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344 Mahajan, Umrani & Chaudhari




Chapter XVII



Digital
Engineering Campus:
Economics, Acceptance,
and Impact
Milind J. Mahajan
Mirash Infotech, India

Sunil S. Umrani
Sunind Systems, India

Narendra S. Chaudhari
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore




Abstract
In this chapter, we introduce two existing web-based, e-learning approaches, and
examine economic and social aspects of their usage in society. Specifically, we briefly
introduce an e-learning initiative in Singapore. Secondly, we give a detailed description
of a case study regarding the experiment called “Digital Engineering Campus,” which
is an NGO initiative to provide supplementary educational facilities for engineering
colleges in India. Considering the economic as well as social benefits, using our
detailed case-study of Digital Engineering Campus, we argue that developing countries
like India have tremendous growth potential in web-based education. Further, the
experiences of developed countries with web-based education will prove to be highly
beneficial for developing countries like India.



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Digital Engineering Campus 345


Education and the Web: Economic and
Social Aspects
Continued growth of the education sector is very important for improving the standard
of living. This sector becomes all the more important for developing countries. Motivated
by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank (World Bank, 1994, 1996),
James Tooley reports factual data about 18 case studies of education projects in 12
countries (Tooley, 2001). A part of Tooley™s study also reports the use of Internet for
teaching in India (Tooley, 2001).
Professor Roger C. Shank, in his excellent book, “Designing World-class e-Learning,”
contrasts Internet-based learning with traditional, school-based learning (Shank, 2002).
Shank coined the term, “learning-by-doing” for e-learning, and has given seven criteria
for assessing the effectiveness of e-learning, specially focusing the freedom of learning.
He provides in-depth observations of the e-learning instructional design process,
delivery of resources, and accessing the utilization of e-learning resources. He has given
concrete illustrations of these points by including the case studies of e-learning
initiatives of IBM, GE, Harvard Business School, and Columbia University.
Computing and Web technology has caused widespread economic disruption, limiting
growth in productivity (Brown & Duguid, 2000). For example, for the U.S.A., the multi-
factor productivity growth rate (labor and capital taken into account) was 2.5% for 1984
to 1973, but it was only 0.7% for 1973 to 1990 (Brown & Duguid, 1996). To explain this
phenomenon, the inventor of mouse, Douglas Englebart, states that, “Real social danger
today is that the technology is erupting and moving so much faster than it ever has in
all of our historical experience ¦ time to start adapting society to this revolution in the
technology. There is a lot of potential danger ahead if we do not adapt to it successfully”
(Huges, 1986, p.599).
Business writers Downes & Mui (1998) define the “Law of Disruption” as, “social, political
and economic systems change incrementally, but technology changes exponentially.”
However, Brown & Duguid (2000, p.85) indicate the (future) emergence of new technol-
ogy to adapt this: “¦(e-) technology design has not taken adequate amount of work and
its demands ¦ (technology design) has aimed at an idealized image of individuals and
information.”
Indeed, we see a number of attempts to achieve this goal. Due to influential web-based
learning tools, we now witness emerging concepts of distributed intelligence, distributed
creation and sharing of knowledge, formation of the social nature of learning ecology,
and its social impact.
Singapore gives us a scenario of the fastest growth in the advanced world. In Singapore,
the e-learning initiative is largely due to the push of government, and we very briefly
comment on this scenario in Singapore, both at tertiary education, as well as primary and
secondary schools.
Developing countries like India have tremendous growth potential. In such countries,
the government-supported education system is slowly being supplemented by non-
governmental organizations (NGOs). To illustrate the interplay of government as well as


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346 Mahajan, Umrani & Chaudhari


NGOs in the evolution of the social fabric, we have chosen to detail a scenario in a
developing country like India. We give a scenario concerning India™s electronic and
educational infrastructure, university system, and attempts for quality assurance in
higher education in India. We focus on an engineering education scenario in one of the
states, Maharashtra State within India. We include the details about our case study,
called “Digital Engineering Campus,” a portal designed and maintained by an NGO,
Sunind Systems Pvt. Ltd. (SSPL), Pune. More technical details about this experiment are
given in Appendix A. We conclude this chapter by giving brief remarks.




E-Learning Initiative at Singapore
To induce its wider impact in Singapore™s highly dynamic society, Singapore™s govern-
ment has adopted e-learning initiatives. To increase awareness of e-learning, it organized
a month-long campaign during 2000 and 2001. In the past three years, the roots of e-
learning have enthusiastically been introduced in educational institutions in Singapore.
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has adopted e-learning initiatives since 1999.
The main reason for giving so much importance to this initiative is the wider perception
that the traditional models of learning (e.g., classroom model of learning, participation
in training programs, conferences, etc.) are too costly, and many times they fail to deliver
improved performance.
A uniform web-based platform for delivery of e-learning resources to students was
introduced in NTU, Singapore in 2000. The delivery platform is a customized version of
Blackboard, and is called “edventure.” Within NTU, most of the web-based content is
used to supplement and enrich the face-to-face delivery. However, in 2002, many schools
in NTU took a major step by deciding to replace the classroom lectures with web-based
content.
Lecturers are encouraged to use “edventure” for posting suitable e-content for their
courses. It may be noted that security features of “edventure” provide suitable privacy,
which can be controlled by the instructor-in-charge for the course. The easiest alterna-
tive is to put textual content of PowerPoint presentations on the Web site. A few lecturers
have also used voice narration recorded with the PowerPoint slides. Evolution of a
complete package with video, voice, slides, and hyperlinks is a recent phenomenon. An
independent study relating the effectiveness of such contents has been carried out by
Bartsch & Cobern (2003). Teachers, students, as well as administrators have many
concerns regarding this initiative: Can the e-lectures be as effective as (or more effective
than) the face-to-face lectures? Some studies have been carried out for tackling this
problem. However, the discussion about these studies is not within the scope of our
discussion here.
Successful integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in
schools has been studied in last decade (e.g., Sivin-Lachala, 1998). The main focus of the
application of ICTs in schools in Singapore is to develop higher-order thinking skills.
Ping and Hang (2003) give the study of effectiveness of ICTs within schools in Singapore
from the pedagogical and socio-cultural point of view.


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Digital Engineering Campus 347


India: Electronic & Educational
Infrastructure
The Internet is transforming the scenario of imparting education in the developing
countries like India at a very fast rate (some related information is available on the Web
site: http://www.educationinfoindia.com/onlinedu.htm). Many universities, like Indira
Gandhi Open National University, New Delhi (Web site: http://www.ignou.ac.in),
Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad (Web site: http://www.jntu.ac.in/),
Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar (Web site: http://www.punjabtechnical
university.com/), etc., in India have an “online virtual campus.” Even states like Andhra
(Web site: http://www.andhraonline.com), and Kerala (Web site: http://www.kerala.gov.in/)
have good portals giving a lot of useful information. Many universities in India now have
distance education programs and the Internet is now widely used by these universities
for facilitating their activities (Web site: http://www.shiksha.com/infobin/corr/
corindex.htm).
Indeed, in a two-day conclave of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Gautam
Kumra of McKinsey and Company, stated that the cost of education in India is 30 percent
of the cost in U.S., and there are several reasons why India can compete globally in the
higher education market. He further predicted that it is possible to attract more than
150,000 foreign students to study in Indian Institutions by 2010 (Indo-Asian News
Service, 2002). While India has the capability to maintain the quality of education, the
investment in maintaining this high quality using Internet resources needs effective co-
ordination of web-professionals as well as academic professionals.
At the national level, India has a highly developed satellite program, having launched
a wide range of satellites that are used for communications, television broadcasts and
remote sensing. In July 2002, the central government of India launched two new satellites
(Edusat and Gramsat) to give a boost to education and rural development.


Global Education Market and India

As observed in the Indo-Asian News Service in July of 2002, “Australia was able to
increase the number of foreign students studying there from 20,000 in 1990 to 100,000 in
2000 and earned revenue of $800 million.” With the economic slow-down, countries like
Singapore as well as India and China, are exploring the possibility of tapping the global
education market.
India is particularly attractive for foreign students, as it has advantages such as: (i) high
fluency of English language amongst its academicia, (ii) low cost of living, and (iii) very
high educational standards. In addition to the already existing seven IITs in metros,
central government is planning to have five more IITs at relatively smaller places. High
educational standards in Indian Institutes of Technologies (IITs) are now spread in
relatively smaller places using web-based education. For example, lectures in the K.R.
Information Techology School of IIT Mumbai are now available online during the
classrooms in institutes located thousands of kilometers away in places like Nagpur,


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348 Mahajan, Umrani & Chaudhari


Indore, Latur, and Pune (Web site: http://www.dep.iitb.ac.in/rc.html). Further, many
institutes have been identified as “National Institutes of Technology” (NITs), and they
have been given substantial funding for spreading Internet-based education.


Role of Universities in Higher Education in India

Within the field of higher education, India has 259 universities having more than 10,750
colleges affiliated to them, eight million students, and 400,000 teachers. Thus, it has one
of the world™s largest higher education systems, monitored at the national level by
University Grants Commission (UGC), Government of India. With the demonstration of
success with experiments like the one in IIT Bombay, their adaptation at wider level has
become feasible. Within India, the growth in the field of higher education has resulted
in the participation of the private sector in education. The market size of management
education alone in India is estimated to be around US$300 million, while the Information
Technology (IT) education and training is estimated to be around US$150 million, with
an annual growth of 25 percent.
For quality assurance of educational standards, India has the National Association and
Accreditation Council (NAAC).
Universities are primarily responsible of maintaining the quality in education. They have
direct control over the examination system. Many universities have already established
e-learning sites for their students. In our specific experiment of engineeringcampus.com,
we are yet to associate it with all universities. However, with a directive from the state
government, all the universities will contribute course content to this site.




Engineering Education in Maharashtra
State
The infrastructure cost for establishing connectivity facilities are far less important, and
the major cost component is in the form of “soft” costs that have to be incurred in the
effective usage of Internet facilities. Continuous maintenance as well as updating of
information on the web is especially important in fields like education. Many educational
institutes in India are realizing this issue in a “hard” way. In the state of Maharashtra,
the government is convinced about this problem, and has entrusted this responsibility
to professional organizations. We focus on this initiative to support engineering
education.
Maharashtra State in India has more than 150 engineering colleges, and has more than
50,000 students studying in them for their engineering degree. Further, the state has more
than 110 polytechnic-level institutions, which provide diploma-level engineering educa-
tion to more than 70,000 students. The state has some of the most prominent universities
like University of Poona, Bombay University, who maintain very high standards of
engineering education for tens of thousands their students. While the state has well-



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Digital Engineering Campus 349


developed industrial belts like Pune-Bombay, majority of the engineering colleges in the
state are located in rural areas, and have significant percentage (more than 50 percent)
of students studying in them.
The Government of Maharashtra is concerned about uniformity in the quality of
engineering education, especially in remotely located engineering colleges within the
state. Techno-savvy solutions like digital course contents, online quizzes, and online
evaluation and interactivity with experts using the Internet, have still social resistance
in other branches of education. However, in the area of engineering education, this
alternative has received a very welcome response widely. While the Government of
Maharashtra does not want to commit any financial resources for this activity, it has
entrusted the responsibility to Non-Government Organizations (NGOs).
In the remaining part of this chapter, we discuss the socio-economic aspects of one such
experiment called “Digital Engineering Campus” (also referred to as
engineeringcampus.com). This web-based solution targets a few tens of thousands of
engineering students as users. Furthermore, it makes provision for a few hundreds of
engineering teachers to interact with these students for imparting a quality education.
In the context of Digital Engineering Campus, in the next section, we also address the
following issues:

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