Student Media Body of IIT Kgp

 

National Digital Library: A gift from IITKGP

Posted on October 15, 2017
ReportNational Digital Library

The need to go digital

In this age of rapid modernization, a major chunk of Indian population comprises of talented and energetic youth. Data from the Ministry of Human Resource Development estimated 141 million people in the age-group of 18-23 in India by the end of 2016. Although there is no particular demarcation regarding the age to get the higher education, roughly pointing out - this is the age when most people receive formal higher education in universities and other higher institutes. According to Census Report 2011, India experiences a current adult literacy rate (15+ years of age) of 78.8%. Assuming at least half of the aforesaid population aspires to pursue higher education, the first debate that would arise encounters the availability of resources for the same. To accommodate 70 million students in higher educational institutions, Government needs to establish 6 universities and 20 average sized colleges each month. This idea certainly doesn’t sound feasible looking to the current socio-economic scenario in the country. Henceforth, the only way to let the aspirations fly high is to go digital and initiate technology-enabled learning.

The Arrival of NDL

The concept of digitization of educational resources is not one of the latest, but the e- learning contents hosted at a large number of platforms tend to become isolated and thus such platforms may turn out to be not so popular among the students. The National Digital library was the brainchild of Prof. Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, the director of IIT Kharagpur. The idea of a single window hosting all the educational e-content that could be made available to the students has been one of a kind. The ministry cleared it as a pilot project in the first quarter of 2015 and IIT Kharagpur was given the sole responsibility of the project that formally marked its beginning on 6th April 2015.

Technical Aspects of the Project

The major technicalities of the National Digital Library project dealt with the formation of the metadata schema. Metadata summarises basic information about the data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of the data easier. In the case of the digital library, it stores the information of the author, date created, and major tags about the data, so that users find it easy to search the data. It may be noted the National Digital Library instead of hosting the data, connects the user to the server of the contributor hosting the data. IIT Kharagpur plays a major role in processing and refining the data received by the library from different sources and then provide metadata so as to enhance the users’ experience. Till the second quarter of 2017, the National Digital Library comprises of 145 contributors which including publishers, school boards, educational and research institutions and even global education portals.

Copyright Issue

Copyright issues become a major concern when discussing the conversion of books in electronic form and hosting them through several sources. Although IIT Kharagpur and National Digital Library are not considered responsible for keeping the books and other data and the copyright issues are to be dealt by the respective contributors, there have been several complaints about the issue. IIT Kharagpur plans to organize an international workshop on the legalities of copyright issue and its relations with e-learning.

The Website and mobile application

The website and mobile application for National Digital Library were opened for public in February 2017 and it soon turned out to be popular among students. While the number of registered users grew to 10 lakhs by June 2017, the number of application downloads saw a jump to 5 lakhs in no time. The National Digital Library portal has a highly user-friendly interface and contains 10,048,671 items spanning all disciplines of study right from Science, Engineering and Medical to Arts, Humanities, Literature, and Law. The educational resources available include textbooks, audio and video clips, simulations, images, animations, presentations and even applications sourced in the NDL portal. The user need not be a student in particular. Anybody with an appetite for learning can explore the portal and reap the benefits of the hard work that IIT Kharagpur has invested in it. The website also offers the provision of institutional registration which allows all the stakeholders of an institute to access the website with just one account.

Grand Success of the project

National Digital Library currently hosts more than one crore items in-spite of still being in a pilot project mode with an earlier target of 5 lakhs items. While a target of 0.5 lakhs users was set up but now it has exceeded 10 lakhs and is expected to reach 20 lakhs by the end of third quarter of 2017. The officials of NDL Project aim to train the representatives from different institutions so as to create Institutional Digital Repositories(IDR) which might turn out to be a catalyst for the growth of National Digital Library. As of June 2017, 1200 professionals have been trained spanning across 610 different institutes in 20 workshops all over the country.

Limitations

  • It currently does not have the permission to create its own content or source any content. It can only generate the metadata of the contents provided to it by the contributors. As a result, the students may miss out some of the most necessary books that a good library should have on a priority basis.

  • Proper national licensing of the content has yet not been done by the Government, which can be a breach of copyright issue.

  • Some of the books hosted by the website seem unreadable as their scanning may not have been done properly. As per the officials, NDL cannot be held responsible for that, the respective should be made responsible for that. Mr. Nandagopal Chattopadhyay, Chief Technical Officer of the project, on an encounter, said, ”We are checking the metadata. There are a lot of trashes in the data. We try to rectify most of them and hope that such items do not exist in near future.”

Future Prospects

The success of the pilot project depicts a lot about the bright future of the National Digital Library. The pilot phase ends on 5th April 2018. The plan is to divide the project into two branches:

  • NDL Service, which would grant service to the common people that would include helpline and support mechanism for the website.

  • NDL Knowledge, which would delve into the realms of Research and Development related to the project.

Considering its vastness, it can no longer be considered a simple project under an educational institution, it has instead grown into industrial in nature. Keeping in mind the industrial needs, a service center would be opened on the trial run in IIT Kharagpur Research Park, Kolkata by the third Quarter of 2017.

The National Digital Library would also include and monitor the facilities of SWAYAM( Study Webs of Active –Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) a programme launched by Ministry of Human Resource Development which looks forward in providing students opportunities to pursue virtual classroom courses conducted by professors of esteemed Indian Universities. Swayamprabha, the DTH facility of the video lectures of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) would also be integrated into the NDL.

Conclusion

As prospective students of IIT Kharagpur, we must be proud of the gift that our institute has offered to the country by providing a single window for all the educational resources. It provides support for all academic levels including researchers and lifelong learners. The highlighting aspect regarding the NDL portal comprises of the ease of filtering the items so that learners can find the desired resource with minimum effort and least time. Recently the NDL Android Mobile App was declared the winner of mBillionth South Asia Award 2017. We fervently hope that IIT Kharagpur will come out with more such innovative ideas which will benefit the society in general.


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