03 October 2012 , Tushar Kanwar
Technology mentor Kishore Bhargava and Gopi Krishna S Garge (currently on sabbatical from IISc, Bangalore), speak on how MOOCs will play out in the Indian context
EDU: What are your thoughts on the MOOC phenomenon?
Gopi Garge: I would like to draw your attention to local efforts such as the NPTEL effort by the Government of India. Clearly, this phenomenon is only going to grow larger and bigger given the local needs of our users—be it language, country-specific content, packaging (delivery to desktop or mobile first approach) etc. From being open ended in that they only currently provide the content and a sense of reward for watching the videos, these will evolve into more structured systems which could lead to the award of a diploma or a certificate of proficiency as a result of the assessment. Professionals who want to refresh their knowledge will be able to get quality content, while current students can use the content to supplement their formal learning or build on additional competencies.
Kishore Bhargava: Universities that have taken the bold step to promote open content are doing a great service, and while these will still not substitute traditional distance learning and certification programs, they will certainly have an impact on learning. Along with the new breed of educational apps that allow students in all fields to learn at their own pace, MOOCs will definitely be a game changer, allowing students to learn beyond the textbooks. Current distant learning programs should start adopting some MOOC features in terms of student/teacher interactivity.
EDU: Do MOOCs have the potential to work in India?
GG: If you look at the demand-supply inequality in education, there is a huge potential for uptake of such online resources. However content providers (such as institutions) should provide content and let other agencies provide the structured content delivery and evaluation. Of course, depending on the level of study, content delivery could be available in specific languages, which would engage a wider learning audience.
KB: Sadly, it will be a while before the industry accepts people who will have gone through these systems as their only form of higher education. People will also complain about access to courses due to lack of equipment or bandwidth but I think we have more or less overcome that problem. Tablets/mobiles will help the cause greatly providing cheaper methods of Internet access. Given the size of the country and the number of people who can use these methods, it could make a positive shift in overall learning. Indian government should support and encourage these methods and where possible adopt them in existing distance learning.
EDU: What, according to you, is the tipping point for greater acceptability?
GG: Openly available content enables two aspects—exploring subject matter and eventually skill acquisition. From an industry perspective, skills are what are required up to a certain level in the production hierarchy. Open content helps people acquire skills. For example, some of the best programmers I know are commerce graduates and some are astrophysicists! They acquired their skills by utilizing the content available via the Internet—no formal training. With respect to computer programming, the industry has devised their own means of evaluation of candidate’s proficiency. I believe this will extend to other areas as well in different forms. It is going to take a while before such open material is packaged into courses with credits; it is a matter of time since there is a need for such approach. However, both the consumer (students/industry) as well as the supplier (content providers) will have to evolve themselves to find a acceptable middle ground.
KB: Many modern day employers now interview and seek skills rather than qualifications specially startups and entrepreneurs. Till this trend does not spill over to the rest of the industries, nothing will change.