by May 1, 2010 0 comments

Educational institutions are fast turning to IT solutions to simplify the
management of the entire process that encompasses education, starting from
admission to examinations and also to make the teaching/learning process
interactive and interesting. All this while the teacher and student community is
expanding beyond classrooms into virtual space. Here we look at some interesting
IT solutions that are increasingly catching the attention of educational
institutions and students.

Avoiding Paper Leaks in Examinations
It’s not unusual to hear of incidents where major examinations have been
postponed due to question paper leaks. A solution that seems to address this
issue is the examination management solution called intelliEXAMS by Mindlogicx
which delivers the question papers with authorized access just 30 minutes before
exam starts via an intelligent integrated system. This software solution enables
automation of the complete process of examination, whether online or offline,
starting from online registration of candidates, online scheduling of
examinations, examination fee management, internal mark uploading, online hall
ticket generation, web-based authoring tool enabling setting of question papers
by subject experts across the globe, secured question paper delivery, multiple
digital evaluation, tracking of students performance & performance analysis to
publishing of results and printing of mark sheets and certificates. The work
flow system integrated in the system provides instant access to the university
authorities for managing the whole process. Once the question paper is set using
the web-based authoring tool, it is encrypted (128 bit encryption) and then sent
to remote examination centers from where the authorized person uses a key to
decrypt and then print the papers. Further, the hardware-based authentication
makes the entire process foolproof.

Preventing Fake Student Marksheets
Students faking their mark sheet is also a very common malpractice that
generates a lot of concern amongst universities and recruiters. intelliCAS, a
certificate authentication system by Mindlogicx,  a value added tool to
intelliEXAMS,  also available independently, is a solution in this direction,
under which each student will have a unique 12 digit ID,  for his/her
certificate, called the Global Access code (GAC).  Using this solution, the GAC
of a candidate can be used by the employers to check the authenticity of the
credentials provided by the candidate, using a standard browser or a mobile
browser. Each GAC assigned to a certificate are randomly generated,
non-sequential and alpha-numeric, and can produce 131 quadrillion codes per
prefix which makes it very difficult for anyone to break the codes.The
examination management solution by Mindlogicx has been deployed by Anna
University, Coimbatore. As a part of the implementation Network Operating Centre
(NoC) was set up in the university campus, which was then connected to all
examination delivery centres across colleges where examinations happen.

Trends in telecom Sector

India has a large number of educational institutions,
many being govt funded. Education has always been our priority, as socially
it is understood that education offers opportunity. Now govt has also made
education a right, recognizing the fact that this is one of the best ways to
ensure social upliftment and equal opportunities for all. Though some of the
IT solutions, may in a traditional sense appear to be expensive but they
will bring with them many benefits and in the net run the costs would come
down. The big challenge is maintaining a minimum level in the quality of
education and that’s where technology can make a substantial impact.

George Paul, Executive Vice President —
Marketing, HCL Infosystems on IT solutions for the education vertical

Enhancing the Teaching-Learning Experience
It is challenging for educators to capture the attention of students with
scribbles on the blackboard or a whiteboard. It is equally challenging for the
students, with their short attention spans, to focus on what is being taught and
simultaneously take notes. Many IT solutions are now emerging for the
classrooms, that are set to enhance the entire teaching-learning experience and
encourage learning and retention by understanding and interaction, rather than
by rote. We look at some such technologies.

A teacher using whiteboard to teach lessons to little children in one of
Educomp’s centers.

Educomp’s Smartclass initiative is bringing the benefits of technology to the
classrooms of K-12 and is capturing the interest of the tech savvy generation.
The initiative constitutes the following —

  1. Creation of a knowledge center within the school that is
    equipped with smartclass digital content library consisting of 3D and 2D
    multimedia modules for different classes.

  2. Connecting this knowledge center to classrooms through

  3. Equipping classrooms with required IT infrastructure
    complete with custom designed electronic interactive white boards, projection
    systems, PCs and UPS.

  4. Enabling teachers to instantly assess the understanding
    of the students by creating smart tests using a test authoring tool and
    enabling students to answer to these using individual hand-held remote
    answering devices.

  5. Smartclass system also functions as a virtual school,
    where parents, teachers and students can exchange information. For eg ,
    teachers can upload assignments for students to download, and make important
    information available for parents to view.

  6. Schools like Padma Seshadri Group of Schools, Chennai and
    Kalpa School, Hyderabad have implemented this solution.

Social learning networks

The social networking technology greatly enhances the
free form collaboration and accentuates the peer-to-peer learning greatly.
Usually, when done on an open platform, it has tendency to diverge and cover
much broader theme than required for the focused topics at hand. Although,
diehard social networking fans will argue that the in-built self-correcting
mechanism will be guided by the emergent characteristics will ensure the
convergence. But in time-limited course curriculum learning, it may not
happen within the time frame. Thus, limiting the usage of social networking
technologies to a campus wide Intranet environment offers better chances of
convergence and adds far more value in the learning process.

Bharat Bhasker, Professor, IIM—Lucknow.

Connected classrooms
Dell’s Connected Classrooms slated to be launched later this year in India,
is a bunch of technology products, services, software and training, aimed at
empowering students to express themselves creatively and share their learning.
They include technology that enable capturing and sharing information, like
interactive white boards and instruments to interact with these white boards,
technology to track student’s progress through response systems and explain
concepts to students using multi-media technology.

The American School of Milan in Italy is one of the first
schools in Europe to implement the ‘connected classroom’. Students at the school
use mobile technology from age 3 to 18. Using touch interfaces, they collaborate
on multi-input interactive whiteboards to create animated storyboards and
explore virtual 3D worlds. Together, they develop digital works of music and
art, and use integrated Webcams to talk to peers all over the world. They use
netbooks to use Web 2.0 tools via optional touchscreens and the IT staff manages
the netbook software and upgrades remotely from a central hub.

Social learning networks

“Learning networks play a key role in the process of
education. Keeping this in mind, we are going to re-vamp our website in the
near future including social networking features, forums and blogs that
would facilitate interactions and exchange of information in an effective
manner. ”

D P Goyal, Professor, MDI, Gurgaon.

The Role of Social Networking
Education is not just a one-to-one affair that flows unidirectionally from a
teacher to a student. It is in fact multi-directional, flowing between educators
(sharing resources and teaching techniques), from educators to students
(teaching), from students to educators (doubt resolutions, clarifications) and
between students themselves (sharing of resources). Now with the Web 2.0 buzz,
enabling active participation of the users and collaborative and interactive
information-sharing, the age-old classroom teaching that was conceived of as
‘boring’ by the students is slowly getting a facelift. This is promising a ‘fun’
teaching-learning experience, that is far more interactive and enriching, not
only for the students but also for the educators. Some of the Web 2.0
applications like blogs and wikis are being tried by many educational
institutions to facilitate the teaching-learning process. But of late, something
that’s catching the attention of the educators and the tech-savvy Gen Y
students, is social networking.

An educational network is essentially a social network that
connects educators and students, and differs from a generic social network, in
the sense that the drive to join such networks is to facilitate better learning
and sharing of resources. They may be either be public social learning networks
that are open to educators and students across the globe or private social
networks that are specially developed for a school, college or a university,
enabling better control and privacy. Such virtual learning networks are made up
of most of the following:

A Profile Page that displays information about you, your
academic/employment history, educational goals etc.

  • Friending, through which you connect to

  • Forum where discussions about various topics can be
    carried out.

  • Groups where people sharing common interests in different
    topics can meet virtually, discuss and share thoughts.

  • Photo/Video/Audio/document uploading and tagging of
    people, whom you want to notify.

  • Events Calendar

  • Chat/e-mail etc

Exploring Social Learning Networks
Let’s explore some popular social learning networks developed:

LearnHub (
LearnHub is an online social learning network run by Savvica, a Canadian
company, majority being owned by Educomp Solutions. Students and educators,
anywhere round the world, can simply sign-up, as in any other social network,
create their own home page and profile, join communities built around a specific
subjects (ex. Algebra, Education, History, Software Development) or specific
exams like CBSE, CAT, TOEFL, AIEEE etc and access a wealth of freely available
information, that ranges from pages, videos, presentations, concept games, free
test papers, etc created by experts, and other students. Students can also find
a marketplace, where they can find courses and tutor offerings from expert
teachers. There are separate sections for exploring colleges across the globe,
career guidance articles, education related alerts/news, and expert question and
answer, where a LearnHub expert resolves questions ranging from a study abroad
query to a test prep problem. These features make these websites highly
interactive and of high interest amongst the student-educator community.

“Deployment of latest technology has certainly resulted in increased access
to education, enhanced content creation, wider reach, formation of virtual
communities ,  thereby fostering inclusion. Technology  has been an enabler
of both the new pedagogy and skills thereby providing a rich and flexible
learning environment, reducing administrative costs and improving
performance. The main focus of implementation of IT is to bring in a
paradigm shift within educational systems to enhance the current focus of
curriculum, teachers, accountability and leadership. It includes 21st
century learning methods which are enabled by technology and supported
through an adapted system reform agenda. Collaboration and creativity are
emblematic of this paradigm shift and will direct the course of the
educational reform agenda. They are already the tools of today’s learners
and employers, and should logically become the tools of today’s teachers,
schools, and education systems as a whole. ”

Shailendra Badoni, COO, Datacraft on the
significance of IT solutions in the sphere of education

LearnCentral (
This is a social learning network for the educators, students, curriculum
designers instructional technologists, administrators, etc,  sponsored by
Elluminate. Once signed-up, every member can create their online portfolio, and
have their own wall, blog, network and calendar. They can join groups of their
interest and contribute to discussion, invite colleagues, connect to other
educators, share resources an teaching methodologies, attend events and
collaborate in real time.

As a member of this educational network, educators can make
use of free, virtual, real-time collaboration tool for upto 3 people, called
Elluminate vRoom powered by Elluminate Live! functionality, which is a virtual
environment optimized for learning. This collaboration environment enables
delivery of live, online learning, training, coaching, mentoring, and meetings,
except recording and integrated teleconferencing. Participants can talk over the
Internet (with full, 2-way audio), exchange text messages, display live video,
share whiteboards, multimedia files, and applications-all in one intuitive,
graphical interface. Elluminate’s Collaborative Communications Framework (CCF)
ensures that everything is in the right place at the right time and they claim
to provide superior quality, high performance, and dependability-with no lag
time, whether you have a dial-up modem or high speed LAN. For larger sessions
and to enable the recording feature for later viewing and sharing the member has
to upgrade by paying for it. Also if an educational institution wants to have
their own LearnCentral community where all member profiles, content, groups, and
discussions are completely private or have to create a hybrid community where
members and/or the community manager choose which resources are made available
in the public LearnCentral network, they can go for LearnCentral Private
Community. This is a custom-branded version with highly configurable privacy

Open Source Social Networking Software
There are some open source social networking software that can be utilized
by educational institutions to develop their own private social learning
networks, connecting educators and students. Some of them  are:

* Mahara – Features that this software offers,
ranges from blogs, resume builder, file manager, institutions detail and
friending etc

* Elgg — Software offers features like blog,
networking community, file sharing, news collection using feed aggregation etc.

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