Will Massively Open Online Courses Change the Face of Education? It’s looking murky (in India)

Massively Open Online Courses or MOOC as they are popularly known are the talk of the town. The term was coined in 2008 and the popularity of sites like Khan Academy, Udacity, Coursera, MIT OCW and many others have opened up new possibilities. Just to clear up the meaning of the term- MOOCs are basically online courses aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web.

Coursera and Udacity both have raised in excess of $20 million individually and investors have made big bets on the companies. Opening up education, raising the bar for content, and increasing the reach are some of the good things these companies have managed and looking at the trend, Indian companies are also blossoming in the field, MyOpenCourses being a name worthy of mention here. These companies are surely good for the society but the question remains if they'll be truly effective and also, will they make money?

The topic was discussed at the MobileIndia conference recently as well and the mood was rather skeptic. Sometimes even jokes are shared in a lighter vein that whatever these sites earn is from the referrals they send to Amazon. Talking regarding whether MOOC will change the face of education Arun Prabhudesai, CTO of MyOpenCourses said, “Wherever we’ve asked the question, we’ve got mixed reviews. The courses are appreciated and well received but whether they can create deep massive change is still contentious.”

And to dissect this point for India, one has to look deeper. One can safely assume that 90% of the students in India study to pass the exam. No matter how good material is available, they’d revert to one that’ll get them the maximum marks. Rohit Kumar, MD of Elsevier, India shares an instance, “Many of the professors in colleges come up with their own books which are usually far from global standards. But these are the ones from which the papers are set and the students hence, buy these books. They wouldn’t care to take a course on Udacity or any other site.” And this is a very pertinent point. All these resources are great and hunky dory but the real issue still remains with the mindset in India. Are students really looking for these resources? (Paying for content remains a question for a later stage.)

Unless and until the students, parents and we as a culture become more inquisitive, MOOC would not really be ‘massive’, they’d be consumed by those 5% of the students who want to learn. And they’d learn even if these courses weren’t there.

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