With the world being under lockdown for the last four months, students worldwide have got a taste of ‘remote learning’. This has by and large been done on applications meant for use in meetings and personal conversation. There are also qualms about whether such software will function on low bandwidths, the kind available to many students. Prof. Raja Datta of the Electronics and Communication Department, IIT Kharagpur, along with some of his postgraduate students, set out to solve these problems with their software, DEEKSHAK.

In the words of Prof. Raja Datta himself, “(DEEKSHAK) is now a single session platform where the teacher would concentrate on the screen with the teaching materials while being able to view queries on a live chat box where each student can send in their queries. Students also have access to a doubt box where they can click to ‘raise their hand’ and wait for the teacher to address it, as is done in a physical classroom. Teachers can also share documents with the students through the platform and even update notes on the documents in real-time.”

It is apparent that the team has excluded features available in popular video conferencing software in order to shift the focus towards the teacher and the learning materials. There is also a provision within the software, for teachers to take attendance, something absent in commonly used video conferencing software. Another advantage of DEEKSHAK is that it is web-based and is accessible from both computers and mobile phones. Its bandwidth efficiency and the ability to upload notes with convenience are also bound to streamline the online teaching process.

The director, Prof. V.K Tiwari speaks on DEEKSHAK saying “We need platforms addressing challenges faced by India and Deekshak is designed to cater to Indian academia, be it the bandwidth issue, or user interface or storage. We are leaders in ICT and should find affordable solutions with social and commercial value. This is one clear goal I have set for IIT Kharagpur. DEEKSHAK is one step towards that goal through which the teachers would be able to offer more personalized interaction while focusing better on the act of teaching.”

The software, currently accessible only from IIT Kharagpur campus LAN has been tested with about 40 hours of classes being conducted, a total of around 300 students having used it. The Institute has applied for the copyright registration of DEEKSHAK and is in search of a start-up company for its maintainability. Further development of DEEKSHAK is also underway to improve its features and make it secure so that it can be made available for use in academia, confirmed Prof. Raja Datta