Amrita University Powers e-Revolution

by Amit Tripathi    Sep 14, 2004

At the 380-acre Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham Coimbatore campus, an e-revolution (read e for education facilitated by electronics) of sorts is brewing, thanks to an exemplary academic-government-industry partnership.

The partnership comprises of the Amrita University, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Indian software major, Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS) that has resulted in the advent of a virtual campus for Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, linking all its campuses through dedicated satellite network, and thereby providing interactive method of imparting education.

The brain behind the concept, P. Venkat Rangan, vice chancellor, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, said, “Projects such as these can go a long way in spreading the revolution of quality education that is feasible and within everyone’s reach. Along with education, we can use this connectivity backbone to roll out other socio-developmental measures.”

Dr. N V R Natahan, director, India 2020 Centre For Societal Transformation and Leadership, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, mentioned, “One of the major issues that make the concept Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) a success, is electronic connectivity, enabled through IT and telecommunication. We took up this project as part of the Vision 2020 as laid down by President of India A P J Abdul Kalam.”

The satellite network uses star configuration with permanently assigned multiple access, using single channel per carrier modem to connect Coimbatore, Bangalore, and Kochi campuses running various disciplines. The network uses SkyIP and transceivers from PolarSat.

At remote centers, SkyIP 300 is used, which has a built in l-band transceiver and a built-in router and support for multicasting with features for setting priority to UDP and TCP protocols. All modems can scale up to 2 Mbps. The bandwidth is allocated in INSAT 3e extended C band, which is capable of withstanding adverse climatic conditions. The transponder center frequency has a transmit frequency of 6835 and receive frequency of 4610.

The front-end of this satellite network is an e-learning studio and classroom at Coimbatore. This e-studio is equipped with 6 simultaneous synchronous LCD panels. The teacher is empowered with the unique capability of performing two-way live audio-video interaction between four Amrita campuses located at Coimbatore, Kochi, Bangalore and Amritapuri (Kollam). The software that is used for facilitating video and audio data transfer is VLC media player that is portable with Windows.

The facility is equipped with 130 seats for classroom instruction, 24 x 7, using the dedicated satellite link with a bandwidth of 1.5 Mbps. The e-classroom is ergonomically designed to enhance the teaching and learning process and give teachers and students the feel of a normal classroom session.

The university plans to eventually extend the knowledge and electronic connectivity to village clusters, thereby becoming powerful vehicles for transforming entire communities. This will be implemented through Village Resource Centers (VRC), wherein education, training and skills will be imparted for uplifting the less fortunate in India’s vast number of villages. VRCs would be equipped with the paraphernalia for tele-education and tele-medicine.

Subsequently, emergency and disaster response systems for villages would also be integrated into it. Various industries have already evinced interest in joining this effort.

Amrita’s quest for facilitating education through IT can be gauged from the fact that it acquired a PARAM 10000 Supercomputer way back in 1998 at a time when it had only an engineering college and a business school in its fold. Prashant Nair, Sr, Lecturer, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, says, “In the future, the satellite network may be used for data exchange in terms of using satellite bandwidth for workflow, and human resources.”

This public-private-industry partnership can indeed become a role model in the efforts at providing quality distance education and furthering e-governance in a big way.

Tags: education