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.

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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.