India stands to gain by tapping the power of online courses that provide access to quality higher education at reduced cost.
The future of imparting knowledge successfully belongs to those who can help the student build interest in the topics he learns.
In a rapidly globalising world, where time is always on premium, people are looking for options that offer them the flexibility to upgrade their skills (or explore a new hobby) without having to make too many changes to their routine and, without burning a hole in their pockets.
A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online course that is aimed at largescale interactive participation and open access via the Internet. A recent development in the field of distant education, MOOCs not only provide traditional course material such as videos and lectures, but also provide interactive user forums to help build a community for students and professors.
While open courseware and large collaborative online courses have been around for over a decade, the year 2011-2012 saw the launch of this new phenomenon of MOOC wherein faculty from the top universities, through several new organisations made complete courses available online for free, to anyone who is willing to enroll. Some of these courses became extremely popular — attracting over hundred thousand students with participants from almost every country in the world.
How are MOOCS changing the face of education?
MOOCs are fast emerging as the low-cost alternative to expensive higher education in the top universities, for students who are looking for a quality learning experience but are not able to afford the tuition fee for universities in the U.S. or the U.K. Further, these open courses have been able to add a new dimension to the concept of ‘personalised learning’ where students choose the courses they want to do.
Can India try this?
India must continue to expand access to quality higher education while reducing costs. Digital technologies such as use of MOOCs could well be a solution. It also helps that India is full of young people who possess a high comfort level with technology. The population in the age-group of 15-34 increased from 353 million in 2001 to 430 million in 2011 and is predicted to grow to 464 million by 2021(Source: Report by IRIS Knowledge Foundation). Indians are among the most aggressive users of MOOCs. Of the 2.9 million registered users of Coursera in March, more than 2,50,000 were from India, second only to the U.S. The biggest impact of the increasing popularity of these MOOCs on the education sector as a whole is the legitimisation of online learning. MOOCs have greatly accelerated the appetite for and the pace of change in the education sector. It has demonstrated how digital technology can dramatically transform the face of education. Online course delivery, self-paced learning, student engagement, adaptive and automated assessment leading to easy diagnosis and remediation of students’ learning weaknesses are increasingly becoming common parlance in the education sector.
However, students between the ages of 5 -17 years lack self-discipline needed to focus on learning a topic thoroughly. Because each child has a different way of grasping a concept, his/her learning style needs to be mapped correctly in order to help him/her understand the topic properly. An instructor who is able to understand this also needs to have the burden of introducing the new concept for the first time, off his/her back. They also need access to resources that enable the child to study the chapter on his/her own and come to the instructor with his/her doubts. This not only helps develop concentration and analytical skills better, but also aids in promoting better interpersonal skills needed for the future.
Online learning websites such as Meritnation provide curriculum-aligned innovative learning solutions coupled with the most technologically enhanced assessment models. These are aimed at identifying, understanding and preparing customised learning solutions for promoting better learning habits and building interest in the topics learnt. Therefore, while they need to mould themselves into entering the K-12 space effectively, MOOCs are definitely helping to shape the online education space and build awareness about the benefits of using technology in education.
The writer is managing director & founder, Meritnation.com.