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MOOC - ‘Personalising’ Universal Education Access

A “massive open online course” is aimed at unlimited participation and open access using the internet.

A look at the history of mankind shows how our ancestors learnt and how the societies and communities shared its knowledge through various formal systems of learning methodologies. While some of the civilisations did not encourage learning-for-all in the name of self-created social hierarchies, it was the beginning of the previous century when learning started being available as an open-access. Distance learning appeared in the form of correspondence programs early 20th century. In fact, distance learning was also delivered using radio and TV! Earlier this millennium, we saw usage of the internet to deliver online/e-learning. 

MOOC 

A “massive open online course” is aimed at unlimited participation and open access using the internet. In addition to traditional course materials, such as recorded lectures, case studies, group discussions, MOOCs offer interaction with other students to facilitate interactions amongst students, teachers and tutor communities. 

The term MOOCs was originally coined by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island in 2008, for a large online class taught by George Seimens of Athabasca University and Stephen Downes of Canada's National Research Council Canada. They wanted to explore the idea of interactions between a wide variety of participants made possible by online tools, so as to provide a richer learning environment than traditional tools would allow. In this first global attempt of a new idea, 25 students attended the course on the campus of the University of Manitoba, and over 2000 students from around the world participated online. The proof of concept of the new idea had been laid out well.

Two Silicon Valley start-ups, Coursera and Udacity, embarked in the year 2011 / 2012 on a bold effort to supply college-level courses for free over the Internet to learners worldwide—regardless of whether they were enrolled in a traditional college or university. The Harvard and MIT-based non-profit edX quickly joined the field. 

Pros & cons 

The recent rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has generated significant media, investor and user attention for their potential to disrupt the traditional modes of education through ease of access and free or low-cost content delivery. MOOCs offer the potential to enable access to high-quality education to students, even in the most underserved geographies. Universities have been impacted by the development of information technology and the introduction of innovative learning tools to deliver effective, just-in-time, and personalised learning methods. Covid impact on the formal physical location-based learning has been huge and educators have sought newer engagement methods. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are changing how people can access digital knowledge, creating new opportunities for learning and competence development.

Those critics who are not enamoured by the MOOC have a fair point that most people who start a MOOC, don’t finish; studies indicate that only around 4% of MOOC users who sign up for a program, actually complete the course!

Hybrid models of MOOCs 

There is growing interest in “blended” or “hybrid” courses that combine face-to-face instruction with online instruction. In some respects, almost every course taught today is a hybrid and incorporates at least some digital element. 

Many tutors circulate class notes and assignments electronically. Many encourage their students to view videos and other supplementary materials online. Students often submit papers and problem-sets electronically and receive feedback on their assignments in the same format.  This popular idea of using digital learning is the idea of “flipping the classroom.” A flipped classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning, focused on student engagement and active learning, giving the instructor a better opportunity to deal with mixed learning levels, student difficulties and differentiated learning preferences during the in-class time. 

In a flipped classroom, lectures are recorded and viewed by students at their own pace. The flipped classroom allows more class time to be devoted to more active learning. In a flipped classroom, 'content delivery' may take a variety of forms. Often, video lessons prepared by the teacher or third parties are used to deliver content, although online collaborative discussions, digital research, and text readings may be used. The flipped classroom intentionally shifts instruction to a learner-centred model in which time in the classroom is used to explore topics in greater depth and create meaningful learning opportunities while students are initially introduced to new topics outside of the classroom.

The Flipped Classroom Model offers a good opportunity to enhance traditional teaching and to meet the requirements for the competence orientation, diversity orientation, digitisation and personalising education content based on user requirement. Asynchronous online courses are attractive to institutions because of their low marginal cost and their potential to expand markets substantially by offering credit-bearing courses to students in distant locations.

MOOC & India

SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds ) is a programme initiated by the Government of India and designed to achieve the three cardinal principles of Education Policy viz., access, equity and quality. This is done through a platform that facilitates hosting of all the courses, taught in classrooms from Class 9 till post-graduation to be accessed by anyone, anywhere at any time. All the courses are interactive, and are available, free of cost to any learner. The courses hosted on SWAYAM have the components of Video lecture, reading material (including notes, audio-visuals) that can be downloaded/printed, self-assessment tests through tests and quizzes and an online discussion forum for clearing any doubts. 

This ambitious plan that uses the digital backbone and the reach of the government is an appreciable one. This MOOC initiative in India could make a far greater number of Indians literate and formally educated.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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