CHENNAI: IIT-Bombay has collaborated with edX, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider to launch three online courses this July on Introduction to Computer Programming (Part 1), Introduction to Computer Programming (Part 2) and Thermodynamics. “IIT-B has been running a strong distance education programme for over 10 years. We currently train 10,000 teachers at a time who assemble at over 300 remote centres for attending subject-specific focused workshops for two weeks. Also, several national initiatives like NPTEL (The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning), as also our experience in projects like Spoken Tutorials, and in directly transmitting our live courses, prompted us to evaluate MOOCs as an option carefully. By using MOOCs, some of our regular courses will be available to lakhs of students across the nation and to others globally. Quality education, imparted to our students on campus can now be accessed by all learners,” says Prof Deepak B Phatak, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT-B.
While anyone can pursue the courses, IIT-B is working with a few universities to get their students enrolled in the courses. “The course will be delivered through sessions grouped into several themes or topics. Each session will be made up of two to four ‘episodes’. Each episode will consist of a video recorded lecture of about eight-ten minutes’ duration, followed by some practice problems/quizzes. An episode will typically span 15-20 minutes. Being of a short duration, we believe that the students can focus on the topics easily. Besides, there will be additional reading material/references, which the participants can use if required, for greater clarity,” explains Deepak. There are also plans for regular interactive sessions through discussion forums, video conferencing, etc
While much noise have been made about MOOCs, one can’t help but drag the challenges into the picture. Anant Agarwal, CEO, edX, on the perks of MOOCs, “In India there is a large number of students who do not have access to quality education despite having the will to learn. Similarly, many universities in India (Tier 3 and 4 ones) are not fully staffed with professors, and MOOCs will not only increase access to learners who are not in universities but also promote the quality of education in universities. So it can improve both university education and also give access to education to people who do not get that opportunity otherwise.”
Coming to the challenges, he says, “MOOCs require devices such as a desktop/laptop/mobile phones and internet connection, and people need access to that. Over time, more and more people will have access, especially when we come out with the mobile approach.” Glad about the IIT-B collaboration, he says, “The courses from IIT-B are very helpful because most often you want a course that is localised for the needs of the country, and on that front we are very interested in having many more of the top institutions from India on edX.” Details at www.edx.org.