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.


9 thoughts on “Quick Notes from the MHRD Conference in Mumbai

    • Hi Varadu,
      I am part of a couple of initiatives studying MOOCs but these are in progress. Some reports such as the FICCI – E&Y reports/vision papers as well as some attention to the term in government-speak does exist. IIT-Bombay with Profs. Deepak Phatak and Kannan Moudgalya (and proposed edX partnership) could contribute. So could Mohan Kannegal from Manipal Global Education. You could talk with Kamal Bijlani from Amrita Univ and perhaps a few others such as Prof. MM Pant and Atul Sabnis at eVeltio. MECR (Microsoft Research) is another candidate. So is Larks Learning and Sunstone Business School.

      • Thanks! Had IIT-B, Manipal, Prof Pant covered in the planned interviews. Thanks for reminding about Atul, had him in my network – just didn’t strike me!

        Good to know about Amrita Univ, will get in touch with Kamal Bijlani. And also Larks & Sunstone!

        Thanks again!


  1. Pingback: MOOCs in India = Indian MOOCs?
  2. Folks, thanks for setting this group up and the excellent work already up on this site. May I ask what are infrastructural challenges like internet access, computers and other issues that are a non-issue in Internet rich societies that we have to battle with in India ?

    As I am a climate and disaster worrier, how could we plan for disruptions in a top down system ? Do MOOCs anywhere run locally in servers e.g. @ the local Internet Cafe or a more locally distributed peer to peer type system ?

    I am particularly interested in figuring out how to make the system super resilient and decentralised.

    Thank you !

    • Thanks for your comment. The infrastructure (buildings, power, devices etc) and connectivity are major constraints – both quantity and quality.

      MOOCs are massive, which may mean different things to different people. However, as originally envisaged, MOOCs are situated in a globally connected and diverse world, and that is what make them powerful. Localized clusters do emerge in such MOOCs but as part of a connected whole. So MOOCs on local servers (if you mean small intranets) is an impossibility. However a locally distributed peer-to-peer mechanism my work, and it is an idea worth thinking about (e.g. in learning cooperatives) because it depends upon the underlying networks.

      That is more to your point of resilient, decentralized systems in education (except that decentralized should not be taken to mean disconnected, and resilience should imply being situated in complex adaptive systems).

      Your area of work is particularly suited to community and network building, particularly networks that connect small and large clusters/communities who, in other times, may not even remotely be connected. I would definitely encourage you to explore MOOCs as a way to establish these connections.

      • Thank you for your valuable comments Mr Baxi.

        Kindly humor me a bit more…

        Given the exponential nature of climate change and our soon to be bypassed planetary boundaries and with the imminent Ice Free Arctic and the associated Methane Bomb raising the spectre of human extinction in our lifetimes, I am looking to understand how to MOOC India and the Bits of the world most effected with immediate effect.
        http://www.news.wisc.edu/14419 (Mortality Cartogram for your reference…hint its in the places that are the poorest)

        -The best minds think that prosperity hugely helps to create the conditions for better planetary stewardship and is a precondition to turn climate around.
        -We need education in the right places to grow prosperity.
        -Current educational model needs resources and mindset that are difficult to allocate and change. (22 mil new babies/annum in India alone ?)
        -Climate causes chaos and destabilisation and is leading to runaway climate change scenarios. (Syria’s protracted drought..took just 6 years for civil society to collapse)


        How do we do the best possible with the infrastructure and connectivity issues as they stand ? What is possible with the current state of play.
        Is there a pathway outside the regular “we have time to get this done right ” roadmap ?
        Has any thinking been done to patch up existing solutions to be able to do the needful ?
        Has anything been written about alternate, resource poor models ?

        Thank you…


  3. –> How do we do the best possible with the infrastructure and connectivity issues as they stand ? What is possible with the current state of play.
    I think we must leverage the existing infrastructure as best/optimally as we can and try and ensure that we have offerings that are accessible to large number of people with the means to access them. This implies designing appropriate courses, making them engaging, integrating them with wider aspirations (like for some, getting a job or a career advancement), developing the community and integrating with social media.

    Next we should worry about those who do not have the connectivity. To ensure they do not get left out, we must make materials available offline for use on a variety of devices. This will mean that they operate as standalone learning units and therefore additional elements need to be integrated for effective use.

    Then we should look at those that neither have the connectivity nor the device. Here we should focus on enabling teachers and community leaders/advocates to communicate the key messages. This means using simplified courseware/materials that can be locally mediated like through street plays, local self-help communities, local awareness drives, community radio etc.

    –> Is there a pathway outside the regular “we have time to get this done right ” roadmap ?
    Sure. There are always pathways. NGOs have typically been taking this route whether in teacher training, OER or schools & colleges. I think the pathway I would focus on is building the networks and making them go viral.

    –> Has any thinking been done to patch up existing solutions to be able to do the needful ?
    Yes, lots of thinking, atleast on the MOOCs/OER (Open Education Resources) area. Government, for example, has invested heavily in creation of open content and technologies (check out NMEICT), which gives hope that we will have a large repository of content and many platforms to support elearning at a national scale.

    –> Has anything been written about alternate, resource poor models ?
    There must be. There is always a downward pressure on technology costs in the face of situations like ours. There have been development of (say) low cost instrumentation or low cost locally sourced materials for education. I think these are of value to consider in any economy.

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