The Manipal Education Group, a private firm which manages 53 institutions, including the Manipal Academy of Higher Education and the Sikkim Manipal University of Health, Medical and Technological Sciences, is planning to license out its e-learning programme to other medical institutes for a fee.
The group has invested $2 million (Rs8.2 crore) in creating an e-learning programme to supplement classroom training for its Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) students over the last two years in order to keep up with global standards of medical education, according to B.N. Manohar, chief executive, education services, Manipal Education Group.
“We are in talks with several medical institutes in India, as well as with Peradeniya University in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and University of China, Hong Kong,” said Manohar.
Overall, Manipal expects to rope in about eight medical colleges in India and three universities abroad over the next 12 months. One college would have about 200 students on an average, he added. The overseas universities could not be reached for comment.
Also, there would be an additional fee charged for institutions outside of India, since the content would have to be modified to suit their curriculum, although much of it would remain the same.
Edutech, an e-learning company, which has devised the software that helps convert medical content online for Manipal, would implement the system. The “Blackboard Learning System” allows the lecturer to apply his own content, as well as give assignments and students can in turn submit assignments through it.
“We haven’t decided anything yet, but we are thinking along the lines of charging $200 per student per year,” said Venkatesh L.S., general manager of Edutech, that holds the licence for the Blackboard Learning System.
“The system also helps counter the difficulties of retaining quality instructors in the field of medicine, by providing quality content to its students,” added Venkatesh.
Currently, the first two years of the MBBS course material—which includes eight modules such as anatomy and physiology—at Manipal has been made available online to students, and the next two years is being converted. “We expect the conversion of the third year content to be completed by January 2008,” said Manohar.
The institution worked with several vendors, including Edutech, for content management and currently there are about 800 hours of content for the first year alone.
Then Edutech worked exclusively on the deployment of the content, using the Blackboard Learning System.
The system allows schools to not just put the content up on a central server, but also track and assign courses based on each individual student’s requirements, said Venkatesh. It also helps to restrict and regulate accesses to the content, and allows instructors to monitor the students’ usage.
“It’s a good commercial model, and we are looking at significant profit—but the one issue we have to watch out for, is to ensure that faculty members of the institutions do not feel threatened that e-learning will ever replace them,” said Manohar. “Nothing can beat classroom training, after all!”