The MOOC point

Aug 04 2014, 01:09 IST
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SummaryMOOCs have a long way to go for creating a “massive” impact.

Providing education to thousands of people across the world and that too mostly free of cost is a noble thought. However, implementing this thought successfully is not an easy task. The massive open online courses (MOOCs) are one of the most progressive steps in this direction.

A Canadian academician group coined the term ‘MOOCs’ back in 2008. It was used for teaching their course to a group of 25 paying students as well as around 2,200 students who got free enrolment. Over the next few years, three Stanford instructors started their two separate companies to provide MOOCs—Udacity and Coursera. Later, other players also emerged and MOOCs became a global phenomenon. In India, the closest approximation to MOOCs is the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), an initiative by IITs and IISc Bangalore.

When you think of learning through MOOCs, the primary question that arises is: How do these companies “teach” thousands of students? I would say that, at this stage, they don’t.

MOOCs are a big step towards the progress of our higher education system, but currently what these companies do is just deliver information over the internet, with occasional peer review and assessments. This, in my view, is not education. Education involves a much more comprehensive learning approach than just transmitting facts.

Technology is definitely an enabler in providing education access to more and more people globally. It would, however, be a big mistake if one believes that by providing instructor’s recorded/live videos with few multiple choice questions or assessments/assignments reviewed by peers, we can provide a classroom experience to a student.

Data currently shows that less than 10% of the total enrolled students in MOOCs actually complete the courses. There are many reasons behind this. Before we get into the details, we need to understand how students are taught over the internet.

While these companies have a lot of renowned faculty and programmers who develop their learning platforms, hardly any of them hire instructional designers, curriculum designers or people who are trained in educational technology. Instructional design is the systematic process by which instructional materials are designed, developed and delivered. With technology available at disposal today, a particular concept can be taught through a recorded real-time video or an animation or as an interactive game, among other mediums. A true learning experience comes with an efficient blend of these mediums using the right instructional design.

Developing effective instructional design is a hard skill and

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