Just as it made services such as Web search, email and office documentation free, Internet giant Google is now engaging engineering colleges in India, including IITs and the National Institutes of Technology, to develop a platform aimed at offering free online education.

The company is also looking to be part of Government programmes such as the Quality Enhancement in Engineering Education project, which is funded by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development.

Eyeing next level Speaking to BusinessLine , Ramanathan V Guha, one of Google’s top research fellows, said: “The fundamental problem for India, if it wants to move to the next level, is that there are 150-200 million kids in the 5 to 20 age group who need to get educated. There’s not enough time and not enough teachers. But we can do some of it online.”

Google is conducting experiments with the IITs to find out the best way to reach online education to a wider audience, given the varied cultures and languages in India.

“Five years from now every engineering student should have access to the same kind of core education as the IITs,” says Guha, adding that students in 500 engineering colleges in different parts of the country could get access to course material from the IITs under the initiative.

While the educational institutions will manage and build the online course content, Google will offer tools and infrastructure.

For example, one of the challenges in this mission is the lack of Internet connection across the country. Guha said that under the Android One programme, Google is working towards making education content available on phones that would function even with an intermittent net connection.

Open-source platform As a start, Google has joined the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) project, in which seven IITs and the Indian Institute of Science are involved, to launch online courses. This is powered by Google's open-source MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) platform, called Course Builder.

The NPTEL YouTube channel has more than 13,000 videos of IIT lectures and already has more than 110 million views .

Guha said that while the project will benefit Google in the long term, the company is not thinking about monetising this opportunity.

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