Dr. Srinivas Palanki


The earliest recorded evidence of a university is the Academy that was founded by Plato in ca. 387 BCE in Greece. The college was not open to the public, charged no tuition and had no formal curriculum (those halcyon days of yore!). Membership was by invitation only and there were no classrooms or formal lectures. The first university to have classrooms and formal instruction was Nalanda University that was established in ca. 427 CE in India. This university was devoted to Buddhist studies, but also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war. This tradition of university education soon spread to other parts of Asia and Europe. However, classroom instruction was primarily oral though students did inscribe their lessons on clay tablets or individual slates. In 1801, James Pillans invented the modern blackboard in Scotland. This invention had an enormous impact on classroom efficiency as it allowed the instructor to present a lesson to a large group of students instead of instructing each student individually. This innovation spread rapidly across the world and the simple blackboard and its cousin the whiteboard are still used as a primary tool of instruction.

The availability of inexpensive computer hardware and presentation software tools, which were developed primarily for the business world, has led to a new revolution in university education. There is current interest in the university teaching community in the use of electronic learning tools as a delivery mechanism for education. There are typically two extremes to this mode of delivery: (1) A camera is used to videotape a professor's lecture in the classroom, (2) A power-point type presentation with audio is created using a screen capture program. The problem with the first method is that the camera has to zoom between the professor, the LU Connect (Blackboard), the computer (if one is used) and students and thus requires specialized classrooms and expensive equipment. The problem with the second method is that it is difficult to do engineering problems in this format. I have developed a hybrid solution where I use a screen capture program to capture my hand-written annotations on lecture slides along with my audio. This video closely mirrors my lectures in class and requires relatively inexpensive equipment to develop. Furthermore, students have the ability to rewind my lectures and hear them again if they do not understand a particular concept.

The lecture-capture technique described above allows me to teach in a “flipped classroom” environment where students view my lectures before they come to class. The face-to-face interaction is used for either solving real-world problems in a team-based environment or for hands-on laboratories. I like to use innovative laboratories to peek student interest in engineering. An example is shown in the picture below where I am demonstrating the engineering issues involved in sand casting in a course on material science. As part of the course, students worked in a hands-on lab to develop a glass cast of my face. An informal survey of students after the class indicated that this laboratory was the most interesting part of the course. 

Several lectures on nanotechnology were developed under grant 1042054 from the National Science Foundation.

We recently developed a website to support online lectures on freshman and sophomore-level mathematics and sciences that are required for engineering courses. These were developed under a grant obtained collaboratively with Lee College from the Department of Education and can be found here.

palanki and mask