MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have been gaining traction around the world, and one of the countries that has truly embraced these to the fullest extent is India. With highly sought after university places and tremendous competition to secure a spot on coveted courses, those that do not get a place have started to turn to MOOCs as an alternative solution, particularly those interested in Business and Technology.
According to George Anders (2015) writing for MIT Technology Review, online education is starting to also be seen as a way in which to accelerate careers, especially in fields that are more technical. Figures provided show that Indian enrolments comprise approximately 8% of Coursera’s total intake and 12% for edX. The only country that outdoes this is the USA, and China is comparable to India in its interest in MOOCs.
If in developed countries, MOOCs tend to be used for advancing side interests rather than for progressing in learning for one’s career that is not the case in developing countries. As Anders states:
“It’s a different story in India. There, online courses from the US or Europe are finding a big following among college students or recent graduates… hoping that the right technical courses can help them win better jobs.”
It has been predicted that ultimately India will be a much larger market for MOOCs than the United States. Of course, India has a massive population which at least in part drives this. Another driver is that degrees from the majority of India’s colleges (of which there are approximately 35,000) are not of interest to international recruiters.
MOOCs offer a great chance for young Indian business students, technologists and scientists to increase their credentials. One popular course in India is that put out by the University of Maryland which helps people learn how to create mobile apps for Android.
There are also programming classes from prestigious US universities, among others that have been found to be extremely popular. In fact, it is reported that 8 of the top 10 courses in India from Coursera are technically focused. The other two are also personal development focused and include classes on public speaking and improving with learning.
As a result it is explained that there have been attempts made to encourage players in the technology industry in India to accept these online credential earned through MOOCs during the recruitment process. Some international companies have already done this in some cases, such as Google, Microsoft, Infosys and Wipro, but the approach is not consistent. Meanwhile canny Indians list schools like Stanford and MIT on their resumés in their educational background based on the fact that they took MOOCs from these establishments.
In India another driver of MOOCs is a lack of professors. There simply aren’t enough to go around. Currently there are a reported 3.2 million people in study programmes for university standard engineering. It simply is not possible for professors and other experts to provide learning in all cases. The fact that there are rural areas that are relatively inaccessible is another factor, as professors may not be able to get to small rural colleges. This encourages online education to play a greater role.
There are barriers to MOOCs in India and to online courses in general. Creating the technology that works is thought to be relatively easy but trying to get universities to have an interest in creating MOOCs that are of a high standard is a challenge. There is also an institutional problem which is that of trying to persuade schools’ to offer academic credit for when students have done their learning online in this way.Even the Ministry of Human Resources Development has struggled.
In 2014 it announced its own MOOC platform called Swayam, but currently only three courses are offered, which goes nowhere near towards competing with giants like Coursera and edX. Yet another problem is that testing has been found to be more superficial, given that it is online. Anyway new MOOCs appear everyday. That is the case of the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, which is the latest Institution in line to offer Massive Open Online Courses.
Are MOOCs the future for learning in India? Will they replace traditional university education and particularly business education? Some experts believe that while MOOCs offer students a general awareness they cannot provide a depth of knowledge that attendance on a full academic course may be able to. Still, others remain optimistic that MOOCs may provide the way of the future for India. The true outcome remains to be seen.