Online Learning Going Beyond MOOCs


It was more than a year ago when Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) have burst onto the scene. The online movement has been spearheaded mostly by Coursera, edX, and Udacity. Students in countries like India and Brazil have been signing up in droves for these massive open online courses, or MOOCs, offered for free from top-tier universities, such as Stanford, MIT, and Harvard.

Yet, there are many challenges remain:

  • Without high-speed Internet access, poorest regions are not taking full advantage of MOOCs which are mostly made of video lectures
  • Many people question MOOC’s video-heavy course content
  • Most of the MOOCs are backed by the US universities; hence, courses don’t have enough potential to appeal wider audience. Challenge is to tailor the content of course to a diverse worldwide audience
  • MOOC being backed by only a few elite institutions could hamper its ultimate aim to democratize higher education
  • MOOCs can’t solely remain on Internet; it has to blend with traditional learning
  • Very minor tweaks matter a great deal, such as the ability to allow students to download, rather than only stream course videos
  • Presently, MOOCS do not lead to greater employability. Most Massive Open Online Courses offer certificates of completion to students. But, they don’t carry enough value in the job market.
  • Providing real-world certifications, regardless of location is another challenge

Purely in terms of courses offered, this is starting to change, as these startups expand offerings by partnering with international universities. MOOCS are slowly evolving into blended learning—mix of online and traditional college. Critics argue that blended model will be better than the one existing entirely on the internet.

Here, we will talk about few models which are moving exactly in that direction.

Massively Empowered Classroom

Microsoft Research, which has offices in Bangalore, is working with universities on massively empowered classrooms (MEC) that provide online lectures, forums, and quizzes to engineering undergraduates at many different schools taking the same computer science course.

MEC project is designed to bring the highest quality classroom material to every undergraduate engineering student in India. In July this year, it launched online lectures covering university curriculum material for the Algorithms partnering with Gujarat Technological University, University of Pune, and Visvesvaraya Technological University.

Microsoft Research India is running this pilot to understand how online educational systems might be used to improve learning for Indian college students.

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