It’s been three years since Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia CEMCA’s EasyNow virtual campus project began, but the going is still rough thanks to technophobia: “It is just a demo piece in India,” rues Dr. R. Sreedhar, Director, CEMCA. Is the project doomed to be extinguished like a Candle In The Wind? India is one of the five founding members of the Commonwealth of Learning, an international organisation under which CEMCA operates. Yet the subcontinent has witnessed dismal uptake of the learning models and materials developed.
What is EasyNow?
EasyNow is an open source driven project, the brainchild of V. Krishnamoorthy, Consultant, CEMCA, for educational institutes that would help faculty digitise all their lectures and deliver them in nine digital formats including text to speech including CDs, DVDs, video streaming online, enriched video incorporating graphics, audio, text-to-speech, slide show using PowerPoint or other presentation packages and text. CEMCA even offers to get the lectures printed in Braille using software from IIT Chennai for the visually impaired.
Also read about EasyNow on WikiEducator
Simply put, EasyNow gives students an upgrade from plain classroom learning to a multimedia presentation that includes videos, an audio clip or even streaming video for correspondence courses. It also offers compression technology for the videos to be streamed online, required because video lectures can hog up memory. Take an example – a typical IIT engineering course can take up to 32GB of memory, according to Sreedhar. Comparing it with IGNOU, which provides long distance courses online, Sreedhar said, “You cant get an IGNOU programme outside IGNOU but here u can use it with an Internet connection or the new USB modems like Proton.”
The tools used are easily available software such as Open Office and Powerpoint. “We use primarily open source technology, so it comes as no cost for users,” says Sreedhar. It also uses Adobe Photoshop and Windows Movie Maker.
Uptake So Far
EasyNow has experienced success in other countries – Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives, where it has conducted workshops and seen interest from the education community. In India last year, at Tirupati, videos of IIT courses were released by EasyNow – lecturers were offered USB drives with multimedia material. EasyNow has also been voluntarily to all state governments, the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) and University Grants Commission (UGC).
“Remains As A Demo Piece In India”
But a disillusioned Sreedhar says that the current situation is that “Nobody wants to try it. Indians want proprietary software and training in 5 star hotels. Our leaderships are more tuned towards multinationals.” What about competition from e-learning firms? “Corporates don’t know about us.”
Sreedhar blames the disinterest in EasyNow on “computer illiteracy of our leaders”, adding that “A majority of the politicians only know how to operate e-mail, especially those above 50 years of age. Our Indian mindset is not tuned to open source. Computer literacy is so low in the country, people would like to go in for servers/harddisks and learning management tools.” Can this attitude change or will EasyNow die an early death?
Download: Introduction to EasyNow (PDF)