MOOCs can transform higher education
Information technology (IT) is one field where India has been doing well for reasons that are too well known to need recounting. What is not so well known is that the country has so far drawn on only a fraction of the potential of IT. It is against this backdrop that the report about a collaborative effort between industry and academia should be seen. According to the report, seven leading IITs, IT majors, Infosys, TCS and Cognisant, and industry body Nasscom have drawn up an ambitious programme to launch a bunch of free, online courses. The courses will help one lakh to 1.5 lakh youth gain high-quality education which will fetch them jobs.
If the experiment succeeds, it will benefit millions of unemployed youth. Since no fees are charged, anyone who has access to the Internet is eligible to join a course, gain proficiency in the subject chosen and pass the course. The courses will be modelled after the massive open online courses (MOOCs), first launched by Silicon Valley start-ups Udacity and Coursera. The success of the model has encouraged many firms and institutions in the US and Europe to try it out. In other words, MOOCs are a tried and tested model that has reduced the cost of higher education considerably. In a country like India where investment in higher education is not commensurate with the needs, MOOCs are particularly relevant.
Though the number of technical institutions has increased of late, the employers have one complaint that the candidates who graduate from such institutions do not have the required skills. Often, the companies recruiting them have to give on-the-job training so that they are able to do some work. Since the MOOCs will be launched with the needs of the employers in view, there will be no complaint about the employability of those who pass them. Since the need for infrastructure is minimal, similar courses in other streams like humanities can also be started. In fact, sky is the limit for MOOCs.