National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning- India’s Contribution to the Open Education Movement

NPTELThe National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning (“NPTEL”) is an initiative led by seven IIT’s and IISc, and funded by the Government of India. The website provides access to web and video-based courses in Engineering, Science and Humanities, taught by the professors of these eminent universities. There are currently more than 1,000 courses being offered on the website. They have recently introduced several new courses on Polymer Chemistry, Infrastructure Finance, Money and Banking, and several other subjects.

The courses offered by NPTEL are available under a Creative Commons ‘Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike’ licence. This, as the name suggests, means that consumers of the video can use the material for any non-commercial purpose, modifying it or building on it as they wish, as long as the end-product is also licensed similarly and NPTEL is attributed for the video. This is similar to the terms of use of other Open Learning initiatives such as MIT Open Courseware (OCW) and Khan Academy.

However, NPTEL wants to distinguish itself from OCW, as the objective of NPTEL videos is not just to encourage self-learning by those interested in the subjects, but primarily to fill the void between the qualifications of teachers in the premiere science institutes and other institutions. As all the course videos follow the syllabus prescribed by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the organisation envisages teachers from other institutions using the material on NPTEL as a starting point in building their own course materials. While the project only features video lectures at present, there are future plans for intensive workshops with other colleges, and other such outreach activities.

The IITs and the IISc are premiere institutions to whom access is limited to not just the brightest but also to the more privileged of the lakhs of students in India. NPTEL is a therefore a great initiative as it creates a channel where information can flow freely from these institutions to other colleges which do not have the same resources.  NCERT’s National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) launched in 2013 is also a similar Open Education portal where modules from NCERT textbooks are available in video format.

Globally, there are legislations in place mandating the open licensing of publicly funded educational materials in several countries such as Brazil, Poland, the United States, Netherlands, Canada, etc. As the IITs and the IISc are publicly-funded research institutions, this can be seen as India’s response to the worldwide Open Education movement. It would be truly laudable if such efforts were also made in other streams of education- perhaps it is time for India too to pass a legislation opening up all publicly funded educational materials.

We would like to thank Mr. Ananth Padmanabhan for the hat-tip  about NPTEL.

Spadika Jayaraj

Spadika is a student of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. Apart from Intellectual Property Law, she is also interested in Law and Technology issues.

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