MOOCs – Hype or adding value?

For as much hype there has been over the past two years regarding MOOCs, it appears that they are failing to get traction and they are on the decline while online learning is growing.  One of the biggest cheerleaders of MOOCs, Google and Stanford’s Sebastian Thrun, has admitted that his Udacity courses often offer a “lousy product.”  A new report by the Babson Survey Research Group concludes that MOOCs are not sustainable for institutions and will cause confusion about higher-education degrees. The survey was conducted by Babson and the Sloan Consortium and it surveyed chief academic officers at 2,831 institutions.

  •  Only 3% of the institutions are currently offering MOOCs
  • In 2012 26%, and now in 2013 39%, do not believe that MOOCs are sustainable
  • MOOCs made no significant in-roads in the past year in the existing credentialing system thereby calling into question their disruptive nature

At the same time, conventional online courses are more popular than ever

  • More than one-third of students took at least one online course in 2013
  • Although growing more slowly than in recent years, it is predicted that within five years more than half of college students will be taking at least one course online.

There is bound to be some paradox akin 2 sides of the coin. While on one end MOOC’s could be the greatest equalisers, academicians are quick to tone it down indicating that someone has to curate the curriculum ensuring its alignment with specific learning outcomes.  One thing is for sure that MOOC’s are here to stay and we should see a lowering of costs for all kind of courses being offered on a large scale.


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.

MOOCs- Vision & Goals for India


  • By 2020, MOOC shall significantly impact (directly or indirectly) the higher education space , shall penetrate 100% of higher- ed institutions and will touch close to 30 -40% of the higher- ed learners.
  • By 2030, MOOC shall penetrate all learners across schools, higher-ed, vocational, corporate and at home to become the prime learning/education-delivery vehicle.


  • Based on detailed educational data mining and learning analytics build deeper understanding about Indian learners (incl. learning behaviour, learner types etc.) and teaching style (effective pedagogy, engaging delivery)
  • Solve average learners’ learning motivation problem – move learning from current supply based model to completely demand oriented model
  • Translate in depth learner – learning understanding to make education delivery truly personalized
  • Give India a truly quality focused – scalable educational model with active partnership of all stakeholders – learners, parents, teachers, administrators – institutions (private as well as govt.), Industry associations and Govt. (state and central)

No Pay MBA and the Future of Higher Education

An email from Lokesh Mehra started this post really. He referred us to a self learning initiative called the NoPayMBA started by Laurie Pickard. I recall another learner led initiative (Lisa Chamberlin) who started an year ago on getting an Open PhD and has an update for the first year of her efforts. Like Lisa, Laurie too provides some insights on things such as how to design a course like that. Of special interest is an initiative on P2PU called Open & Networked PhD Candidacy.

So this is a new paradigm where the learner clearly is able to do many interesting things:

  1. She is able to take control of what she wants to learn and define a program similar/conformant to (but not so necessarily) university programs (PhD, MBA). These could be a CCNA course or a course in English language as well.
  2. She could be responding to an employer who has advertised (like OnPhD) and wants potential employees to be able to demonstrate their competencies through a short online interaction and network affirmation of competencies
  3. She is able to leverage an entire network of peers, experts and volunteers who will help her accomplish her goals
  4. She is able to leverage an entire body of open resources, communities and tools to accomplish her goals
  5. Potentially (like if she is doing this at P2PU), she may get a formal certification from a third party (who may treat all or part of this as Recognition of Prior Learning; or if an acknowledged expert puts her stamp of approval on the student’s competency for a particular job/task/level)
  6. And by laying a trail (like Lisa does in her annual update), she also helps encourage, demystify and “teach” learners after her to adopt and improve her practices and her networks.

The sheer power of pushing more accountability and responsibility towards the learner is immense. IMHO it is a critical contributor to resolving the problems of scale – decentralized, disaggregated systems of learning.

A lot of discussion needs to emerge around these models. For example, people who can assess competency (experts, employers, peers) are many. If they get empowered (like with Open Badges) to credential, we have a new educational model in place. If we can un-tether (partially) the professor from the institution, for example, how would that help? If we could empower local Guilds to assess competency, how would that work?


MOOC Vision, Mission and Goals

Vision Statement

By 2030, MOOCs shall provide an effective ecosystem for meeting the online educational needs of over 20 million distance learners in the country.

To engineer a MOOC-based educational system that shall be democratic, equitable, scalably networked, dis-aggregated, decentralized and glocalized, with well defined linkages to the traditional education system, wider community and economy.


  1. Set up the necessary infrastructure and tools
    1. Nationwide community resources and connectivity including NMEICT and NKN
    2. Content Management Systems
    3. High quality digital content
    4. MOOC Platforms and Apps
    5. Shared services and LABs for physical support
    6. Services network (for paid service providers)
    7. Learning Analytics and Educational Data systems
  2. Set up internal systems, structures and policy
    1. National Learning Corporation
    2. Chief Learning Officer for India and states
    3. Research and Entrepreneurship Programs, specially rural entrepreneurs for Education
    4. 500 PhDs in Online Learning
    5. Focus on implementation (teacher/assessor kits and communities) – adoption tied to performance
    6. Policy that allows Government and NG/Commercial operations in this space
    7. Bridge to Degrees – allow credits transfer & recognition from MOOC to traditional and v.v.
    8. Employer incentives and Government recognition of MOOC credits/programs for government jobs
    9. Guidelines for grievance redressal, action against low quality and non-binding guidelines/standards
  3. Build internal capability for adoption and maximizing the potential of this medium through focused community building, strong audit programs and motivational incentives

Vision Paper – EdTech – 12thPlan