents I would cherish unto my last even personal level, looking back in retro- attitudes of students from that of routine ed- if I am to lose the rest of my credentials spect, I cherish those moments of utter ucation to meaningful learning and holistic development: the latter being the actual pur- and testimonials : restlessness and vigor that facilitated pose of the former. Vidya transcends beyond rigorous creative outpour… forgetting to teaching subjects, for She guides students This is my testimonial eat, sleep or any other recreation obliv- how to Learn. ....................................... ious of the passage of time, I was totally Nowhere else could I have got to meet engrossed (to the point of obsession) Chanakya, Oscar Schindler, Einstein, Patan- ( for the man who has silently engi- in adding more to Vidya. Now I wonder jali, Edward de Bono, Jack Welch, Prof. neered an ecstasy called 'Vidya' Am- how did all that happen. When I see March, Sri Gandhi, Richard Feynman and digital library initiatives around involving Amma, over one single table! And imagine rita's Digital library ) huge funding and large number of peo- arriving at a confluence of their ideas and Karthik Sankar.R contemplating over them? That’s exactly M.Sc 2005 Batch ple involved, I really marvel at Vidya be- what Vidya made me do: Think. But, that is cause it is perhaps the best example of the power of Vidya, showing you the broader creating the most economical digital aspects of learning and giving you an oppor- archive. Students like J.Chan- tunity to assimilate within. She was (is) the Dear Ajai Sir. drasekhar ( Mech-2008 batch) pro- gateway of access to any personality I I am reaching out to you at this vided great support consistently wanted to learn about, and Oscar Schindler juncture where I really should be convincing me that there are many tak- was a great influence on my concepts of viewed from a different frame of ers who are eager for anything good ethics and morality. Nowhere else could I reference, and none else than you that goes into Vidya.The tag line of have imagined to meet Schindler! sir. I think, currently, there are so Today, I find that stu- Vidya is the mission of Vidya - To In- many stuff running in my mind that I dents are in a greater pace than we were, but form, Inspire and Innovate. still finding it hard to keep up with Vidya. feel I have temporarily lost the clarity As far as my work in Amrita is con- From the latest video lectures to ground to think objectively. As you know me, cerned, it is the last two years that saw breaking scientific inventions, Vidya has I didn’t think twice about reaching an effective consolidation of everything more to offer than the students could possi- out to for your help… please guide I was involved with. It is work on Vidya bly want. But I am immensely happy that me. that eventually lead to conceiving students have fully realised the indispens- ‘MINDSCAPE’- The Documentary ability of Vidya and are working together to When I watched the movie ‘Taare Screening Group , later forming redefine the process of learning. Vidya, in Zameen Par’, I couldn’t help recalling many ways, has positively influenced the ‘ASTHA’ - Amrita Science and Technol- you as teacher Nikhumb and myself peer bonding within Amrita. Today, students ogy Action Forum and ‘ANWESHI’-The stay back during vacations to enjoy the ab- as the dyslexic student. Without your Newsmagazine. I must thank the stu- solute bliss of learning through Vidya, for the guidance I wouldn’t have scaled the dents Mr.Binit Bhatia ( IT, 2007 batch) fun of it (purpose will follow later!). As initial loss of IIT during first year, and Rajesh Rajan ( Mech 2008 batch) and probably the most frequently visiting alum- all that I learnt later… And as a per- Meenal Purohit (CSE 2008 batch) who nus of Ettimadai campus, I have been able to son who knows me inside out in the were instrumental in establishing Mind- witness the silent transformation in the stu- context discussed above, I felt it scape. Had it not been for the spirited dents’ learning mode, getting healthier every more than necessary to reach out to efforts of Rajesh Rajan, Meenal Puro- month, as further confirmed through my in- you. Kindly let me know your teraction with them. Vidya has touched and hit, Kothai Priyadharshini ( CSE 2009 thoughts sir…This is something that changed lives at Ettimadai, and She will con- batch) and the team, Mindscape and tinue to guide generations of students to I can’t discuss at home or friends or ASTHA would not have reached where come. siblings (as I have none)…. It’s over it is today. I have great faith in the cur- to you……… rent batch of students and I am sure Mar 6, 2008 that they will take the initiatives further. Srinivasa Varadhan ( This alumnus (2004 batch) is a I thank every one who supported and Cognizant Technologies, London successful professional in Europe) sustained me in all my endeavors. ( Former Amrita Alumni Vice President Identity protected as requested by the 2005-2007 ) writer. It’s been a real privilege, Thank You! ANWESHI - ASTHA Newsmagazine
  7. 7. ANWESHI May 2008 Page 32 In Depth - VIDYA ANWESHI - ASTHA Newsmagazine

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