It helps schools offer blended courses on campus or purely online options

It all began with a simple idea. This led to a single course, offered by a professor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), drawing 1,55,000 students from 162 countries in 2011 when first launched. But now it has become a favoured massive online open course (MOOC) destination for students from India. edX, a not-for-profit MOOC platform founded by MIT and Harvard University, gets a large fraction of traffic from India, says Anant Agarwal, president, edX. “The response from India has been overwhelming. India consistently represents the second highest enrolments in edX courses (behind the U.S.),” he says.

According to Prof. Agarwal, “MOOCs will change higher education in India by providing access to quality education. edX will do this by helping schools offer blended courses on campus or purely online options depending on the need.” He adds that research into learning from data gathered by edX and conducted by xConsortium partners including IIT-Bombay indicates that MOOCs will help improve education and pedagogy everywhere, including Indian campuses.

Partnership

In a new partnership with IIT-B, edX hopes to make courses offered by IIT-B available to an international audience. “IIT-B will develop next-generation online and blended learning courses, as well as fill a specific professional development need in India: training engineering teachers. With approximately 5,000 engineering colleges in the country and student enrolment in these colleges now over 1.25 million, IIT-B will use edX’s open source platform to increase the number of qualified and experienced engineering educators in India and beyond,” says Prof. Agarwal. Though the course offerings from IIT-B are still in the planning stages, once ready the courses will be available at www.edx.org.

At a time when top Indian institutes are being criticised for not making it to the Top 100 of world rankings, edX has gone ahead to tie up with IIT-B. Speaking about a pool of untapped talent in our institutes, Prof. Agarwal says, “There is simply more demand than bricks-and-mortar institutions can accommodate at this time. There are uniquely talented students throughout the country. By way of example, in edX’s prototype course, Circuits & Electronics from MITx, one talented 16-year-old in India achieved an “A” and is now a member of MIT’s class of 2018.”

Having set the ball rolling with regard to MOOCs, Prof. Agarwal now wishes he had a crystal ball to predict where MOOCs will take us. “Even so, I do believe that edX will continue to revolutionise and democratise education through research and technology. We will learn how to improve college outcomes, and transfer those discoveries to make on-campus students more successful.”

Nonetheless, Prof. Agarwal did expect edX to transform education and the way education is disseminated since the inception of edX. “We knew that the potential for massive, global access, as well as the potential to gather massive amounts of data for research would revolutionise pedagogy. We are surprised at how much we have accomplished in these areas in just one year, and are excited to see what the future brings,” he says.

A stumbling block for MOOCs in India is Internet access, he said. “And the government is clearly making the creation of a national broadband network a key priority,” he noted.