Picture this: It is 2 pm and students of class 9 in Government Inter College Gaurihat in the hills of Pithoragarh district are seated in front of an LED TV in their school and learning “Simple Present Tense” from their teacher, Kavita Rawat. But there is a twist. Rawat is not in the classroom. Instead, she is in front of a camera inside a studio situated almost 500 km away from the classroom. Rawat is the ICT Virtual Classroom set up in the campus of Rajeev Gandhi Navodaya Vidyalaya in Dehradun. Earlier in the day, students of class 10 from various schools across the state were getting clarification about “amorphous oxides” through similar method from a science teacher stationed in the same studio in Dehradun.
This is an example of virtual classrooms that have been launched in Uttrakhand recently and the state government claims to be the first state to have this facility for school education. The studios and the classrooms are connected through a satellite.
Under this project, around 300 state government schools have been connected to four central studios set up in the campus of Rajiv Gandhi Navodaya Vidyalaya. Each Studio has two cameras, a wall paper, a smart TV for output, two computers to manage technical snags and keep an eye on the virtual classroom set up in the schools in the remote areas. There are two microphones as well in each studio. Each day, topics for the class are written on the wallpaper while the concerned teacher elucidates the matters and she appears on the smart TV screen.
In the classroom of these connected schools, a camera with a microphone and a speaker is provided alongwith an LED screen. The students watch the screen and are able to listen to whatever the teacher writes on her screen in the studio.
The state government has a target of connecting over 500 schools in remote locations with such virtual classrooms. Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat inaugurated the project recently in Dehradun. Schools with connected virtual classrooms are now available in all 13 districts across the state.
The Centre pays for 90 per cent of the project cost while the state government manages the remaining 10 per cent. The government claims that nearly 1.90 lakh students studying in classes 6 to 12 in government-run secondary schools will be benefitted by these virtual classroom facilities. According to officials, the number of schools selected for being connected to virtual classrooms include 82 in Pauri district, 61 in Nainital district, 52 each in Almora and Tehri, 46 in Dehradun, 45 in Chamoli, 40 in Pithoragarh, 21 in Rudraprayag, 15 in Champawat and 10 each in Bageshwar and Haridwar districts.
Dr Mukul Kumar Sati, Additional State Project Director in the Education Department, said, “An MoU has been signed with Centre’s Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd (TCIL) to setup four studios in Dehradun”.
As virtual classrooms became operational in middle of the current academic year, the Education Department has decided to start formal classes according to the syllabus from next session. “In the current session, teachers in the studio have been directed to interact with the students and remove any confusions students may have about the topics covered in the syllabus for the annual examinations. Students are asking their queries and teachers in the studio are replying,” Sati said.
According to officials, the virtual classroom project will be helpful for those schools where expert teacher of any particular subject like Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and English are not available. Students enrolled in these schools will get classes from expert teachers through virtual classes.
Manish Joshi, Assistant Manager, technical operations in virtual classroom campus, said that more than 300 schools have been connected so far. “We have four teachers presently and interviews are being conducted to hire more,” he said.
Officials said that from December 23, classes will be run to help students prepare for medical and engineering entrance exams.