Quick Notes from the MHRD Conference in Mumbai

Seems like there is a load of activity on MOOCs fuelled by the EdX platform and run by the IITs. New courses are being announced for a global audience.

India is formally EdX-ified, it seems. Reason primarily is the non-profit status and the course content available on EdX. Concerns include being able to do SPOCs on the platform, enabling blended MOOCs, leveraging EdX content and basically being able to manage an open sourced deployment of EdX.

The term SPOC seems to have made its way into the dominant vocabulary. Institutions want to limit the online experience to their students to justify the business model. This absolute jewel of a comment from Anant Agarwal of EdX says it all – he believes MOOCs can also be used as enhanced online textbooks!

The fixation with elite and expert course content seems to have also gripped the imagination. Everything will be top-down – top 100 universities, top 100 professors etc. Same strategy as Coursera. Puts paid to community based, emergent initiatives.

Teacher Education is the new problem, to be addressed by technology such as video lectures, clickers, synchronously connected classrooms and the like. Looks like we will be teaching teachers the same way as we will be teaching our students. Amen!

The dominant paradigm is the lecture mode and video, although now deemed to be effective if it is short (7-10 minutes) instead of the 1 hour format.

Virtual Labs seem to be getting to the next generation with remote LABs, simulations and modeling LABs.

Flipped Classroom is a buzzword now essentially in the sense of homework and classwork shifting ownership and location.

Classroom clickers seem have been discovered to increase student engagement in Higher Education. Hail, technology!

However, there is no talk about student engagement and retention and how years of working with eLearning has taught us that, in traditional terms, it can’t scale. There is also no appreciation of connectivist efforts in founding MOOCs. A very expedient effort so far to latch on to the bandwagon.

Similarly not much talk around Learning Analytics and Gamification for now. No mention of 3D printing, cloud computing, gesture based computing or wearable computing. In fact, the cloud as a platform does not seem to have reached the National Knowledge Network just yet.

The only silver lining seems to be the energy around doing things online, which appears remarkable. I only wish we had learnt from years of experience in dealing with online learning and from the early models of connectivist MOOCs instead of embracing more recent and hyped models of education.

Also really interesting is the beginning of some focus on EdTech research (at the IIT and SNDT University). Hopefully this will extend out to be more far reaching than people imagine.