Amrita University to make online classrooms interactive

COIMBATORE: Online classrooms through video conferencing are becoming popular. But, the feeling of involvement in a live classroom and participation is always amiss. Amrita University‘s centre for wireless networks and applications department has invented a technology where students from different remote locations can interact, not only with the professor, but with each other too.

The technology is called tele-immersive gaze alignment technology, and the professors from Amrita University were awarded a US patent for this in July 2016. The inventors include the vice-chancellor of the university, P Venkat Rangan, Balaji Hariharan, Ramkumar Narayanankutty, Sreedevi Ambili Gopakumar and Uma Gopalakrishnan.

“A common problem that is faced in virtual classrooms through video conferencing is lack of participation from the students in the remote locations,” said professor of the wireless networks and applications department, Balaji Hairharan.

“There are some options through which students can interact with the teacher. Like for instance, they have to press the button on the computer at their side, and then the teacher will receive a visual or an audio signal that alerts the student,” Hariharan added.

The project lead, P Venkat Rangan, said, “We conducted several experiments by participating in classrooms conducted via current e-learning platforms. Our observations showed that distant participants often find it difficult to interact with the teacher and almost impossible with their remote peers.” “We analysed the reasons for this experiential divide and as an outcome we proposed to make an automatic system capable of enriching the interaction experience. A major factor impeding interactions is lack of proper gaze alignment.” he further said

Amrita’s professors have designed a technology that will capture the gestures of the student and alert the teacher that there is a question. “We have worked out a comprehensive system to enable a live classroom environment for the students sitting in remote locations. We set up back to back televisions. One set for the students and one for the teacher,” Hariharan said. “This way both the teacher and the students of the live classroom are able to see those in the remote locations,” he added.

Venkat Rangan, said, “We have developed a vector geometry based, tele-immersive automatic gaze correction technology for live e-learning classroom environments that virtually brings all the participants together to make a global classroom. A three classroom test-bed was constructed for evaluating the efficacy of the system during all the interaction states. User study results indicate a 78.72% improved experience during the classroom session.” To understand the gestures of the teachers and the students, the researchers observed the classroom sessions of nearly 60 professors.

The research was funded jointly by Amrita University and National Knowledge Network (NKN), and it commenced in 2012.

“This technology is primarily built to enhance the eLearning classroom experience by making it more interactive and natural. This technology can also be adapted to be used in multipartite video conferencing, and any situation requiring gaze alignment,” said Venkat Rangan.

Having identified and patented the technology, Amrita’s centre for wireless networks and applications is looking forward to scale up the technology. “This technology is primarily built to enhance the eLearning classroom experience by making it more interactive and natural” said Venkat Rangan.

Online Petition For University To Fire Professor Involved In Harassing Ivanka Trump On Flight Signed By Thousands

An online petition is calling for a New York University professor to be fired because his husband heckled Ivanka Trump on a flight.

According to the Daily Mail, the petition, which has garnered over 5,000 signatures, is asking Hunter College to remove Matthew Lasner from his urban studies position because of his “immature and cruel harassment of Ivanka Trump and her family at JFK airport.” The online petition was started by a group known as the Right Wing Millennials.

Professor Matt Lasner and his husband, Dan Goldstein, were booted off a JetBlue flight to San Francisco after Goldstein ranted about the future 45th president to his daughter, Ivanka, in the presence of her family. Goldstein had complained about the president-elect’s policies and how it was ruining the country. When they were bounced off the flight by the flight crew, Lasner tweeted about the incident, claiming that Goldstein had expressed his views calmly and that the crew overacted by telling them to get off the plane.

“My husband expressed his displeasure in a calm tone. JeffBlue staff overheard, and they kicked us off the plane.”

Sources on the plane said Goldstein had approached the future first daughter and started shouting at her with his own child in his arms. According to the source, the 35-year-old man queried why Ivanka was on a commercial flight. Ivanka Trump had ignored him, busying her children with crayons to ease the tension, until crew members escorted Goldstein and Lasner off the plane.

The plane had not yet taken off, so the men and their child were asked to get off before the incident escalated. It was then that the New York professor posted tweets defending his husband and a picture of Ivanka seated on the plane. There were members of the Secret Service protecting the family, but they chose not to intervene, preferring instead to let the crew handle the issue. Goldstein and Lasner were put on the next available flight.

An hour prior to the flight, Lasner had noticed the Trump family and tweeted about it, saying that his husband was on the verge of harassing Ivanka. The professor has always had a penchant for expressing his distaste for the president-elect on social media. When Trump won the November elections, he tweeted about marching against the future president, using the hashtags #notmypresident and #weslay.

The petition accuses Lasner of being economical with the truth and harassing a mother in the presence of her children. According to the group, it showed that the professor was not fit to hold his esteemed position at the university.

“Someone like Mr. Lasner, who would harass a mother and her child simply trying to go about their day, does not deserve the honor of teaching. The fact that he tried to cover up and change the story around to avoid the consequences of his actions is also a testament to his character. He is NOT a good example for our youth.”

In a statement, the airline company said it was their sole decision to remove the men from the flight after they determined one of them was causing a commotion on the flight.

“The decision to remove a customer from a flight is not taken lightly. If the crew determines that a customer is causing conflict on the aircraft, the customers will be asked to deplane especially if the crew feels the situation runs the risk of escalation during flight.”

A man on the flight had his own account of what happened. The man, Marc Scheff, who sat at the back of Ivanka, admitted that Goldstein did not yell but was a little agitated. According to him, Ivanka handled the situation with calm and class, as she just wanted Goldstein to return to his seat. Scheff said the airline preferred to make a different call.

[Featured Image by John Locher/AP Images]