With the news of the Indian government’s new learning initiative – Swayam gaining ground, the focus is now on MOOC as a means of providing quality education for free or at nominal rates.
MOOC – origins and development
The Oxford dictionary classifies an MOOC – massive open online course as, “A course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people” . An MOOC, an acronym coined by Dave Cormier in 2008, is at the basic level, an extension of traditional distant education but with added inputs in the form of online video tutorials and interactive discussion forums. The older MOOC versions encouraged open licensing and allowed free access to students , but the current trend is to offer both free courses and those with nominal charges, and in an increasingly closed environment.
While many regard Alison as the pioneer in this field, especially in higher education, other eLearning marketplaces such as edX, Udacity and Coursera have utilized this medium to provide basic and advanced education programs to millions of students worldwide since 2012.
The MOOC system gained in popularity primarily due to:
- Courses developed by active partnership with major universities
- Resources created by niche experts from both profit and non-profit organizations
MOOC in India – Courses and Users
There has been ongoing interest in India and other developing nations in utilizing the power and flexibility of an MOOC system to provide and encourage higher education. With growing realization that the standard classroom education system isn’t enough to create a sound knowledge base and usable skill sets among students, educators and organization alike see MOOC as a means of stepping up their game.
The popularity of these courses, especially the blended classroom versions, is evident in the number of Indian users signing up on various eLearning platforms.
While the HRD ministry in India has recently joined the online open course bandwagon, educational institutions and business groups have already explored this aspect of online learning and come up with MOOCs on different topics.
Some of the India based MOOC pioneers include:
- BITS PIlani, India’s premier engineering institute, that currently offers two courses on the Coursera platform and is likely to create Special Private Online Courses for its students
- Sunstone Business School which created career and business oriented courses aptly named Negotiation and Entrepreneurship
- Commonwealth of Learning in tandem with IIT Kanpur offered a course on Mobiles for Development in 2013
- AAT India created the first mobile MOOC with an app by combining mobile technology and game play to provide a course on entry level accounting and finance
- Larks Learning has created a free MOOC course on training
- SolutoLearning has created courses for individual and organizations for acquiring life skills, and offers full scale web workshops
Users – the actual students – the most enthusiastic and vocal supporters appreciate this change in the pattern of received education. They have the ability to acquire real life skills for career advancement and to obtain advanced knowledge through a system of lifelong learning, which was not available to them before the advent of MOOCs.
The true power of MOOCs lies in the:
- Flexible and quality learning choices available to all
- Student and intellectual driven learning
Which brings us to the crucial MOOC question – sustainability
While we have focused on the positive and long term benefits of using MOOC as a key to enhanced development, we can’t overlook some key factors in the Indian context.
- Successful penetration of knowledge is not possible unless technological and communication infrastructure is improved within the country
- MOOC courseware serves as a supplement to classroom education or enables users to gain newer skills. This system may never really take root in India, unless these courses are considered as equivalent to traditional degrees
- Better online assessment methods that weed out cheating and systems that provide reliable results are the need of the hour, without which, the certificates issued don’t have much value
- Free courses help in the initial stages by encouraging student enrollment, but payments in the form of certificate fees or nominal course charges have to be incorporated at later stages, to keep these MOOC platforms viable
MoodleofIndia has been at the forefront of innovative systems and applications in the eLearning industry. An Australian client, a major Registered Training Organization (RTO), asked us to develop a unique Moodle based platform to enable them to stand out against their competitors. We gave them the necessary edge with this MOOC setup in Moodle.
Take a sneak peek at our work in MOOC model within the Moodle platform.
This standalone and user friendly MOOC platform is similar to the websites used by leading eLearning marketplaces in the world. Some of the features include a homepage displaying various courses, easy navigation to different courses on the platform, an integrated payment module, a simple-to-use dashboard for students and an easy reporting system.