Roundtable Consultation on Technology Resources in Support of the Agricultural Education/Extension Grid
(Jointly organized by ICRISAT and the COL)
29 June 2006
Leading State Agriculture/Veterinary Universities (SAU’s) in India have been partnering with ICRISAT and the COL in technology-mediated open and distance learning processes. A workshop organized in December 2005 last focused on the use of Learning Management Systems in support of ODL in agriculture/veterinary education. A roundtable organized by ICRISAT along with the partners in February last led to the idea of forming a grid of education and extension materials of the partner universities. Following these fruitful deliberations, a number of stakeholders especially the technology-based partners such as the IIT and IIIT systems have shown keen interest in this initiative. We see a major opportunity to develop a collection of online tools that will enable participating universities and the extension institutions to take agricultural learning and information resources to even larger numbers of people.
Education grids are increasingly accepted at certain education levels in many OECD countries and the IIT system in India has been promoting a grid of relevant instructional materials. The IIITM-K in Thiruvananthapuram has already launched an “edugrid” along side its well-known project on Kissan Kerala. In this backdrop, there are new opportunities for collaboration between technology institutions and agricultural and veterinary universities. The upcoming National Agricultural Innovation Project provides an excellent niche for taking this initiative forward.
Keeping these developments in view, ICRISAT organized a consultation with the broad objective of developing a short-term approach to setting up the virtual grid of learning materials in support of ODL in agriculture with the support of the Commonwealth of Learning.
The roundtable had the following specific objectives:
Summary of the Proceedings
Vice-chancellors, deans and senior directors of Agri and vet universities, ICAR institutes, directors and researchers of leading technology resource institutions of the following institutes participated in the roundtable.
Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad
Center for Development of Advanced Computing, Hyderabad
Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver
Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar
Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram
Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur
Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur
Maharahstra Animal and Fisheries Sciences University, Nagpur
National Academy of Agricultural Research Management, Hyderabad
Tamil Nadu Agrilutural University, Coimbatore
Tamil Nadu University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Chennai
University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore
In his keynote presentation Prof K R Srivathsan of IITM-Kerala dealt with key parameters for agrarian prosperity and detailed how the KISSAN model (jointly managed by the KAU, State Department of Agriculture and the IIITM-K) is catering to improving farm productivity, profitability and sustainability. He also described the education grid and highlighted the crucial need for development of e-content and its management.
Mr. Anil Bahuman of IIT Bombay demonstrated aAQUA, a Q&A portal developed at the IIT Bombay that is currently used in Maharashtra and Assam. This group proposed the use of Q&A content to create a knowledge base on line that provides for shareability and reuse on later occasions.
Mr. Murat Singh of IIT Kanpur, presented an overview of the project on Digital Ecosystem for Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods (DEAL). He shared with the group details on how their project was moving ahead with the development of ontology-driven digital infomediation using topic maps and a translation of FAO’s AGROVOC thesaurus into Hindi.
Dr R Nagarajan of IIT Bombay spoke of his work in developing drought vulnerability maps for 12 villages in Addakal region and described how these would help in micro-level planning for drought preparedness. Water availability for cropping is crucial for a drought-prone area.
Dr Mohan Das (KAU) put up front the expectations about the knowledge grid in terms of strengthening professional agricultural education and extension by better networking for knowledge sharing. He also stressed the need for knowledge intensive extension as a means to enhance competitiveness in farming.
Dr R Durai presented an overview of the ODL program that commenced from April 2005 at the TNAU. The TNAU ODL Directorate has 12 courses developed in the local language (Tamil) and these are being offered to the farming community, unemployed youth, school dropouts and SHGs comprising women.
Dr V Balakrishnan (TANUVAS) gave a short account of the distance education courses developed in collaboration with the COL for encouraging post qualification education in veterinary and animal sciences in India. Three month duration DL courses (independent study - 50 hours; teacher led-20 hours) have been developed and offered to Veterinary Assistant Surgeons, Veterinary Surgeons, clinicians, and Veterinarians working in milk co-operatives, and self employed veterinarians.
Dr P S Lonkar described the experiences of MAFSU in distance education in Veterinary and Animal Sciences. After assessing the needs of field veterinarians, courses were developed in the form of interactive CDs and booklets.
Dr N Sandhya Shenoy (NAARM) spoke about her experience in an ICT4D project that she led in one of the villages in Nalgonda district, Andhra Pradesh, India. Mr N Sarat Chandra Babu (C-DAC) spoke of the on-going project for the development of a portal, the India Developmental Gateway, for catering to the information needs in health, education, rural energy and e-governance.
Drs M Sudarshan Reddy (ANGRAU) and G Eswarappa (UAS, Bangalore) briefed group about the activities of the Directorate of Extension Education of their respective universities and expressed their keenness in joining the grid.
Dr M N Sheelavantar who moderated the discussion, in his concluding remarks appreciated the timeliness of the roundtable and expressed his keenness to be part of the proposed educational and extension grid.
Discussion on moving towards an Agri/Vet Knowledge grid in India
Summary of Discussions
Following the discussions the group arrived at the agreements below.