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Learning on the go

SWAYAM, a government MOOC, offers the opportunity to continuously garner knowledge and become academically qualified

Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) is a type of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform offered by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, technically supported through a subsidiary of Microsoft Corporation, the U.S. Perhaps, you might have heard of correspondence courses offered by open universities such as Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) or by the distance education wing of a number of universities. MOOCs are a similar concept except, instead of postal correspondence with the university faculty, students access the course material through the Internet. All you need is a computer or smartphone with an Internet connection, where you can access the course from anywhere in the world free of charge. If you pay a nominal fee and pass the exam, you can even get a recognised course certification from the university offering the MOOC. However, SWAYAM offers only individual courses, not whole degrees or diplomas, and is accessible through https://swayam.gov.in or through an app available on Google Play.

Benefits

MOOCs allow aspirants to take classes from leading faculty, even if the student could not get admission there. SWAYAM, typically offers courses by faculty from central universities, IITs, IIMs, IISERs, and so on; physical enrolment in those institutes are severely restricted by highly competitive national-level entrance tests such as JEE, CUCET, CAT, and so on. In one sense, SWAYAM opens up “cloistered academic hegemony” and makes quality courses accessible to anyone, regardless of their economic status, gender, nationality, caste, and so on. It brings an egalitarian approach to the education sector. There are no entrance tests for courses, and all courses are open to everyone.

In comparison with traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ classroom instruction, the MOOC allows students watch the class video repeatedly. This is important for learning new concepts, as studies have affirmed that frequency of revision is crucial in etching the concepts in our long-term memory. Students can pause the class to take notes and rewind/forward as they may prefer.

MOOC is an example of two-way learning. As in a traditional classroom, students can pose questions to the teacher and can get their doubts cleared online. Students can also interact with other students through discussion forums. In contrast, one-way learning lets the students access content only, without any interaction — DD Gyan Darshan, YouTube, TED, a textbook, and so on.

Major MOOC providers in the world are edX , Coursera, Udacity, and Khan Academy. Anyone anywhere in the world can enrol in thousands of courses accessible through their these websites free of charge. Courses are taught by faculty from Ivy-league universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, MIT, Cambridge, Oxford and so on. If you pay a nominal fee and pass online exams, you will get official course certificates from those universities. However, course certificates from foreign universities cannot be used as part of the degrees from Indian universities.

SWAYAM becomes relevant in such situations as it offers credit transfers across all universities, pan-India. It is fully recognised by the Government of India.

According to recent UGC circulars, all universities in the country should have at least 10% of total courses offered from approved SWAYAM courses.

Four quadrants

They typically have four quadrants. The first is teaching content which could include teaching videos, PowerPoint presentations, animations, podcasts, and so on. All these depend on the concerned subject and the teacher’s pedagogical strategy. This component also includes e-text, which is a self-explanatory text material comprehensively covering the subject matter. The second quadrant is further learning resources, which typically is a webpage with curated hyperlinks to relevant quality Internet content. The third is the discussion forum, which is typically a webpage where students can interact with one another and pose questions. The fourth is assessment, which could be quizzes, assignments, term-paper, and so on.

Similar to classroom courses that are divided into units, SWAYAM courses have modules — each covers a section of the syllabus. A module consists of 40 minutes of video, broken into three smaller length videos. The MOOC duration is usually 15 weeks and the total number of modules depends upon the total credits. The programme is a ‘vertical’; it contains hundreds of courses from Class IX, till postgraduation.

The writer is a science writer and a faculty based at Central University of Punjab, Bathinda. He has been selected for this year’s ‘Teacher Innovator Award’ from the Ministry of Human Resources and Development for his contribution towards the development of MOOCs.

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Printable version | Jun 28, 2020 12:15:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/learning-on-the-go/article24418318.ece

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