Courses designed by Harvard, MIT, IITs on the edX platform are hugely popular among Indian students

If ‘open source’ is the buzzword on the Internet, the concept of open education is what is making news for making education free and accessible to all. With the popularity of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), the line appears to be blurring between online and on campus. This is true even in India.

Take this example: edX, the online learning initiative founded by Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has India as its second biggest market for MOOCs in the world, after the U.S. It is even expected that India may surpass the U.S. soon.

Anant Agarwal, President of edX, says roughly 12.5 per cent of the total number of people taking their online courses is from India. The U.S. constitutes 30 per cent while the U.K. had about four per cent. “The Indian demographic is slightly younger – the average age is 23 years when worldwide it is 26 years. Of this, about five per cent are less than 18 years old, 40 per cent are between 18 and 25 years old and the rest, below 25 years,” he said.

This open education revolution is being attributed to the opportunity for Indian students to access world class learning online. Courses designed by Harvard, MIT, IIT and similar prestigious universities are now available to students anywhere in the world. One of the first Hindi MOOCs has been presented by the Australian National University (ANUx) on the edX platform in the form of a course called Engaging India. edX has also announced a tie-up with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mumbai and will be presenting courses by IIT-Mumbai on their platform by July of this year.

Mr. Agarwal said the courses offered online are not full breadth of a degree but a portion of it. For instance, the Introduction to Computer Science course has an ‘introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming with or without prior programming experience’; the Engaging India course is described as a ‘course that examines some of the factors that have shaped India and what makes India the country it is today.’

One of the most popular reasons of taking online courses is that it offers flexibility to students/professionals. Because of the flexibility offered by online learning, not only undergraduate students, but also individuals who already have full-time jobs or other commitments are able to take supplementary courses and even earn their college degrees online.