MOOCS Are Transforming Education in India

Saying “MOOCs have taken India by storm” would be an understatement. A nation with over 1.2 billion people, India is no stranger to online education and its potentials. Trailing closely behind the United States, India currently has the 2nd highest enrollment numbers across all major Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms, and we can only expect it to grow exponentially in the near future. Here’s how MOOCs are transforming all aspects of education in India:

Scaling Higher Education for All

India has surpassed China in GDP growth since 2015, and the world is acknowledging its status as the next global economic powerhouse. However, widespread education inequality, shortage of domestic skilled labor, and the disconnect between academia and industry formed major roadblocks on India’s pathway to sustainable growth. 

MOOCs have made it possible for the first time to scale higher education across the nation – anyone with an internet connection can now access free university classes from Harvard, Stanford, MIT to India’s own IIT (Indian Institutes of Technology) and ISB (Indian School of Business). Access to higher education in India will no longer bound by arduous entrance exams, limits on student enrollment, or the availability of money and time. This is great news, particularly for those who are looking into continuing education and re-training opportunities.  

Breathing Life Into Outdated Curriculums

One of the biggest challenges faced by the Indian education system is the mismatch between higher education curriculums and employer demands. The system’s traditional focus on rote academics compounded with a lack of investment on vocational training has created a large skills gap: many companies in India feel there’s a huge void between what students are taught, which often involved outdated materials and a lack of hands-on practice, and what is expected of them on the job.

Fortunately, MOOCs presents itself as a remedy for these situations. Many popular MOOC offerings are closely tied to industries in demand, such as IT, machine learning, mobile development, and self-driving cars. MOOCs are also evolving from lecture-based learning to including more group discussions, mentorship opportunities, and hands-on projects as part of their curriculums. While vocational institutes are still in the process of getting their curriculums up to speed, MOOCs are definitely breathing new life into a stagnant industry in India.

Cultivating the Indian “Ivy League”

India currently houses the world’s 3rd largest education system, but it still has a long way to go when it comes to creating “world class” universities and attracting students abroad. As a great start, India’s new head of Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) Prakash Javadekar announced his ambitious plan of creating 20 world class universities in India in early 2016.

In addition to targeted funding and creating new opportunities for faculty and students, MOOCs are being leveraged as an effective tool for branding and increasing the impact of Indian universities across the globe. There are currently 30+ higher education institutions in India with MOOC offerings on a variety of platforms, many of which like Coursera and EdX, are known for its large audience base and international reach. These MOOC platforms also offer Indian higher education institutions opportunities for fostering helpful academic exchanges and learning best practices from other universities, pushing India closer towards its goals of cultivating its own “Ivy League.”

Influencing National Education Policy – MOOCs Getting Political

Ahead of many other nations, India has taken great lengths to maximize the impact of MOOCs on the national level. In 2016, the MHRD announced that it would include distance/open learning (DOL) and MOOCs under a special category in its new National Education Policy due to increased government attention.

Meanwhile, the Indian government also announced an official partnership with Microsoft to launch the nation’s first, proprietary MOOC platform – SWAYAM. All residents in India will have the option to enroll in courses and earn eligible credit on the platform, making university education a truly flexible and digital experience for many. The government also set aside funds to support content development and instructors, with plans to dedicate a specific department under the MHRD that oversees the development and standardization of MOOCs in the nation.

MOOCs in India are truly revolutionizing its education system from ground up. Not many nations have embraced the strengths and impact of MOOCs as much as India has. MOOCs have proven to be a success in India, as evidenced by rising enrollment numbers, high completion rates, and continuous digitization. We’re excited to see the many possibilities MOOCs have in store for India’s future.


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