Anything like this up and running in Africa??
By Narayanan Madhavan
NEW DELHI, Sept 26 (Reuter) - If you get run over by
information overload on the Internet, don't fret: one of these
days you might come out of it clutching a diploma.
NIIT Ltd, India's leading computer education company, has
launched NetVarsity, a university which will offer courses using
the interactive possibilities of the World Wide Web.
NIIT is championing what it calls ``cyberlearning'', a new
version of distance education, using its web server facilities
in Atlanta in the United States. The pages are accessible
anywhere in the world on the Internet on URL
NIIT officials say the interactive website is different from
conventional universities which have only loaded lecture
on their web, with the possible exception of U.S.-based
Group, which trains people on Internet.
``Gartner Group Internet Learning Center will be a dynamic
World Wide Web community where technical professionals will come
to acquire and maintain critical information technology skills,''
Gartner says on its Internet home page (http://www.gartner.com).
At NIIT's NetVarsity, launched in July, students can use
passwords to link up to the teaching site. Tutors can be reached
on electronic mail and fellow students encountered at a
``cafeteria'', a fancy name for student chat sessions.
``By the year 2020, the demand for formal education would
have become saturated as more sciences become product-oriented,''
Sugata Mitra, chief of research and development at NIIT, told
Reuters. ``Education will be used as a tool alone and not much
The NetVarsity is built on Mitra's vision of where education
is going. For NIIT, which trains some 100,000 people every year
in India, finding the right direction is important in a
fast-changing information age.
As sounds, pictures and satellite communications join in the
fast-paced age of multimedia, small ``packets'' or skills would be
acquired for immediate use, Mitra said. He calls it
Over a period of time, these skills could add up to be a
cohesive body of knowledge. Institutions like NetVarsity can
teach such skills, back them up with suitable theory lessons and
then take tests to offer certifications, Mitra said.
``The vast resources on the Internet have been summarised in
relevant areas at the (website's) Library,'' NIIT said in a
statement, adding the site could even lead to placement
``A unique benefit for students is resume-posting on
international data-banks on the Internet,'' the statement said.
An Internet university could have a great future because
skills are increasingly learnt by practical use, and often by
people already at work and without enough to time spare for
regular courses, Mitra said.
To start with, the NetVarsity is offering lessons in
information technology, mainly focusing on NIIT's existing
students who can use home computers for hooking up.
``Others may access it free of cost as casual visitors, or
join the Varsity as registered students by paying a fee,'' NIIT
said. NIIT officials say the university is free for the next six
months, and fees for later courses have not been fixed yet.
NIIT already trains employees of corporations to use
computer software, and sees the Internet as a new tool.
Eventually, as the Internet becomes more popular, coming
close to a consumer product, there could be a bigger future,
``We always wanted to be a university. On Internet, nothing
can stop us,'' Mitra said.
Right now, the NetVarsity is more of a young idea than a
fully fleshed out concept. NIIT officials have yet to decide how
they would eventually make the company earn enough from Internet
education, but think the idea is good enough to get started on.
This is particularly because informal education could become
necessary if formal institutions face a crunch, Mitra said. ``I
told my directors, 'This is not your cash cow. This is your
insurance,''' Mitra said.
NIIT hopes that millions of students across the world can
eventually provide it with a low-fee, high-volume business.
``Typically, the price would be $10 for six months,'' Mitra said.
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