Professor D B Phatak of IIT Bomby to deliver Goa University foundation Day Talk on 30th June on Our higher education system and the onslaught of MOOCs

  • Goa University Foundation Day Lecture, 30 June 2015 at 11 am

    Venue- Auditorium, New Science Block, E (Chemistry Dept)

    Title: Our higher education system and the onslaught of MOOCs

    Speaker: Dr. Deepak B. Phatak

    [Dr Phatak is a teacher and has been working with IIT Bombay since 1971]




    Indian higher education system faces unprecedented challenges. It needs to achieve higher quality of education, at a scale unheard of in the history of any nation. The urgency to enhance GER is apparent from the fact that over 370 Million Indians were 14 years or younger in 2011, and now need holistic higher education with a strong component of skills, to ensure opportunities of good livelihood.   Modern Information and Communication Technologies provide a unique opportunity to do so, provided we assimilate these technologies in our teaching-learning processes.

    Our universities operate on a model evolved over a century. They define scheme of studies for a degree, and syllabus for different subjects. They also set papers, conduct examinations, and award degrees. Teaching for majority of students mostly happens in affiliated colleges, where teachers deliver lectures, conduct tutorials and practical sessions. Teachers have no direct role in examinations, except for supervision and local assessment. Students tend to focus on getting best grades. They ignore local teaching, throng coaching classes, and read guide books rather than good text books. Recognition of university degree is a prerequisite for most jobs, and marks scored are used as a filter by most employers. This belief appears to be the main force that keeps the university system ‘alive’.  In spite of these ills, the system has several important features, such as opportunity for personal interaction and dialogue, for conducting research and then extending the educational content to include important and useful knowledge so generated, and for nurturing debates and discourses on all aspects of human life.

    There has been decades of work on e-learning, resulting in tutoring systems, digital content, online tests, etc. Some three years ago, all of these culminated in the large scale launch of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). These are now spreading rapidly across the world. This was expected as a part of web disruption, which first happened in the commercial world, and was predicted to happen next in education and healthcare. There are certain shortcomings in the pure online model of MOOCs, which are being addressed by strong research.

    Do MOOCs represent a short-lived fad, or do they represent a threat to completely disrupt the established educational system. This talk attempts to trace the evolution of educational technology, and describes the phenomenon of MOOCs. A blended model developed at IIT Bombay, will be outlined. Speaker hopes that some such adoption of technology may help achieve a constructive disruption in our educational system, to empower our youth to create ‘digital India’ of our dreams.

    Biodata of Prof D B Phatak

    Born on 2nd April 1948, Dr. Deepak B. Phatak obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from SGSITS Indore in 1969, and his M. Tech. and Ph. D. from IIT Bombay. He has been serving with IIT Bombay since 1971. He headed the CSE department from 1991 to 1994. He was the first Dean of Resources of the Institute from 1995 to 1998. He was the founding head of The Kanwal Rekhi School of IT from 1998 to 2002. He briefly served as head of S. J. Mehta School of Management from 2004 to 2005. He was appointed ‘Subrao M. Nilekani’ Chair Professor in January 2000. His research areas are Databases, Information Systems, IT enabled Education, and IT strategy planning.  He has guided 7 Ph. D. scholars, over 170 M. Tech. students, and has authored over 50 publications. He currently serves as a professor in the department of Computer Science and Engineering.

    In 1999, he started an IT incubator to foster innovation through start-up companies. He also started the country’s first interactive distance learning program using VSATs in 2000. Using the experience gained in that initiative, he worked for 3 years on a national mission project to train 1000 teachers at one time, in several core engineering subjects, through a series of ISTE workshops conducted using ICT. His efforts succeeded in training over 20,000 teachers from engineering colleges in the country. He is currently executing the scaled up version termed T10KT (Train 10,000 Teachers at a time). 1,00,000 teachers have already been trained, and the aim is to train another 50,000 teachers within a year.

    He set up the Affordable Solutions Lab (ASL) at IIT Bombay in 2000, to develop low cost technology solutions. He is regarded as the pioneer of smart card usage for financial transactions in India. Through ASL, he popularized use of thin clients in India. He developed low cost clicker devices for use in class rooms, and Open Source multimedia tools for e-learning. In March 2012, he was given the responsibility of executing the prestigious Aakash project. 1,00,000 low cost tablet computers were deployed for engineering education under this project. Aakash-2 tablet computers are recognized as the lowest cost educational tablets globally. These mission projects are funded and supported by the National Mission on Education through ICT, MHRD.

    Since 2012, he has been working on MOOCs (Maasive Open Online Courses), which have immense potential as an inexpensive mechanism for offering quality education online, to a very large number of learners. He was instrumental in a tie up between IIT Bombay and  edX, with the result that IIT Bombay courses are now available to thousands of global learners. He realized that MOOCs will be increasingly adopted in various blended forms, and are likely to lead to positive disruptive changes in the educational systems globally. A blended model suggested by him is being considered for adoption in higher education system. He is currently working on a project to adopt the open source edX platform software for Indian needs, such that the modified platform can be used for education as also for vocational training in the country. This platform is used to offer courses from IITBombayX

    Dr. Phatak has helped several institutes and universities to set up educational programs. He spent the academic year 1983-84 in his alma mater at Indore for this purpose. He has served as Chairman of the national board of IT education and research, of All India Council of Technical Education. He has been an Open Source evangelist in India, and has pioneered several initiatives to popularize FOSS usage. In 2003, he took sabbatical leave to tour across the country to learn about the status and problems of engineering education in smaller colleges. He visited over 60 engineering colleges, interacting with students and teachers. He discovered the enormous talent that exists in small places. Realizing that such students and teachers need guidance and mentoring, he started the “Ekalavya project” in IIT Bombay. It helps build collaborating communities across educational institutions in India.  He has been an adviser to many organizations on issues related to Information Technology, particularly in financial sector. He has helped PSUs and advised Central and State Government departments on various IT projects. He has served on several boards.

    He received the “Excellence in Teaching” award of IIT Bombay in 2009, and the IIT Bombay Industrial Impact Research Award in 2010. He was elected Fellow of the Computer Society of India (CSI) in 1999, and Fellow of the IETE in 2000. He was listed amongst fifty most influential Indians by Business Week in 2009. He was conferred  Life Time Achievement Awards by Skoch Foundation in 2003, by Data Quest in 2008, and by ‘Dewang Mehta Business School Awards’ in 2010. He was conferred ‘PadmaShri’ by Govt. of India in April 2013. He was conferred the Life Time Achievement award by IIT Bombay, in August 2014.

    Dr. Phatak believes that teaching cannot just be one’s profession. It must be the ‘Dharma’ of a teacher. His dream is to see a resurgent India, catching up with the world, using ICT as the spring board.