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MOOC: A new revolution, but to what end?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC): Pre 2012 – we all had heard about online education, distance learning or study from the web but MOOC took that to a whole new level. A digital pedagogy, MOOC has traditional content in digital form supplemented by interactive user forums, assessments and quizzes. The forum brings together students, professors and other knowledge starving people. But what do these newly formed modes of education mean for a developing country like India?

MOOC system of learning is far different from the traditional teaching mode of lectures, assignments and assessments to the limited enrolled population. This is (mostly) credit-less, open education, meant for masses. So anyone with an internet connection can join and learn these courses – literally any age, any background, and any nationality. Looking at the players sailing on the boat of MOOC, one will find that most of the institutes of repute are involved in these courses including Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Duke and an ever increasing number of other institutes around the world.

The early leader by far is Coursera – offering around 370 courses from 60 universities. In a spectacular rise – it just reached 4 million student signups (coinciding with a fresh round of $43 million in funding). On a basic level, these courses require the learner to watch some videos for a few hours every week along with some readings, and a few quizzes and assignments that have to be undertaken.

For India, this could be the perfect solution. On one side, the number of higher education aspirants are multiple times the number of seats available in any decent college; intense competition for anything worthwhile. On the other, just open your computer, connect to the web and the massive platform of education is just in front of you. Does that mean that students in the quest of good education from reputed colleges can stop their search at the MOOC? Well, not just yet!

There are three questions still to be answered. First is the mode itself. In the traditional on-bench classrooms, sessions are regulated by the lecturers and anyone with any queries can reach to the professors for the solutions. Online forums & peer help have not reached that stage yet where the learner is fully included in the environment. There is still some disconnect and an uncertainty on when/if the answer would come to an individual problem.

Second, the assessments while included are not the strongest point of the MOOC. The system can be manipulated and even in the best case scenario, the peer review process that many courses have employed is not the optimum solution.

Lastly, and this is the biggest question of all – what about employability? It is no secret that the top colleges have made their names on placements as much as they have made on the quality of teaching. With thousands of students taking any course, no one has yet come up with an effective solution on integrating the employer in the process.

Undeniably, MOOC are here to stay and will lead to continuous knowledge but they will not replace the traditional learning classes just yet. India is always the 2nd or 3rd largest contributor of students to any MOOC course, but let us be honest here – Indian needs MOOC as much, if not more than, MOOC need India.


Article contributed by Prerna Jain. Prerna has done MBA in finance after completing her graduation from Shri Ram College of Commerce (Delhi University). She has served as an academician for more than two years in the field of accounting & finance. She has written some research papers in finance & marketing and served as the editor of a few books. 

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