Launched – School group’s first meet

We have identified 4 areas of focus – Content, Technology, Pedagogy and Policy/Regulatory issues/framework. Groups have been spawned off for each of the areas.

  1. Content team will look at areas like standards, demand-supply gaps, learning outcomes, interoperability, licensing, availability, creation, capability, multilingual, content safe filters etc.
  1. Technology team will look at infrastructure, connectivity, platform, mobility components
  1. Pedagogy team will look at effective teaching learning models, teacher education, techniques, peer learning, successful stories models
  1. Policy/Regulatory team will look at regulatory framework issues, rural education, government initiatives for expanding connectivity to school, perhaps school VET

We shall evolve a vision statement and a key recommendations section as we get a better handle.

Folks reading this post are requested to send in their thoughts and resources/links to help us out! Thanks!

School Education: MOOCs

FICCI’s school education committee has set up a taskforce to build up a report for MOOCs in School Education. This blog will act as a landing place for this group as well. I am really happy to have with me Dr. Anjlee Prakash, Dr. Pradeep Varma, Aditya Berlia, Ashutosh Chaddha, Swati Sammadar and Sujit Bhattacharjee.



MOOCs and the Future of Indian Higher Education report (beta preview)

After months of working and deliberations on the report, an almost final version is here. Major changes include a breakdown of the Higher Ed sector into three parts – formal, non-formal and informal – and addition of several use cases or applications of MOOCs in these three sectors. Read the MOOCs and the Future of Indian Higher Education report beta preview here and send us your comments!

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.

MOOCs Vs. Conventional Online learning

My take is that online learning in its conventional form has not worked till date? If calculated accurately the completion rates for online learning will be equally pathetic (completion in organisation mandated certifcation focused elearning program is achieved by mass scale rigging… ).

MOOC seems relevant as it provides a complete elearning ecosystem – best faculty, teacher interaction, peer interaction, self practice conventional elearning) & learning analytics which can ultimately result in personalized learning paths.

We have given conventional elearning 20 plus years, it is only fair that
MOOCs should also get some focus for coming years.. MOOC will also need to
evolve continuously to be an effective tool.

Driving the Success of MOOCs – Role of Industry Associations

Post by Rajesh Pankaj, FICCI

Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs have been a hotly debated and oft discussed topic in the higher education circles. According to the Oxford Dictionary, MOOCs is defined as “A course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people.” This essentially means that a student sitting in the remotest corner of the globe but with access to a computer and a fairly high speed internet connection can have access to courses being run at the most prestigious universities of the world like Stanford, Harvard, MIT and others of their league. Further, these courses are absolutely free of charge and are specifically designed courses which can cater to a niche of students and has no bars on factors like age, etc. While it is true that a vast number of Universities have started offering at least one online course, speculation is rife about it being successful in the long run.

It is widely felt that if the idea of MOOCs can be implemented in the true sense, it will ensure that students across the world can make an informed choice of what they wish to study, where they wish to study, under whom and for what purpose without having to think of the associated financial burden. Geographical boundaries shall cease to be important and shall usher in an era where knowledge shall be truly free and multi-directional. Detractors make a few valid arguments, some of them relating to dire completion rates, lack of credibility of the certificate with potential employers who still prefer the conventional courses and the associated accreditation issues giving rise to the question of standards, technical glitches involved in the completion of the course (refers to internet penetration and available speeds, more pertinent in the case of developing countries and assumes greater significance in light of the fact that MOOCs is supposed to be the game changer in enhancing access to affordable quality higher education for the students in these countries).

Another major challenge that needs to be dealt with is the lack of a business model for MOOCS. Currently there is no clear cut business case for MOOCs except for the fact that Universities are using it to showcase their star lecturers’ curriculum design with a view to entice fee paying international students, though, it would be extremely difficult to quantify the returns arising out of such an arrangement. However, the nay-sayers continue to believe that this is an extremely smart marketing gimmick by the institutes to attract more students to their campus, thereby taking away a bit of the sheen from the other larger benefits that MOOCs can offer to students worldwide.

If MOOCs is to succeed then all these challenges shall have to be addressed in a manner which ensures a win-win situation for all involved. While some of the challenges need a more broad based participation, in some other cases apex industry chambers like FICCI can play a pivotal role in influencing thoughts and attitudes, particularly of the private industry. Industry bodies such as ours can be the front runners in building consensus on the importance and relevance of MOOCs among industry members.

Further, industry bodies can also play a significant role in pushing for the requisite policy reforms that shall create an enabling environment for MOOCs to flourish which shall in turn pave the way for a robust and strong policy framework for MOOCs alone.

MOOCs is currently in its nascent stages and for it to be a serious game changer, it would be imperative that multi stake holder platforms are created where consensus on a wide range of significant and crucial issues would need to be established. FICCI with its large network of members with a reach which spans the length and breadth of the economy is ideally poised to carry out this task and at the same time liaise and coordinate with the government to bring about the desired policy framework. FICCI would be the ideal platform to disseminate preliminary information and spread awareness on MOOCS through the multitude of events that it conducts like seminars, Roundtables, Conferences, and Symposia etc. in connection with different industries. In fact, MOOCs cuts across sectors and FICCI with its guns trained on 72 sectors of the economy would be an ideal stakeholder to promote the growth and development of MOOCs in India.

Once there is universal acceptability on the need and potential for MOOCs, the key-stakeholders can endeavour to work towards making the MOOCs courses standardized and phased, which can also be accepted by the industry for the purpose of recruitment. This shall automatically raise the interest levels of the students with an associated increase in the completion rates. The success of MOOCs shall largely depend upon student involvement and participation of their own accord, which in turn shall depend upon the perceived value of these courses.

However, in countries like India the perceived value of a course to a great degree is a function of its ability to fetch a big ticket job. The higher paying the job it attracts, the greater is the perceived value. India as a nation has not reached a stage where students pursue courses for the love of knowledge alone. Therefore, it shall be imperative that private industry creates a system where MOOCs becomes an acceptable toll gate for students aspiring for rewarding jobs in industry. Unless private industry chooses to put its back behind this, MOOCs is unlikely to succeed. Bringing together stakeholders, establishing consensus over contentious issues, mobilising resources, etc are all tasks that can be achieved through industry bodies like FICCI.

MOOCs still has a long way to go. A plethora of issues shall need to be resolved till it can become ubiquitous. Stakeholders shall also need to work actively towards bringing in variety of end users. However, for that to happen, all stakeholders will have to make a concerted effort to ensure that the true benefits of MOOCs can permeate to all corners of the country.

The Literacies for MOOCs

Often the debate has been that MOOCs require a fairly advanced/evolved level of maturity for the learner. This is an old debate. But here is a gem from Stephen Downes as he responds to Clark Quinn.

It seems to me indicative of the failure of traditional education that students in university-level courses still have to be motivated and still have to be taught how to learn. Quinn is quite right – most courses still attend to both. What he doesn’t say is that they utterly fail at it which is why it must be done over and over and over again.

By starting out with a presumption of a different set of skills, MOOCs explicitly foster and value these skills. So while students who have grown up with the typical command-mode style of learning, it is not unreasonable to assume that students raised on MOOCs will have mastered the different set of skills. Students are adept at learning to follow orders when they are given a steady diet of orders; it is reasonable to assume they will learn to take responsibility when they are given responsibilities.

Stephen goes on to state that

If we can get past the idea that the purpose of a MOOC is to ‘teach people stuff’ then we can begin to talk about what benefits they bring. But so long as we just think of them as another way of doing the same old thing, we’ll be misunderstanding them.

Now this is one real way to think about the literacies and their evolution for a learner in a MOOC. By being in a MOOC, by imbibing and practicing the techniques of more “experienced” learners and devising your own, you evolve to a higher level of capability in your learning. which is also why the network is so important. “Good” networks will help you evolve faster, while “bad” networks will demotivate and confound you. “Good” practices will help you achieve your personal goals and “bad” practices will affect you. What you and the network do will affect each other in positive and negative ways.

I would define “great” networks as networks that are open, massively interconnected, also massively redundant (in the technical sense to mean many parallel layers of “competencies”), accessible, navigable, flexible, heterogeneous and active. Such networks themselves motivate and fuel the desire to learn. This happened to me with CCK08, with EdFutures and many of the early MOOCs. I went in with the motivation to learn and experiment – and I evolved to a more mature state of my own learning capability through what I was exposed to (without being mandated).

Networks do not become “great” by games of chance alone (though there is important serendipity to be encountered in learning this way), but also by an “invisible hand” which is really the collective consciousness of the network – the conversation and the people, and their shared culture of learning. However, there are ways to build these networks, like Stephen and George epitomize through their work every day.

Stephen, in Learning to Learn, also makes the critical point that “a connectivist course does not consist of a single identifiable group of people stepping through the same activity”, rather connectivist learning is about “interaction, usability and relevance”. One can probably see that such an emergent, chaotic and complex environment that a MOOC is, will generate systemically better outcomes once learners gain more capability.

Apart from some of the progress made in identifying some of the critical literacies for Connectivism, George has a post on what a Connectivist Taxonomy would look like. Not surprisingly, connection-forming, meaning-making, contribution and involvement – are important components of the taxonomy, and literacies such as managing your digital identity, working with online tools, relationship building, self-expression, participation and wayfinding behaviors have also been discussed.

My sincere hope, for any vision for MOOCs anywhere, is that we seriously consider all of this and perhaps decide to convene a strategy that builds capability for us to learn effectively what we want or need to learn. Amen.