MOOCs in India

Sui Fai John Mak explores, “Why c and x MOOCs are attracting different number of participants?” We’ll come back to this in a while.

In another very interesting article that lays out MOOC Student Demographics, by The Augmented Trader, I was looking at what’s happening with the MOOC with Indian learners.

In this article by Tucker Balch, looking at Country of Residence, Indians were ranked #3 for course completion, and interestingly, were ranked #2 as far as students who did not complete the course. Of course the gaps in the numbers will also have to be considered. However, various other reports will tell you that MOOCs are popular in India.

What does this mean for MOOCs that originate in India? Does it seem like a good time for Indian institutions to get on to the MOOC bandwagon? (In-spite of the below-average access infrastructure in the country)

Let’s come back to Sui Fai John Mak’s article on the success of c and x MOOCs. (You need to read the full article, linked above), but let me look at three of the success factors mentioned in the article. (In the article, these factors are regarding xMOOCs; for the purpose of this post, I am thinking of a MOOC without any prefix)

Branding: Which Indian educational institute is the strongest brand to attract students? Especially if you have to compete with the likes of Stanford, MIT and such. And then, it’s not just brands, it’s the “super-professors” that Sui Fai John Mak’s refer to in the article.

Well-established Resources: I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but Indian institutes do not make a conscious effort in developing good content and the necessary support structure around them.

Assessment and Certification: This is where things really fall apart, I suppose. Formal online assessment is not allowed in the country and if you cannot certify students without formal assessment, what do you do? And here, it’s not just the institutes who are failing, it’s the industry too, which insists on formal certification from “well-known” institutes.

A MOOC-education should mean more than just knowledge-acquisition; it needs to be recognised, endorsed and accepted. And this will require a strong participation of the industry in developing a MOOC that makes sense in the crazy-assessment-oriented educational society that we are.   If we consider the three factors that help MOOCs become successful, then:

  • Branding issues can be overcome by well-define University-Industry Linkages (UIL). The UIL could be with a group of companies in a sector or an industry association. Industry usually understands branding better than the university, this is where they can help. Industry finds a source of well-educated, employable human resources, which reduces their recruitment cost.
  • Industry can provide requirements and support resources in the form of digital and interactive content, faculty support, best practices and management support to work with academia to design contemporary and current curriculum.
  • If the industry is willing to forgo formal certification from well-known institutes for well-trained resources who have been taught a curriculum that the industry has endorsed, the obstacles by the meta-educational organisations in the country are easily overcome. Innovative practices in assessing student performance enables industry to identify employable resources easily.

The time for MOOCs in India has come, the right partners have to join in.

The Context of Statistics


Anurag Behar, CEO of the Azim Premji Foundation, wrote an article yesterday in the Mint, describing how private and government schools are equally incompetent to provide good education. In the article he provides a statistic:

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, which places us on learning levels at number 73 in a list of 74 nations, just above Kyrgyzstan, concludes that there is no difference in learning levels across private and government schools. The study that I refer to above concludes that learning is better for children who stayed back at government schools, versus those who were moved to private schools, using financial support on offer as a part of the research design.

(Via Alike in incompetence – Views –

I am assuming the “us” refers to India and we are second last in that list.

I went on to the OECD site, picked up the PISA 2009 Plus Results : Performance of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science for 10 additional participants. [PDF, 193 pages 13MB].

I searched for India on the list. It wasn’t there. Instead, two separate regions were listed under the country name: Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

First, it seems obvious to me that two states participating in a survey hardly are representative of a nation. Secondly, it said in the report, that:

Himachal Pradesh-India and Tamil Nadu-India did not meet PISA standards for student sampling. Due to irregularities in the student sample numbers, it was established after the testing that these economies sampled from student lists that were often incomplete: not all 15-year-olds within the school were listed. It was not possible to determine whether any bias existed in the obtained sample. Caution should be exercised when using the data from Himachal Pradesh-India or Tamil Nadu-India and when interpreting the reported analyses.

It is no secret that education in India is facing severe problems, but to take unqualified results from a very small sample and apply it to the nation, is another thing.

NYC tech takes on the classroom | Crain’s New York Business

New boost for interactive content:

Partly spurred by its concentration of intellectual talent, New York is also becoming a hotbed of innovation in educational technology. Venture capital investment in education-related startups in the metro area totaled $95 million in 2011—an 84% spike over the prior year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers/National Venture Capital Association. The number of startups receiving investment money rose to 14, up from eight in 2010.In the long run, newfangled interactive textbooks like the ones Apple and its publishing partners previewed last Thursday are likely to be a minor aspect of education’s digital revolution. But Apple’s entry is certainly helping the revolution along.

All doesn’t seem to be well, however:

In the fourth quarter, VC financing in the New York area plunged 40%, compared with the prior quarter, to $545.1 million.

But experts say the tech-education industry is just getting started. The U.S. business for e-learning products and services in the pre-K to 12-and-higher education markets will grow to $11 billion in 2015, from $7.6 billion in 2011, according to research firm Ambient Insight.

(Via NYC tech takes on the classroom | Crain’s New York Business)

Hat Tip: Samudra Sen

Now A Stationery Firm Launches Education Tablet!

Tablet makers appear to see a big market for selling devices to students. After Datawind’s blockbuster launch of the world’s cheapest Tablet Aakash and the more recent launch of Classpad, it is the turn of E-class Education System Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of public listed stationery products maker Sundaram Multi Pap Ltd to launch an education Tablet.

The company has launched a new Tablet PC called ‘e-class Tablet’. The Tablet comes inbuilt with e-class content and has been developed by Sundaram Group for Maharashtra State Board students. The Tablet has the entire syllabus of a selected standard preloaded inside it in a video format that includes animations, audio and visuals.

There are two models of the Tablet, a basic and a premium one. The basic model comes with a resistive touchscreen and is priced at Rs 8,000, while the capacitive touchscreen model is priced at Rs 12,000.

(Via Now A Stationery Firm Launches Education Tablet! « Consumer Tech « – India Internet, mobile, consumer tech, business tech)


English, in India

Saw this article in the ToI. Again, good scores are not a perfect representative of proficiency. A very well-defined and a standard definition of proficiency is long due.

“Toefl provides accurate scores at the individual level; it is not appropriate for comparing countries,” clarified Walt MacDonald, ETS executive vice-president and chief operating officer.

“The differences in the number of students taking the test in each country, how early English is introduced into the curriculum, how many hours per week are devoted to learning English, and the fact that those taking the test are not representative of all English speakers in each country or any defined population,” Said MacDonald.

via ‘Toefl score comparison unfair’ – The Times of India.

This was really my primary crib, when I wrote about the Proficiency Debate.

Better Future for a MOOC

Audrey Watters recently wrote an “introductory” post about the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)

The acronym MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. The meaning of “massive” is obvious; a MOOC can range from several hundred to several thousand participants. But it isn’t just the size of the classes or even their location — online — that make MOOCs different.

MOOCs redefine academic courses in several ways. They are open, for one, which means that anyone can participate. The content of the course — readings and so on — is freely and openly accessible. The content that participants create is also open. Students blog, for example, and share their learning with one another.

via Are MOOCs the Future of Online Learning? | MindShift.

Having participated in a MOOC, recently – Learning & Knowledge Analytics – LAK11, (which, I admit, I have yet to complete – and that is the beauty of it), I can tell you that the experience is enriching. However, as Audrey Watters rightly says, there needs to be a “strong commitment” to learn.

The one major advantage of a MOOC, to my mind is the accessibility of the course. Learning content that would have been otherwise unavailable to people around the world is now on your screens and at your disposal in a way that you could not have imagined. A very recent example is the MOOC being offered by Stanford University on “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” A free course from Stanford University, yes you read that right. But here’s something that may not completely be wonderful about a MOOC. According to the info pagefor this course:

It is their objective to offer identical homework assignments, quizzes, and exams in both versions of this course. Students taking the online version will therefore be graded according to the same grading criteria as students taking CS221 at Stanford. However, to receive Stanford credit, the course has to be taken through Stanford; and students have to be registered at Stanford University. Online student will only get a certificate in the name of the instructors, but no official Stanford certificate.

That is the logic of free. I have yet to see a MOOC that offers any kind of certification. If you have read Audrey Watters’ article, you will have seen that a MOOC is necessarily an informal learning. So you’d participate in a MOOC more for the love of learning than certification itself.

A few thoughts on the way forward for MOOCs:

  • It would be nice for MOOCs to have industry participation. For all the cries of talent shortage that the industry makes, it is ironic that would not want to participate in such a progressive and contemporary learning initiative.
  • It would be even more worthwhile, if they endorse such courses. It would help provide additional motivation to the participants to take up MOOCs as supplementary qualifications.
  • MOOCs use well-developed technology platforms for delivery; an ePortfolio would be helpful, something that the participants can carry in lieu of of a formal certificate.
  • Since MOOCs usually have thousands of participants (not all of them quite serious learners), a method of filtering folks that you would like to follow and engage with. Also, a method to identify and discover folks who are actively engaged in the course.

These notes, to an extent, invalidate the very idea of informal and open learning. However, I believe the MOOC has the potential to address some of the gaps that education needs to fulfill.

Finally, the one irony of a MOOC, I cannot but help noticing, is the accessibility of a MOOC. By virtue of it being an online course, those who could be best served by the value of a MOOC, are the ones who do not have access to the Internet.

Digital is Different

“The most important thing is not to optimise what you do, but to find out and decide what you should be doing… find out where you should really be and to make sure that you are climbing the tallest peak, not just a false summit…If you get stuck on a small mountain, you get to the top and look around and you find you’re on the wrong mountain. A mile away is a mountain that’s twice as tall…Learn how to search the landscape very widely, and to make sure we find the tallest mountain to climb – that we find the right thing to do. And having done that, if we find ourselves on top of a false summit…In other words we’ve got to get down the mountain, and cross that desert, and come up on the tallest peak. And that’s called letting go, killing a product at its peak.”

(Via Brave New World: Rethinking the Future: The Digital Divide)

This might sound quite abstract by itself — as a ‘thing to do’, but when you read the full article, you will know that it makes perfect sense. Martyn Daniels asks why the publishing industry is still stuck on the print model of the product and tries and retrofit this model in the digital world.

Digital is different and needs to be approached differently — not just as a medium but the social context of what digital is, how it is consumed, and how it is produced. There are no more ‘passive consumers’, and the more we treat them as such, the more we are alienating them from consuming our products. While Martyn makes a specific case in publishing, I suspect it is true across industries; education being no exception.

Hat Tip: Eoin Purcell