How IIT Madras brings efficiency and accessibility to academics with Adobe Acrobat

Photo of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras campus.

India is home to the world’s largest youth population, with 20 percent of the world’s youth demographic living in the country. This strong youth population gives India a unique opportunity to help drive the innovations and technologies that will shape the future of the world. Education is the key to unlocking this opportunity.

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras is known both nationally and internationally for its innovation and academic excellence. As the number one engineering university in India, IIT Madras frequently collaborates with industry and academic partners to develop technologies and extend the reach of education across India and the world.

For the last two decades, Dr. Mangala Sunder Krishnan has taught physics and theoretical chemistry at IIT Madras. While science is his passion, Dr. Sunder has also become known throughout India as someone pushing the use of technology in the classroom. He and educational leaders at other IITs helped develop the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), a government-funded program aimed at bringing online learning to students throughout India.

“Digital education has the potential to improve equity and access to higher level education,” says Dr. Sunder. “Teachers are creating more digital content, and we must give them the best tools to deliver high-quality content.”

Teachers use Adobe Creative Cloud apps to draw diagrams, edit videos, and create visually engaging lessons for students. But one other essential tool in the digital education era is Adobe Acrobat. With Adobe Acrobat, teachers can easily collaborate on lesson plans and research papers. They can more securely distribute texts that accurately display specialty scientific diagrams and formulas to students working on any device. Adobe Acrobat also helps streamline administrative tasks so that teachers can focus on students and research.

“At IIT Madras, we’ve been using Adobe Acrobat for around 10 years,” says Dr. Sunder. “Over the years I’ve seen some innovative ways that people use Adobe Acrobat for the classroom and research. It’s a requirement for most teachers, and we always insist on being on the latest version so that we can take advantage of all of the features that Adobe Acrobat has to offer.”

Share content with anyone

“Teachers use Adobe Acrobat to create class syllabi, lesson plans, textbooks, research papers, and more,” explains Dr. Sunder. “It helps us communicate complex information in a visual and engaging way.”

Adobe Acrobat allows teachers to combine any type of content into a single file that can be shared and opened by anyone. Research papers often include complex diagrams, CAD models, and mathematical equations that require specialty software to accurately capture the fonts and formats involved. Many documents start as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint documents that are easily converted into PDF files. In Adobe Acrobat, users can then add any type of additional content, delete or rearrange pages, and edit text directly in the PDF.

Adobe Acrobat also supports many standards, including PDF/E and PDF/A. These standards are often required when submitting papers to research boards and journals.

Archive and track educational materials

As online learning programmes continue to grow in India, schools and educational organizations are creating databases to help track all available digital content. PDF has become the primary format for storing educational content. Academic coordinators at IIT Madras use Adobe Acrobat to turn educational content into searchable databases. PDF files are easy to access, as people can download and open content on any device.

Adobe Acrobat adds another level of integrity to the archives with its security features. Files saved and uploaded through Acrobat include records of the uploader and date modified that help create an audit trail of the PDF. Administrators can set security policies and password guidelines that apply the same security settings to multiple PDF files at once.

Collaborate with educators online

Education can be collaborative, with teachers working together to create lessons, write textbooks, or publish research. That collaboration has become even easier with Adobe Acrobat. Teachers frequently exchange PDF files and use the wide range of Acrobat commenting tools to share feedback. Recently, more teachers are taking advantage of the online review capability in Adobe Acrobat that allows multiple collaborators to add comments and review content in real time.

“The online review capability makes collaboration at least twice as efficient,” says Dr. Sunder. “We might even hop on a call while reviewing the file together. If one person writes a suggestion, the other person will see it right away and they can add their thoughts. It becomes more like an in-person discussion. Even when reviewing online files at different times, the ability to see feedback right away still makes collaboration much more efficient.”

Collect information in forms

Faculty and administrators alike frequently need to collect information from students, staff, partners, and other organizations. Many people use Adobe Acrobat every day to collect the information in forms. While there are many form solutions available, users prefer Adobe Acrobat due to how flexible it is compared to other solutions. Any PDF document can easily be turned into a fillable form in Adobe Acrobat. IIT Madras often uses online functionality to make forms accessible online. Not only are the form results easy to store as PDF files, but the gathered information can be extracted or used in other applications later.

Sign documents digitally

Whether dealing with student reference letters or agreeing to partnerships with other academic institutions, there are many instances where schools or faculty need to sign documents. For many of these one-off signatures, people use the e-sign capabilities within Adobe Acrobat. With just a few clicks, people can send documents for signature and track their status. Some departments even take advantage of the Microsoft integrations to manage the signature workflow directly through Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.

“When dealing with an external group, we would typically meet up and sign the document around the same table,” explains Dr. Sunder. “Today many of these meetings are virtual, and with Adobe Acrobat, we can sign agreements together while meeting online. While the shift to virtual meetings started as a response to pandemic lockdowns, it is also very convenient when two parties are far apart.”

While technology changes quickly, working with Adobe Acrobat over the past decade has helped future-proof documents at IIT Madras to keep intellectual property available and accessible.

“Adobe Acrobat has all of the tools that we need available in one place,” says Dr. Sunder. “While other solutions may come and go, Adobe Acrobat will continue to be an essential application for any faculty member.”

"IIT Madras collaborates with hundreds of institutions. We encourage our direct and indirect partners to use Adobe solutions to enable their content delivery” adds Dr. Sunder. “Adobe's support has been phenomenal, and we appreciate the high-quality technical support when needed."

IIT Madras uses Adobe Acrobat solutions to transform paper-based processes into streamlined digital experiences. Learn more here__.