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An open classroom for everyone

Massive Online Open Courses have done away with the finer details of studying at a foreign university by providing education in short-term modules over the net.

Published: 22nd October 2013 07:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd October 2013 07:38 AM   |  A+A-

open-classroom

The digital age is slowly catching up in India in all facets of life. But perhaps the most notable evolution in this regard has been the one in education. The experience of learning has slowly been shifting away from our traditional blackboards to digital classrooms and our content has become more global than local with information being made available to everyone on the internet.

Called Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC), they have become the preferred option when it comes to doing short-term courses to boost one’s repertoire in very specific disciplines among both graduate students and working professionals. What makes MOOC so popular is the access to top universities students get sitting right at home. From a course on Economics of Money and Banking by Columbia University to an Introduction to Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh and a course on Conditions of War and Peace from the University of Tokyo, the parameters for a certificate from a reputed global standard varsity have changed, making it easier and more flexible.

How it works

MOOC helps a build a community for students, professors and teaching assistants to communicate together in a particular forum. Different people from all parts of the world can engage in conversation and share their knowledge and experience about various subjects.

It became extremely popular in the United States with the New York Times dubbing the year 2012 as ‘The year of MOOC’ and Time Magazine stating that MOOC’s open the door to the ‘Ivy League for the masses’.

In India, with the internet becoming a necessary tool, people have started to learn more about such websites and forums provided by MOOC to widen their horizon of learning and improve their chances of going abroad by taking up online courses at their own convenience.

With colleges realising the potential, they’ve begun certificate courses free of cost in very specific disciplines which a student wouldn’t normally have access to even as a regular graduate student.

Where it works

India has seen the success of MOOC through a few websites that students and working professional seem to prefer. One such website is coursera.org. With the objective of offering free online courses from different categories, Coursera was founded in 2009, providing course options from 83 leading universities and professional institutions around the world.

The beauty of this website is that one can work from home and spend about three hours a week on a particular course and still continue with their other commitments. This can be done at any time depending on your convenience. One also has the luxury of learning about something new from a reputed college without the trappings of a Visa, GRE score and so on. People who do well will receive a statement of accomplishment from the respective universities.

The range of categories from which courses are offered are massive. From arts to biology and life sciences, chemistry, business and management, engineering, humanities and so on, the courses cater to most every field of  study. Most of the courses have a duration of about six to 10 weeks and would require a maximum effort of an average five hours a week.

Other MOOC options include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Open Courseware and Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning which is based in Pittsburgh that offer online forums where one can sign up for a course. Stanford University has made many of their courses and lectures available via iTunes while professors also have their content available online like Michael Sandel, an American political philosopher and a professor at Harvard University who uploads his lectures at justiceharvard.org.

Making it work

The method of learning includes video modules and power point presentations along with group discussions among different people from across the world. There are also mid-term and final tests conducted to evaluate the performance of a person and how much they have learnt.

Himanish Bhattacharjee, who recently discovered Coursera, says, “This is a brilliant initiative, especially given the large variety of courses on offer and its free availability. The transparency regarding course syllabus and university affiliations provides solid credibility to the organisation, which is bound to attract more people in times ahead.”

Rajshree Mehta, who’s currently working in the fashion industry has also been highly impressed with the MOOC system, recently signed up for a course. “It provides the chance for students who do not get the opportunity to study in the best universities to experience top quality education. I have signed up for a course on creativity, innovation and change from the Pennsylvania State University and I’m really excited about it,” she said.

Urging more people to take up such courses to enhance their learning, Sameer Jha says, “It is a very good opportunity for anyone to expand their knowledge and get a certificate for it. The high quality course content, the large range of courses, the freedom to study from home -- all of this makes it a very exciting thing for someone who wants to give their professional career a boost.”



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