It’s not as if India has to start with a blank slate into online education. There is the existing National Programme of Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), a repository of videos created by academics and open for everyone to watch and learn with. We have also heard that schools in K-12 have embraced Open Educational Resources (OER) for a while now and then there is the low cost Aakash tablet.
The country now wants to deepen its efforts in the field of higher education by launching its first free and open online courses later this year. According to an article in The Economic Times these courses will be designed as MOOCs, the first three in the field of computer science are expected for October of this year.
As Indian students are particularly drawn to the engineering and science subjects whether they study in India or as international students, to start off with computer science definitely makes sense.
We have heard quite impressive numbers of people enrolled in MOOCs mostly from the big three in the U.S., namely Coursera, EDx and udacity, so an estimated impact on 100,000 to 150,000 students per year in India doesn’t sound exaggerated taken India’s young population into account.
The first Indian MOOC is a cooperation of academia and industry, seven IITs who are working together to design the course.
Of course, they’re are still at the planning stage and we don’t know how well the MOOCs are going to be the designed neither how they will be received from the student side, but the people involved seem to have taken a closer look at their U.S. counterparts and what’s going well and what not in those programs.
So the big promise is naturally that now both students from rural and metropolitan areas will have equal access to high quality education. The Indian MOOCs will also offer certificates through proctored exams for a “minimal fee” right from the start. Something that took the U.S. some months to figure, but seems the way to go.
One point I find interesting about the Indian MOOC initiative is that they try to win mentors on a voluntary basis. Certainly, an estimated 500 mentors in addition to the professors sounds dwarfish compared with the 100,000-150,000 students. It could, however, be an interesting starting point in the ongoing discussion around high dropout rates for online only MOOCs in addition to initiatives like peer learning and student groups that we’ve seen so far.
Another interesting point is the focus of bridging the gap between quality education and the skills the job market demand from students.
The MOOC initiative is a stringent advancement of India’s existing National Programme of Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), particularly with regard to the planned certificates.
As a side note: Indian edtech startup WizIQ, one of the online education platforms that we covered from early on here on EDUKWEST, also moves towards becoming an online course provider similar to US-based Udemy.
The site offers a growing selection of self paced online courses and WizIQ partnered with IIT Delhi to introduce an online program with certification. This Monday Jason R. Levine and some of his fellow ESL instructor colleagues launched a MOOC for English language teachers with currently over 2000 enrolled participants.