It is not easy to identify a revolution when we ourselves are living inside it. It is like standing at the eye of a storm – oblivious and unperturbed. When YouTube was launched, I could hardly find any use case of this video sharing application. It may be fun, alright, but nothing important could come of it – so I thought. But in time, the storm reached my backyard – shaking the foundation of my beliefs. The whole world got captured in videos – recipe videos, review videos, “how to do it” videos, social meme videos and of course – Khan Academy videos. Salman Khan -the faceless super-patient teacher who cleared all difficult concepts – right from zero level while sketchily writing on a black “paint” window.
One revolution breeds another –The internet bred YouTube, YouTube bred Khan Academy and Khan Academy in turn gave birth to the MOOC evolution. Entrepreneurs and teaching organizations began to take notice of this “learning through recorded videos” concept. Today we have an entire range of open learning centers serving different requirements of learners. Coursera, EdX, Udemy, Udacity and such others have made our time the best time to learn.
- Coursera : Focuses on specialized courses and offers longer term learning.
- EdX : Initiative of MIT and Harvard – provides collection of semester long courses from 70 top grade colleges.
- Udemy : Focuses on development of practical skills, comparatively shorter term learnings.
- Udacity : Focuses on vocational courses for professional and offers “nano-degrees”.
Individuals are unanimous regarding the benefits of MOOC– it has brought world class education to a personal internet connected device – whenever and wherever. But the existing “brick and mortar” academia is equivocal about it. Some see it as a passing fad, not worthy of a headache. Some are scared and feel that MOOC has the potential to kill traditional academia – as digital music has done to the record label companies. There are others who believe that MOOC can co-exist and supplement the existing educational infrastructure.
I belong to the last mentioned group of academics. MOOC is not a passing interest – it is definitely going to leave a lasting impact on how we acquire knowledge in the near future. It will grow richer and stronger by the day because of the support of able entrepreneurs and great academic institutions. On the other end of the spectrum, MOOC has its own shortcomings which will prevent it from becoming the only solution of knowledge sharing. As for example, pre-recorded MOOC courses are too rigid to adapt to the common level of a group of students. So some courses are too easy for some and too difficult for others. It lacks the human element that a live interaction provides. Many MOOC courses are subscribed by learners, but are abandoned halfway because of lack of motivation.
Institutions and MOOC can coexist and can build on each other’s strengths. I have listed a few ways in which we as an institution can benefit from MOOCs.
- The power of ubiquitous internet: making learning available wherever and whenever. The course materials are concisely arranged and ready for consumption for the eager student.
- It can set a benchmark for teachers. A MOOC produced by the best professor of a discipline can serve as a reference to junior teachers. They can learn the nuances of teaching, concept delivery and methodology from their best. It can serve as a faculty development function.
- It reduces the load on teachers who can focus more on individual difficulties of students or even be able to spend more time on research. The repetitive part of teaching can be reduced.
- Cross-pollination of ideas and teaching methodologies between fellow teachers – which is otherwise difficult to obtain.
- Great advertisement for the institute – it will be able to create its own global identity, not through any promise or historical performance, but by demonstrating what it is now and what it can deliver in the future.
- It will complement the placement process by making the recruiters well aware of the quality of education that the institute maintains.
- There is a sense of pride to be a part of a global fraternity of teachers, offering a personal drop into the ocean.
- There is a sense of satisfaction in meeting social obligations. It is fulfilling to know that by the effort of preparing a MOOC, economical retardation will not stand on the way of knowledge acquisition of a deserving student somewhere in the world.
Knowledge is a resource which defies laws of conservation -it grows as it is shared. Standing in the eye of a knowledge storm I will end my article with the words of my superhero Salman Khan from his 2011 TED Talk – Let us reinvent videos for education:
Imagine what it does to a street kid in Calcutta, who has to help his family during the day, and that’s the reason he or she can’t go to school…. Imagine what happens if that student in Calcutta all of the sudden can tutor your son, or your son can tutor that kid in Calcutta. And I think what you’ll see emerging is this notion of a global one-world classroom. And that’s essentially what we’re trying to build.
By Dr Swapna Sen