The Genesis of MOOCs-ICT@CUTN

CUTN was established in 2009, and the first set of permanent faculty members were recruited in the last month of 2011. Given the financial constraints of the University along with an idealism to use Open-Source Software, Dr A Chandrasekharan of the Department of Mathematics, initiated the use of MOODLE for teaching learning and KOHA for library automation. Nearly half of the then permanent faculty members began to use MOODLE as a supplementary teaching tool, some of whom had already used MOODLE before, and many for whom it was the first time. Dr Chandrasekharan gave training sessions for all faculty who wanted to learn to use MOODLE, and also initiated the request to procure a dedicated server for this purpose. The enthusiasm of the faculty for using new technology tools for a transparent teaching-learning experience was evident in their choice to also update attendance and all internal marks to MOODLE, which would be visible to the students. Such a visibility ensured that the students knew their exact attendance and marks percentages.

The Shift and Growth of LMS

Due to the shifting of the University from the temporary to permanent campus, there was a brief period of inactivity with regarding to online teaching methods at CUTN between 2014-2016. During this time, all teachers continued to use various ICT tools for their teaching. In 2016, MOOCs and ICT were revived through the establishment of the MOOCs-ICT at CUTN cell with Dr V Madhurima (Department of Physics) as the coordinator. She was asked to co-opt members of the team and was soon joined by Dr A Chandrasekharan (Department of Mathematics, for his previous experience with the same), Dr K Biju (Department of Education, with an expertise in ICT based pedagogy). The next member to be co-opted was Dr K Venkata Saravanan (CBCS coordinator). In the next year Dr Preethi Gotmare (Department of Management) and Dr Madhulika Ben Patel (Department of Hindi) were also co-opted since they were the most prolific users of MOODLE in the previous year. Mr. R Girishwaran, with previous experience in recoding technical lectures, has been the technical support throughout.

Structure of MOOCs-ICT running at CUTN

UGC/SWAYAM -> CUTN SPOC & MOOCs-ICT@CUTN -> Department Coordinators -> All faculty members

The initial task of the committee was to ensure the smooth running of the server with an efficient Learning Management System (LMS). A LMS should have the ability to document, track, report, automate, administer and deliver educational material, from specific disseminator (teacher) to a target audience (students). For reasons already mentioned, MOODLE was a natural choice as LMS for CUTN, since it was open source, robust and was highly customizable. In addition, it has the capability for peer interactions and assessments and for online video conferencing through customizations.

MOODLE 3.4 was the first version to be installed and customized for the teaching-learning needs of CUTN. The first customization to be installed was the attendance module, which served multiple purposes. Teachers had the ease of marking attendance and of consolidation of the attendance data at the end of semester to be sent to the administration. Students could see their attendance percentage and hence did not require any warnings or motivations to attend classes. This also meant that there were no disputes raised by students regarding their attendance percentage for classes of those teachers who choose the LMS platform.

As the faculty members began to reuse MOODLE actively in their classes, the need for more types of assessment tools was felt. Natively, MOODLE has the options of text-based answers (assignments), multiple choice questions, and testing through games. Thus, two additional modules, namely all-or-nothing as option for multiple choice questions and of the questionnaire format were customized to CUTN MOODLE. It was also ensured that modules for tools such as Geogebra (graphing tool) was made available in the interface. During this period, the in-built feedback module was made use of by the teachers to receive feedback regarding their courses. Access to MOODLE was only through CUTN email ID for both teachers and students, thus ensuring the requisite privacy and confidentiality.

This came in extremely handy in 2017 when the Internal Quality Assurance Cell of CUTN started to think about making the feedback mechanism an online one. MOOCS-ICT team worked on customizing the in-built module of MOODLE to handle the complete student feedback for the odd semester of 2017. Nearly 2 lakh responses were recorded online through MOODLE that year. In order to comply with the stringent anonymity requirements of the feedback mechanism, teacher access to the feedback was restricted and only IQAC was permitted to view the results. The questions for the feedback were given by IQAC and MOOCS-ICT ensured that the process was done efficiently. Also, in order to ensure greater student participation in the feedback mechanism, the issue of hall-ticket for final examination was subject to filling the feedback. This exercise strengthened the student’s identity with the University since they were constantly using their official email IDs. The mobile app of MOODLE was also customized to interface with the server for the benefit of especially students.

Parallelly, once the initial LMS was in place, the committee took upon itself to create a vision document for MOOCs-ICT at CUTN, which was placed before the University in the year 2017, including on its website.

Until 2017, the MOOCs-ICT team was responsible for creating all course pages. From the year 2018, individual teachers were given access to create their own courses and take backups. The process of taking backup was seen as a crucial element since it made the reuse of the same core teaching materials easy and also ensured that individual teachers retained full control over the content that they create. The team also apprised all faculty who intended to use MOODLE of copyright issues, since once the course page was created, they were in full charge of the same. They were told not to use copyrighted material on their pages and to provide links to external sources where ever possible instead of downloading (and probably violating copyrights).

Training sessions and workshops were explaining all the modules and their use conducted at regular intervals to help teachers use MOODLE effectively. In addition, the team members were always approachable at all times for MOODLE, ICT, SWAYAM and pedagogy related queries. Many faculty members approached the team members to get their doubts clarified in an informal manner too. Through these workshops and interactions, feedback was constantly sought on additional modules that the faculty wanted, and the same was implemented at regular intervals.

One such feedback-based updating was that of the Big Blue Button – an opensource virtual classroom software capable of video conferencing with the participants, in the year 2019. This is much like the commercial video conferencing software that are now used ubiquitously to conducted online classes.

In addition to LMS, team MOOCs-ICT has also been responsible for implementation of SWAYAM (excluding Swayamprabha, which was handled by Prof. Karpaga Kumaravel) at CUTN. Dr V Madhurima was nominated as the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for SWAYAM. In turn, department coordinators were appointed for the same for smooth implementation of SWAYAM programs.