BY MUKHTAR AHMAD FAROOQI
Education has been the emblem of contemporary social, cultural and economic transformation in all times. With the emergence of Covid-19 as pandemic and the resultant grim circumstances leading to the closure of conventional learning methods gave new dimension to education. Online learning had to be the alternative to minimise education losses and the technology was our rescuer in such a dilemma. Educators across the globe including ours shifted to synchronous (live or real time T/L supported by video conferencing) as well as asynchronous (self-paced) modes of teaching for continuity and content delivery.
In todays’ world, an individual can get education through different modes which may be formal in nature in which the education is imparted at a particular place under controlled environment like time table, observation of strict discipline etc. or non-formal mode of education in which education is imparted to learners according to time table suitable to them and certificate may be issued at the end of education. E-learning plays a vital role in educational growth and expansion of any nation in contemporary times. Now a day’s electronic media is flooded with ads of various e-learning platforms featuring superstars mostly from the field of sport offering various online courses. MOOCs is one such educational tool that does not operate through traditional conventions which are essentially restrictive nature having admission, attendance, examinations restrictions given and taken in a year or restrictions on subject combinations for a particular degree. In this write-up we will examine how MOOCs have been able to change the face of education within few years of its existence especially during pandemic which has almost turned three. Virtualization has mandated transition from formal to non-formal modes of education globally especially online learning.
The term MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. A MOOC is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. Massive refers to giving opportunity for connections among geographically dispersed participants (students), Open doesn’t mean just free but refers to open access, open syllabi and self-directed learning outcomes, Online points to making materials available on internet in abundance, and Course referring to structure of the online course. MOOCs are classes that are taught online to large numbers of students, with minimal involvement by professors. Typically, students watch short video lectures and complete assignments that are graded either by machines or by other students. A key characteristics of a MOOC is flexibility so that students can choose their level of participation without fees and any prerequisites other than internet access and interest in the chosen course. The term MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island. The first MOOC was a course on “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge(CCK08)” in 2008 created by educators George Siemens and Stephen Downes. It was designed for group of 25 enrolled fee paying students to study for credit. The first MOOC was introduced in 2008 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012 (Wikipedia).
There are two philosophies which distinguish the distinct types of MOOCs. One that emphasize the connectivist philosophy, and the other that resemble more traditional courses. To distinguish the two, Stephen Downes proposed the terms “cMOOC” and “xMOOC”.
cMOOCs: c stands for connectivist and are based on connectivist pedagogy which means that material should be aggregated (rather than pre-selected), remixable, re-purposable, and feeding forward (i.e. evolving materials should be targeted at future learning).cMOOC instructional design approaches attempt to connect learners to each other to answer questions and/or collaborate on joint projects.
xMOOC: x stands for extended and is based on more behaviourist approach is the type of the learning where by the learners share the ideas and there is only one instructor on the discussion. It emphasizes on coordinated assessments and quizzes.
Major Players offering MOOC
Some of the major players currently offering (either profit or non-profit) MOOC courses are:
edX: A non-profit effort run jointly by MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley.
Coursera: A for-profit company founded by two computer-science professors from Stanford offering very wide range of courses being paid.
Udacity: Another for-profit company founded by a Stanford computer-science professor.
Khan Academy: A non-profit organization founded by the MIT and Harvard graduate Salman Khan.
Udemy: A for-profit platform that lets anyone set up a course.
SWAYAM: This platform is indigenous to India and is also offering several academic as well as industry demanded skill courses. In collaboration with NPTEL and AICTE is offering several advanced courses especially after Covid pandemic which has confined us to our homes.
Apart from the above, several other MOOC platforms have been developed by the Govt. agencies for training purposes like DIKSHA (by NCERT) for teacher training as well as e-content repository for students and similar ones by respective universities/colleges for conduction of FDPs and Refresher Courses in several inter-disciplinary courses for higher education faculty.
MOOCs has been most hotly debated topics in education circles over a decade now with extremely polarizing opinions. Despite that the true value of MOOCs lies in their capacity to open up access to knowledge that previously was the preserve of a small elite. Digital divide is still the impediment in actualisation of its real objective. It offers an incredible and unique opportunity which otherwise would not have existed with formal modes of education. MOOCs is slowly transforming our teaching and learning processes particularly at tertiary level because of the following inherent advantages over the standard educational pedagogy:
Scalability: In conventional setup, if the number of students increases in a class then in most likelihood we have to revamp the infrastructure while in online setup scaling up the course batch size is a few clicks away.
Optimal resource utilization: Faculty from top institutions can teach thousands of students directly at a time which otherwise would not have been possible with formal setup thereby not the best of rare resource.
Removal of constraints: Online courses can help in removing systematic barriers like not being financially sound enough to go abroad for studies, pursuing studies while being a part of work force etc. thereby making education universally available.
Self-paced thereby allowing one to study and learn at their own pace and learning style.
The idea behind MOOC is that internet is used to bring education accessible to as many people as possible with open access being the cornerstone of its philosophy. As a result of the explosion of digital devices like smartphones, it has become easy to access online content thereby luring candidates for enrolment.
Limitations: Online courses have demonstrated that they offer valuable educational opportunities to millions of students across the globe and has revolutionized the teaching learning processes will while continuing to evolve with passage of time but real conundrum is credibility. Even though MOOCs is helping in the penetration of latest knowledge but its asynchronous nature makes them mundane as in case of recorded videos, attention span takes the toll on learner. Learning Management Systems(LMSs) utilised by respective institutions where grading is either done by machines or manually but the absence of proctored exams in most cases is debatable as it has direct bearing on the quality.
Mukhtar Ahmad Farooqi can be reached at [email protected]