shrill voice echoes

Saturday, July 26, 2014


When the Indian born Satya Nadella was announced as the new CEO of Microsoft this is what he said,"I am a lifelong learner who buys more books and signs up for more online courses than he could ever complete.I am just crazy ambitious in the 15 minutes I have in the morning. You know, I'm trying to listen to a neuroscience class or something,
         Self learning unequivocally has been the highest form scholarship.
Greatest geniuses and freethinkers were self taught in many ways. Eg. Aristotle,Da Vinci ,Einstein and even Bill Gates to a great extent. What astonishes me now is the amount that people pay to earn lofty degrees. On one hand we talk of the internet spreading its tentacles in every possible nook and cranny of our lives and on the other the skyrocketing costs of getting a higher education degree. In this day and age when Google has answer to every question. Why then go for the expensive alternative?
  My views have been contradicted by people telling me that computers cannot replicate the classroom experience . The best of the teachers come at a price and that the college and hostel accommodation and infrastructure need to be paid for. Clearly education in such a case is bound to be the privelege of the rich. The challenge of the time lies in making education accessible to everyone. This will upgrade skills and make the work force more employable which in turn will strengthen economy. It was probably because of  this reason why the former govt had launched the NPTEL stream on youtube where IIT professors were asked by the MHRD to upload their class lecture in video format so that the rest of the country could utilise it. Economist Jagdish Bhagwati had expressed that he was bullish in advising erstwhile Education Minister Kapil Sibal to harness online education to employ the workforce. It was probably this reason why the current budget emphasised using online training programs. “ To take advantage of the reach of the IT, I propose to allocate a sum of Rs.100 crore for setting up virtual classrooms as Communication Linked Interface for Cultivating Knowledge (CLICK) and online courses.” Said Mr. Jaitly

   In what is now known as the disruptive technology in education MOOC(Massive Open Online Course) is here to break such myths(or atleast I hope so). The sci -fi writer and visionary Issac Asimov had predicted long back that there will come a time when Man will use a tool that will disseminate information in waves and going to school will become redundant. I am not sure if Pink Floyd had heard Asimov while making the song "We don't need no education".

   What started with a few DIY (do it yourself) videos and Khanacademy is now burgeoning into the gen- next education tool. Having been an active learner and MOOCer ,I can't believe how befitting coursera has proved to be.While tomes were always available,the audio visual form of lectures is more comprehensive than any other form. I personally download these lectures . The courses are spread over a month or two. Each week is afresh with new lectures. On an average there are 6 lectures per week. Each lecture being only 10 to 15 minutes long. You can download them on a weekly basis on your smartphones. I personally spend 15 minutes after lunch or dinner and go through these lecture while strolling(multi tasking at its best!) . You could go through them while commuting on  metro or while sitting on the local bus en route office. Then take half an hour on Sunday to fill up the weekly  tests. The gamut of courses range from medicine,business,economics,philosophy ,statistics ,management and engineering.

  The websites certify you on course completion if you clear the cut off marks. Websites like coursera,edx,udacity,iversity have most of their courses for free. You get a certificate of accomplishment mentioning your name on these certificates. However If you want a verified certificate with your picture on it and a certificate of distinction with your final score  you may have to shell out a sum of 40$. This too isn't  much as most of the universities are of international repute.The courses have active forums where you can shoot a question to the professor or connect with international students and learn from each other.
     On the flip side,statistics also suggests that many students who sign up for these courses don’t always complete them. Though a lot of people enroll for courses,but only a certain percentage is able to sustain the discipline  and rigour to finish the courses. A few of my inquizitive friends roll into too many courses at one time,and end up finishing none.I would advise them to go for one course at a time.  This is because one has to be self motivated for learning through this medium just as is the case with other certification exams.Another issue lies with the  acceptability of these certifications.While the US is accepting MOOC with  hyperlinking your  certificates  to  add credentials to your resume,the trend has still to be accepted in India. Marissa Mayer's Yahoo has tied up with with coursera and is sponsoring courses for its employees and so has Mc Afee.

    Most Importantly,It is the passion for knowledge and learning that needs to be kindled. Freethinkers and self learners will get massive leverage through these programs.  Only then can we harness MOOC for skill enhancement and  nation building. Here is a TED talk that will provide you food for thought on similar lines . In a country teeming with below poverty lines families’ children,a concept like this would work wonders.


1 comment:

anusia said...

Very nice and realistic post.Keep posting.