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NPTEL is an acronym for National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning which is an initiative by all seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) for creating course contents in engineering and science.

In 1998, a delegation of Directors of IITs and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) along with faculty visited several American Universities to explore technology enhanced learning (TEL) and distance education prospects for Indian institutions. This resulted in a subsequent workshop in India in May 1999, organized jointly by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Pittsburgh, USA in which five IITs, four IIMs, several IT giants and government representatives participated. Four major projects were identified, namely, content creation for core science and engineering courses, setting up digital library, online and interactive programme for doctoral education in the IIMs and the creation of a virtual University for open and distance learning.

After several rounds of discussions over the next three years, a proposal jointly put forward by the IITs and IISc was formally approved by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India in the year 2003 and was limited to the area of content creation. Under this proposal, contents for 100 courses as web based supplements and 100 self-contained video lecture courses would be developed by all the eight partner institutions in the next three years. Five engineering branches (Civil, Computer Science, Electrical, Electronics and Communication and Mechanical Engineering) and core science courses that all engineering students are required to take in their undergraduate engineering programme in India were chosen, initially. The project was known as National Programme for Technology Assisted Learning (NPTAL) but was later renamed as the National Programme for Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL).

The video courses in the programme comprises of approximately 40 one-hour lectures for each course and the web supplements contains sufficient materials that a teacher can cover in approximately 40 lecture-hours. The contents are based on the model curriculum suggested by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the syllabi of major affiliating Universities such as Anna University (Tamil Nadu), Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (Andhra Pradesh) and Visvesvaraya Technological University (Karnataka).  MHRD sanctioned Rs. 15 crores (150 million Indian Rupees) in June 2003 and both the project deliverables and the funding were later enhanced to release 129 web and 110 video courses for a total budget of Rs. 20.5 crores (205 million Indian Rupees) . The first phase of the project was formally launched on September 3, 2006 by the Honourable Minister for HRD Shri. Arjun Singh in a function held in IIT Madras. All web contents are currently available through the web site http://nptel.iitm.ac.in   and are continuously updated; the video courses are broadcast through Eklavya channel, a 24/7 television channel provided by Doordarshan, Govt. of India exclusively for educational broadcasts.  Efforts are being made to stream video lectures with the help of Google and YouTube.