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.

TalentSprint Raises $4M In Series A From Nexus Venture Partners | VCCircle

Hyderabad-based skill development and training company TalentSprint Educational Services Pvt Ltd has raised Rs 20 crore ($4 million) in series A funding from Nexus Venture Partners. As part of the investment, Nexus Ventures’ MD Anup Gupta will join the company’s board.

Set up in 2009 by Madhumurty Ronanki, Santanu Paul, and JA Chowdary, TalentSprint offers employability programmes to professionals, using experiential learning and iPEARL, its technology platform for the IT and BFSI sectors. The learning programmes are delivered to students, job-seekers and young professionals to make them job-ready.

(Via TalentSprint Raises $4M In Series A From Nexus Venture Partners | VCCircle)

Helion Advisors announces investment of US$ 3.5 mn in Vienova Education

Helion Advisors, one of the largest early stage venture funds in the country, today announced an investment of US$ 3.5 million in Vienova Education, an affordable private education provider based in Delhi, India. This follows the first round of funding by Indian Angel Network (IAN) and others in 2008. With this investment, Mr Sanjeev Aggarwal, Senior Managing Director, Helion Advisors, joins the board of Vienova.

(Via Helion Advisors announces investment of US$ 3.5 mn in Vienova Education)

 

 

CLSA Capital Close To Putting Rs 100Cr In Resonance Coaching

More news on the coaching-class markets

Private equity interest in India’s bustling education sector only continues to grow. And this time, Kota-based Resonance Eduventures Pvt Ltd, a test preparation company offering coaching for IIT-JEE and other engineering entrance exams, is raising Rs 100 crore ($22 million) from CLSA Capital Partners, two persons with direct knowledge of the development told VCCircle.

While this may otherwise seem to be another deal in the busy ‘education’ market, it is interesting to note the valuation that Resonance Eduventures Ltd got, for this deal.

The deal which attracted the interest of about 10-12 players, fetched a significant premium to its publicly listed peer, Career Point Infosystems Ltd. Career Point, which has a market capitalisation of Rs 603 crore, is trading 15.4x its trailing PBT for FY11. According to VCCedge, the financial research platform of VCCircle, Resonance Eduventures had PBT of Rs 20 crore for the year ended March, 2010. This means Resonance is being valued over 40x its one-year-old PBT. Its latest financial numbers are not available yet. Resonance apparently commanded a higher valuation multiple in spite of having comparatively lower net profit margin (comparing Resonance’s FY10 with Career Point’s FY11 numbers).

(Via CLSA Capital Close To Putting Rs 100Cr In Resonance Coaching | VCCircle)

The India/China Language Proficiency Debate

Make the Shift

Henry Foy, in the Reuters blog, asks if India has squandered its English advantage?

But, as Asian rival China surpasses India’s English proficiency rates for the first time, that advantage over other developing economies looks to have been squandered.

China was ranked one place above India in Education First’s 2011 English Proficiency Index, released last month, the first time India has been beaten by its neighbour and fellow BRIC economy in the international rankings of foreign countries English-speaking abilities.

(Via Has India squandered its English advantage? | India: A billion aspirations | Analysis & Opinion | Reuters.com)

Mr. Foy uses the EF EPI report (PDF) to ask this question. An interesting question and a topic for debate, given the great English leaps that our eastern neighbour has initiated for the last few years. And an important point for all Indians; except, Henry Foy misses out mentioning a few important factors in his article. However, I do not intend to single out Mr. Foy – other magazines and newspapers have taken the same stand.

For one, while this is an index, there is no attempt at defining proficiency. Here’s what I found on Wikipedia

Language proficiency or linguistic proficiency is the ability of an individual to speak or perform in an acquired language. As theories vary among pedagogues as to what constitutes proficiency, there is little consistency as to how different organizations classify it. Additionally, fluency and language competence are generally recognized as being related, but separate controversial subjects. In predominant frameworks in the United States, proficient speakers demonstrate both accuracy and fluency, and use a variety of discourse strategies. Thus, native speakers of a language can be fluent without being considered proficient. (Via Language proficiency)

But since we do not know the parameter(s) that EF EPI (English Proficiency Index) defined for this test, it anyway doesn’t matter. The report itself seems to be quite unsure of this: “Within the English-teaching community, there is no consensus on the best ways to evaluate English proficiency, or indeed on the ultimate goals of English study. While most English teachers and students agree that communication is the primary objective, more work must be done to define target competencies and how each competency can best be evaluated.“.

The report also mentions the shortcomings of the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) for Languages):

However, the CEFR is only a first step towards standard-setting in language education. More detailed definitions of finer-grained skill levels and accompanying evaluative tools are needed, particularly those which take into account current thinking on communication as the primary goal of English study. The most widely-adopted English competency tests today are still heavily weighted towards an older notion of proficiency, no longer in sync with the role that English plays in the world today as an international communication tool.

Secondly, in the Asia EF EPI section, these few lines caught my eye – and I wondered if I was reading it right:

Indeed, although it is very difficult to measure the number of people who speak English in each country because of different definitions of proficiency, the British Council estimated in 2010 that India had anywhere between 55 and 350 million English speakers while a report published by Cambridge University Press estimates that China has 250 to 350 million English learners.

You can see that the report sounds apologetic over the inability to define proficiency. But do read the quote again – if you missed it – India has up to 350million speakers while china has up to 350million learners. Now, the GER for primary and secondary in India has increased from 66% in 1999 to 84% in 2008. Also,

Official statistics on the number of children enrolled in recognised English medium schools in the country show that it has more than doubled within just half a decade from over 61 lakh (6.1million) in 2003 to over 1.5 crore (15million) in 2008.

[…]

In 2006, English as a medium of instruction was fourth — behind Hindi, Bengali and Marathi — but by 2007, it had climbed to second place and grew even further in 2008, beginning to eat into the Hindi numbers.”

(Via August, English, Nagarajan, Rema. The Times Of India. 27 Mar. 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2011.)

Finally, Mr. Foy’s article fails to mention that the EF EPI test was an online test:

Only countries with a minimum of 400 test takers were included in the index. Countries with fewer than 100 test takers per test on two or more of the tests were also excluded, regardless of the total number of test takers.

We recognize that the test-taking population represented in this index is self-selected and not guaranteed to be representative of the country as a whole. Only those people either wanting to learn English or curious about their English skills will participate in one of these tests. In addition, since the tests are online, people without internet access or unused to online applications are automatically excluded.

Again, not necessarily a good or an accurate sample size. Most teachers or parents in India will not be aware of or have access to this test.

Coming back to the article, while there may be merit in being concerned about losing advantage in a certain skill, I found the ‘straight-line’ interpretation of this report very short-sighted. It is almost as if everyone has looked only at the list – and moved on to the now-fashionable bashing of India’s education problems. While we may have a real problem on hand, this report is no indicator of the problem or the extent of the problem.

iProf Gets 220 Million Rupees

Norwest Venture Partners and IDG Ventures India have invested 110 million rupees each in iProf India, which helps students prepare for competitive examinations for admission into engineering, medical and management colleges.

The investment will help iProf expand its footprint across India by opening around 100 more study centers, said Sanjay Purohit, founder and chief executive of the company.

The funds were open to investing more, he said.

India’s test-preparation market is worth $2.5 billion, and is growing at 15% a year, according to an estimate by iProf India. Via iProf Gets 220 Million Rupees Investment – WSJ.com

Deal Activity In Education Poised For Full Marks In 2010 | VCCircle

“The total value of M&As in the space led by SKIL Infrastructure’s investment in Everonn Education, one of the biggest ever transactions as yet in the education sector, has crossed $50-million mark for the first time with over half dozen transactions.

The M&A deal numbers for the sector could well touch the previous best of 11 recorded in 2007 when top industry firms Educomp, Manipal Education and Core Projects & Technologies struck multiple deals in both India and abroad.

Expectedly, domestic M&As dominated the deal flow over the last six years with Educomp striking as many as eight transactions, the largest being its $24.5-million deal for Learning.com, followed by stake purchase worth $8.7 million in EuroKids International.”

(Via Deal Activity In Education Poised For Full Marks In 2010 | VCCircle)