Dr. P. Venkat Rangan was appointed as Vice Chancellor of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in 2003 that has now grown into a dynamic, 5-campus, multi-disciplinary, University with over 15 schools, 75 degree programs, 1000 faculty, and 7000 students (www.amrita.edu/campusesandschools) He was professor, Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego and founder and director of multimedia lab at the university. Dr. Rangan has been the recipient of President of India’s gold medal from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Chennai in 1984. He has also won several prestigious awards including the NCR Research Innovation Award in 1991 and the US National Science Foundation (NSF) National Young Investigator Award in 1993. He has to his credit 30 patents and has published over 100 research papers, apart from the many other academic contributions and services. The professionally brilliant academic leader shares his experiences on his unique resolve to push for academic excellence at Amrita University.
In the past, Amrita has already earned the success of becoming India’s first multi-campus University to be inter-networked via Satellite. What are the efforts and steps that Amrita currently undertakes in using new technologies in knowledge and education endeavours?
In the past four years, Amrita has been on a steep trajectory to quickly achieve a world-class status. In its second year itself (2004), AMRITA became the Nation’s First Multi-Campus University to be inter-networked via Satellite, enabling live interactive inter-campus classrooms. As a result of this historic launch, Amrita University is strategically positioned to lead the way in multi-disciplinary higher education, research, and technology innovation as they are applied to multi-farious disciplines and societal needs. We are presently on the verge of introducing new initiatives that will make use of the existing technologies to deliver other services.
What are the emerging technology support systems that make Amrita a new age learning destination for the higher education aspirants?
One of the main focuses at Amrita University is to provide excellent research opportunities and to be a center at which they will be exposed to world class faculty and various information sources. We at Amrita, due to our close ties with some of the best Universities in the world, will be able to provide access to the digital libraries of some of the best universities in the world to the research students. In addition, we work with industry partners to pioneer leading edge research in many fields, including health, cybersecurity and wireless technologies, among others.
What are the challenges that the universities come across in furthering e-Learning? What is the possibility to overcome those?
In a multi campus environment, the main issues relate to scheduling and agreeing upon course content. A lot of discussion is needed to coordinate this and much of it is happening. Much of the delivery is dependant on technology and the ability to deliver rich content seamlessly over the network. The many e-Learning related technologies in the West are dependant on high bandwidth which is relatively cheap there. The ability to deliver the content using lower bandwidth has not been properly addressed. Amrita is engaged in research to address this and is looking at enriching the learning experience over the e-Learning network.
The number of students has gone up without a corresponding increase in teachers and other facilities, which in turn hinders the real growth of this sector. Your view on this! What would you suggest to overcome situations like this?
This is the main issue that we have been dealing with in the last few years. The Amrita e-Learning network partly addresses this issue as we are able to use the best lecturers and deliver the course over the satellite networks to our different campuses. In this light we have conducted courses over the satellite networks so that one lecturer can teach students at multiple locations.
What message would you like to convey to the students and this community through Digital Learning?
These days the attention span of the students is very low, especially in a classroom setting. However they can spend hours in front of a television screen or a computer monitor. The only way to reach out to this group is to provide rich content and deliver it using the latest technology available.
Below is a quote from our Chancellor, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi which will be the message that I would like to share.
“knowledge is the greatest gift one can give, for knowledge is imperishable. Even if we light a thousand lamps from one flame, the luster of the first lamp never diminishes. By sharing knowledge and experiences, we can prevent the flower that is this world from ever wilting and ensure that it remains eternally beautiful. By bringing together diverse streams of knowledge, we can create a magnificent river. May this great river of knowledge flow to caress the countries and communities of the world!”