The great Indian MOOC- A few Bytes

I am not an expert in MOOCs, so this is my brief synopsis of what I have come through online reading and interacting with a few individuals in my group. As Prof Jain pointed out, I have taken a view on listing few fundamental ground realities associated with MOOCs beyond its definition and tried to see how it can address some issues in India. And yes, advance apologies for overshooting the prescribed one-pager!

  • What is MOOCs promise?
  • What are the strengths?
  • MOOC weaknesses?
  • The great Indian Challenge- what will MOOC solve or disrupt in India.

What is MOOCs promise?

(Reference :

Opportunity 1

To shift the education and business model from the notion that a professor lectures students, to a more collaborative, interactive model where global network of practice and community of practice emerges.

Opportunity 2

To shift the pedagogy from teacher-centric design in an online education, to a cooperative and collaborative teacher-learners centric design, with an ultimate pedagogy to support human beings and a transformative pedagogy.

Opportunity 3

To innovate based on technology and media affordance – The use of different media also allows for more individualization and personalization of the learning, better suiting learners with different learning styles and needs.

Opportunity 4

To re-bundle the value propositions from non-credit to credit bearing courses, with degree granting from institutions.  This would also challenge institutions to re-think about their roles in the Higher Education ecology.

What are the strengths?

1. Global reach

2. Free or at small cost

3. Present equal education opportunities for all individuals, regardless of race, creed, class, income, location.

4. No caps on enrolments

5. Anytime, anywhere at your own pace and time

6. available peer reference for help due to the large network .

7. A recent study notes that “some young people who may not always be high achievers at school are willing to invest a significant amount of time in learning and teaching skills online within informal networks and communities” (F. Bell 109). This social aspect realizes that, in education, learning is not a linear process; it is a continued iteration which links to prior knowledge.

8. Online learning certification through badges. The badges “certify skills and abilities” and “denote areas employers might look for”.

What are the weaknesses?

1. Reliance on the internet

2. Education is still confined by geopolitical and socioeconomic boundaries. The mechanics of MOOC delivery disrupt traditional forms of delivery used currently.

3. Instructors can get carried away with the new abilities enabled by MOOCs, letting the technology and computer proficiency demands overwhelm the courses. (rss feeds, twitters, hashtags etc etc.)

4. Although students may like the departure from the traditional education structure, they still rely, at least in part, on long tested and mostly proven methods of delivery.

5. “It seems that informal learning experiences . . . compete with other activities for personal time allotment. Learners, in the absence of a stronger motivations, attend only partially” (Fini 8)

6. People learning on open networks could have access to knowledgeable others to support them, might find videos to inspire their thought processes, and could also self-regulate and organize their learning. This would, however, require a high level of self-direction by the learner” (Kop et al. 78).

7. The responsibility is wholly on the students, and without some sort of investment, many students are unwilling to make the MOOC a priority, causing the rapid deterioration in active enrolment and low completion numbers.

8. Only certain courses are conducive to MOOCs- computer related courses as against Humanties (for instance)-

9. Peer grading is inadequate. It requires a balance critique of content and critique of style.

10. The one to –“too many” situation will make it impossible to give attention to students performance etc.

11. Lack of personal attention

12. Learning in MOOCs is subjective.

13. “It’s an awkward secret of online education: People who crave an A can use multiple accounts to learn so much about course design that they can masquerade as geniuses when finally retaking the course under their own names” (Anders)

14. Although a high percentage may be beneficial if a student is planning to advertise course completion, it means practically nothing. With no reliable system of accreditation and reward, MOOCs continue to suffer from a lack of clear, marketable point – which to some is the purpose of education.

15. It’s quite possible that in an open course, a learner would start or even complete a course before engaging in a formal accreditation process. If the assessment model is a combination of peer review, participation, and formative/portfolio assessment, the accreditation could be entirely separate from the running of the course” (Cormeir and Siemens 38). This means the assessment frameworks and engines need to be looked at separately in a MOOC environment

16. A further limitation of MOOCs is the awarding of credit. Currently, less than a handful of universities are willing to offer college credit for MOOC completion.

The great Indian Challenge!

The very definition and meaning of MOOC presents challenges to the Indian context. It is “online” and its “open”.

Lets look at online first:

  • Only 15.13 million Internet connections in India are faster than 256 Kbps (tech2 report 21 August 2013- TRAI Numbers), even though the total internet subscription stands at about 163 million.
  • There are about 143 million mobile internet users but about 10% of these users will be using 3g data packs.
  • Essentially the market sizing for a MOOC at present is about 30 million – considering a MOOC course will have the requisite bells and whistles with videos and smart interfaces will require broadband and 3g speeds to be engaging.
  • The penetration of such services has been predominantly in the metro cities and it can be argued that this part of India is well-off and the majority are equipped with the funds to attend traditional HEs in India or abroad paying premium.
  • This fact further lowers the market quantum available for MOOCs.
  • MOOCs presently has very limited potential to traverse and resolve the greatest Indian challenge of making available HE in remote towns and cities (tier 3).
  • India is a brand hungry market when it comes to education. I have come across ads in ACCENT as recent as 6 months back that said- “Candidates undertaking distant learning programmes DO NOT apply”.
  • In short- completions are very high in India for HE, Brand matters to be employable, marks and degree certificates count (MOOCs will need to provide academic credits for online courses- but is that enough?) !
  • The vision is to have the broadband  numbers up at 600 million(from the current 15 million) by 2020- AMEN (TRAI)
  • MOOCs vision is underpinned by resolutions to some of the above….

Being “open” may be good and bad!

The openness of MOOC kills geographical boundaries and we have a globalized education market.

Here are some threats:

  •  Openness brings in fresh competition to local HE providers.
  • Oversees providers (of higher repute than local ones) provide academic credits and certificates.
  • Industry and vast number of multi-nationals honour the certification (purely because there is global movement in the acceptance of MOOC credits).
  • India becomes a mass-market for global providers.
  • We can see a transformative impact this trend may bring in 4-7 years, (may be similar to the one we saw in 1991 with globalization reforms).
  • Indian HE providers will have to rise to improve their international profiles (MOOC embodies this as a massive opportunity)- also generate focus on multiple languages and other localisation needs (the “differentiation”).
  • I resisted, but tempted to mention this: MOOCs  should not become like the corner store- dmart defined dynamics in a country like India- the corner store(second/third tier college) buys from dmart (online mooc- low fees etc etc.) and is able to sell at MRP prices.
  • The other threat is if MOOCs are cheap, get all the recognition from government and industry and are cheap- the traditional HE institutions may collapse.
  • MOOC is a double-edged sword.

Open is good because it will create reach to remote areas.

There are multitude ways in which this is happening presently.

Few BIG questions that will remain:

  1. What about industry acceptance (low motivation- poor completions)
  2. Brand consciousness
  3. Internet bandwidth
  4. How “open” will the MOOC be in India? (for example: policies that provide mechanism to enable completed courses to be included in qualifications)

I rest my thought now. Most of it is loud thinking, some influenced by what I read online, but thought its best all points are put on paper for everyone to see, comment, accept, reject.

Lets keep it moving.





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