Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras are working on two projects that use artificial intelligence and data analytics to improve learning outcomes for students.

They are analysing data from open-access learning portal NPTEL (National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning) in order to reduce dropouts and improve understanding.

NPTEL is a platform where teachers from the IITs put up videos on subjects generally related to engineering and science. Students can view them and get certifications for the courses they complete, at a nominal fee of Rs 1,000. In fact, engineering colleges have been mandated by AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education), the apex body for technical education in India, to cover 15-20% of their undergraduate syllabus through NPTEL.

“Many engineering colleges in smaller cities rely on NPTEL videos,” said Arun Rajkumar, one of the lead investigators in the project. “We want to make it as accessible as possible.”

According to Rajkumar, the completion rate of students who sign up for a course is only 10%. The rest drop out. The NPTEL page on YouTube has 1.5 million subscribers and 348 million views. According to Rajkumar, over 300,000 people have signed up on the website so far.

Rajkumar said they want to understand why people drop out and design ways to prevent that. For instance, if they get to know that students are leaving because they don’t understand a basic concept, they can prompt the students to watch a video on basics first. A researcher from IIT Palakkad is also working on this project.

The programme will be supported by the Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (RBC DSAI) at IIT Madras. IIT Madras researchers are also working on a project that analyses data to improve education — this time, among school students. Nandan Sudarsanam, the principal investigator of the project, said they are working with the Tamil Nadu government to improve literacy and mathematical abilities among students from classes 9 to 12. “Education is one of the best mediums for societal impact,” said Sudarsanam.


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