When did the idea of building Vidyastrike you and how did it happen?
( Currently doing is Ph.D atEdinburgh University) who first showedme a website he made, his personalwebsite. That was my initiation into theworld of hyperlinks.It was just around that time Internetbegan to penetrate into the campus, wehad a few machines with internet con-nectivity, if I remember right it was a64Mbps divided connection. So,emails,browsing the web and building awebsite fascinated me immensely andthat kept me occupied all through mypost-routine working hours. Since Iworked in the Computer Lab, I had lotof opportunities to interact closely withthe students and faculty members andit was that interaction that gave me thetriggering pulse towards building Vidya,To be more specific Interacting with
Dr.K I Ramachandran
( Currently withCEN) and seeing him downloadingPowerPoint presentations and lecturenotes which he used to write on a CDand use it to prepare his course notesmade me think of archiving it all in away that could be used by the entirecampus than just his class. So one dayI asked him for his CD of downloadedtutorials, made a copy of it, configureda basic Windows web server andhosted the contents. It was a singlewebpage index pointing to tutorialspecifically on Mechanical Engineering.I showed it to Ramachandran sir andfew other people, they were quite ex-cited seeing it. It was the sort of thingmany at that time thought was possibleonly on the Internet. Thus the initial at-tempt at Vidya became the first “In-tranet Portal” of Amrita.I was in fact enthralled seeing the re-action of students like
(nowworking on his PhD at IIT-Bombay),
( now working for Cognizant Technologies, London) and
( who just completedhis PhD in Computational Neuro-science from University of Milan, Italy).For them it meant a lot, downloadinglearning material from the internetacross a slow connection was not quitea feasible option for the studentsthen…the idea of making a down-loaded collection accessible across theLAN appealed to all of them and it isthey who made me feel convinced of the enormous potential in developing‘Vidya’. Every one needed quality mate-rial in the quickest way possible. Thiswas the precursor to a series of convic-tions that followed eventually propellingme steadily towards developing ‘Vidya’further. I never had to look back sincethen…I literally breathed and lived‘Vidya’. Yes, I had a big price to pay,sacrifices to make and tough stances totake. In the end, it was all worth the ef-fort. I have the joy of having the task ac-complished leaving it with further possibilities of enhancement and en-richment.To me, Vidya beckoned as thatcourse of work which will add moremeaning to my existence providing our students the opportunities I missed as astudent, so there was that passionateinvolvement. I feel the best way to ex-press it would be to borrow the termsused by
of ASB whoremarked once
Vidya is a labour of love
”.If you are to start building Vidyaanew, how different it would be?
Yes, it will be different and better organ-ized with a content management sys-tem in place...and if it serves better , it isonly because of what I learnt from build-ing the current Vidya.
What are the other reasons thatprompted you begin building Vidya?
Those days library used to be in themain block (opposite to staircase in theground floor). That used to be oneplace I used to frequent, lookingthrough magazines and journals to findrelevant topics/ key words for down-loading material. During one such visitsto the library I found a good number of quality text books authored byrenowned professors from universitiesabroad remaining untouched. Whenenquired many students expressed theview that they considered such textbooks abstruse. I knew that this view isrooted in slavish dependence on local,popular text books.
Contd on page 27
ANWESHI - ASTHA Newsmagazine
May2008 Page 26
In Focus - VIDYA
The VIDYA Digital Knowledge Archive that is cur-rently deployed in four campuses of Amrita Universityhad its modest beginning in the year 2000. With an initialcontent volume of 64 Mb, VIDYA has grown to a 1600+Gb knowledge base covering a wide spectrum of areas,comprising of extensive Audio/ Video lectures as wellby leading academicians/ scientists from around theworld. VIDYA over the years has become an indispensi-ble resource for every devout seeker of knowledge mak-ing the dictum “ Study Locally, Learn Globally” a livingreality !
This logo is designed by D G Suryanarayana & Irshad of 4th Year ( IT )
Mr. Ajai Narendran
(Con-tent manager & Webmas-ter)andthe Architect of ‘Vidya
speaks on his expe-rience of building ‘Vidya’while responding to a bar-rage of questions.He elu-cidates on how Vidya could better beutilised in a way that helps redefine learn-ing and revitalise teaching.