One day on a typical weekend last year I was surfing the internet. While surfing, I stumbled on a discussion around Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). The discussion was interesting especially because I had been wanting to do some courses for a while and it aroused my interest so I went on reading about it. This was about various courses being offered online by various universities free of cost to public. The courses were open to anyone from anywhere across the globe and came with no strings attached.
The concept is unique and is catching up globally with many big and reputed universities including the ones from Ivy League offering courses on vast & varied subjects. Interestingly, according to The New York Times, 2012 became sort of "the year of the MOOC" as several well-financed providers, associated with top universities, started emerging. However, at that time when I searched, most of the courses offered were around history, Sciences and humanities by edX. There was not much stuff around business or finance studies which I was keen on. My interest was more around finance or strategy. As I could not find anything of my interest, soon I lost interest.
Last month, one of my friends sent me an email which spoke about a course being offered by University of Virginia on Coursera platform. Coursera is another MOOC and offers about 600+ courses from various international universities. This course that was being referred to in the email was Foundation of Business Strategy (FOBS) by Darden School of Business.
As this was exactly I was looking for, I straightaway jumped into it. The course duration was 7 weeks and the mode of delivery was video lectures by Professor Michael J. Lenox being posted on the portal on weekly basis. Students were to go though the videos, followed by working on a case study and a quiz containing 10 questions each. The scoring in Quiz also counted in the final assessment as it carried the weightage of 42% in the final scoring and students were expected to get 70% marks in each quiz to qualify them.
This apart, there was a discussion forum which I would rather call a "virtual campus" where students could participate in ongoing discussions, initiate their own discussions or post their problem and questions to get answers from other students. The catch was the participation in the discussion forum carried scoring weightage of 8% in the final score. The course participants needed "upvotes" or sort of "Likes" on their posts. This forced students to participate in discussions and collaborate with other students. Overall, the discussion in the forums elicited huge participation and were very intense. In fact, going through various discussion threads was in itself a huge learning experience.
All the students had also to submit a project analyzing business strategy of the company of their choice. This carried 50% weightage and the case study was to be peer reviewed by other 5 students. The marks considered were the average score of all the five reviewers. I did all the activities including case study on a company and finally got my "Statement of Accomplishment".
Overall, the experience was very engaging and participative at each stage and it pushed me to doing research for my case study. I can for sure say the going through the course was worth it and useful. Most important fact is that the course was attended by 90 thousand plus students coming from across the globe.
Post completion of my course, I dug deeper in the coursera site and found many other courses being offered by various other reputed international universities like Stanford, Yale, Brown, Duke, Rutgers, LMU and many more running into 100+ such universities from across the globe with which coursera has partnered with. The course being offered covers wide variety of subjects covering entire spectrum of studies in various streams. Even in the same subject, students have various options to choose from multiple universities.
Apart from coursera which saw enrollment crossing 5 million by year-end 2013 that had approx 10% joiners from India, there are many other MOOC initiatives like Udacity and edX. They also offer various courses suitable for students as well as professionals. Many universities across the world are joining and continue to join the initiative thus giving wide choices to the learners though Indian Universities are lagging far behind in embracing this revolution.
These courses are very powerful tools of augmentative learning. The initiative offers a silver lining to those students and professionals who want to pursue higher education and want to augment their professional experience with right courses but either cannot afford them financially or do not have time to take break from their professional careers. MOOC platforms offer free courses that can be done at self-paced basis. My Recommendations to Indian education authorities as well as those across the globe would be:
1. Ministry of Human Resource Development / Ministry of Education shall start and sponsor the MOOC initiatives.
2. HRD Ministry can launch its own MOOC platform or in collaboration with private partnership.
3. Indian universities, Business Schools and others shall be encouraged to offer courses on MOOC platform... this will enable millions of students to get quality education in the absence of adequate capacity in the colleges / universities. I guess this shall be true and equally applicable for many other countries as well.
4. At the same time schools and colleges shall be encouraged to leverage available course on various MOOC platforms from universities across the globe to augment their curriculum.
5. Efforts shall be coordinated with various agencies so that this initiative can be used by a student sitting at the remotest corner of the country.
6. At corporate level, companies can encourage their employees to leverage relevant MOOC courses to augment internal L&D initiatives. It can be a big boon for small companies which cannot afford huge L&D budgets.
We can have our own Indian Revolution in education whereby each and every Indian gets the opportunity and access to quality education from reputed colleges and universities. By 2020 each eligible and aspiring Indian shall have done a course using MOOC platform.
On a similar note, I feel this unique but powerful asset shall be leveraged and capitalized by all the countries especially the ones like India for taking the education to the doorsteps of masses residing at the nooks and corners of the country.