The Birla Institute of Technology
and Science (BITS), Pilani is an All-India Institute for higher education
deemed to be a University by the Government of India. BITS Pilani is a
technological university currently offering Master's degree and Doctoral
programmes in various areas of Science, Humanities, Management and various
branches of Engineering & Technology. As of this writing, BITS Pilani
has three full-fledged campuses at Pilani & Goa in India and at
Knowledge Village, Dubai in UAE.
These programs were initially offered to only on-campus students. However in
the past decade it has had significant experience in distance learning
pedagogy and instructional design. To make its model of distance learning
scalable, reachable to wider audience and leverage the benefits of emerging
technologies, BITS conceived and designed the BITS Virtual University (VU).
This VU project envisages the design and development of multimedia course
that is web-enabled that goes towards the curriculum of a full-fledged
degree program. This enables people who are off-campus to avail of the
facilities offered to a normal on-campus student registered under the same
program. The advantage of this concept of VU is that students can get a
degree from BITS, while being off-campus. Since these courses are
web-enabled, the student can work in his own comfortable environment and is
not restricted to the classroom. Moreover he can work at a pace with which
he finds convenient.
All the students registered for the current semester are given a login and a password.
Using this the student can access course materials for which he has registered.
Prescribed textbooks and materials which will be useful to the student are
made available separately.
Multimedia based Soft-Teachers are deployed for explaining concepts. Some
innovative methods of using Java based "concept applets" for educational
resource development have been used. An attempt has been made to simulate
classroom teaching so that it is easier for the student to understand the
course. To give the student a feel of lab environment, an introductive
virtual lab framework has been designed, which can be reused for certain
categories of practice-intensive courses.
Desktop IP based Video-Conferencing, Scheduled Video over IP and
Video-on-demand over IP facilities are available as integral components of
this learning support system.
Currently only a few subjects that form part of the Master's program are
available in the Virtual University mode, but as the "Virtual University"
concept gains momentum and popularity other programs will be made available
as well. However, the evaluation components, until the technology matures, shall