Friday, April 5, 2019

Indian MOOCs going mainstream

There are plenty of examples of universities offering credits for MOOCs and the key to awarding credentials is a formal proctored examination at the end of the course. In some countries this can be rather expensive but in India it seems that MOOCs are being integrated into the state higher education system. According to an article in Class Central, In India, MOOCs Are Now Part of the Education System, the state sponsored MOOC platform SWAYAM offers learners the chance to sit digital examinations at over 1000 regional centres all over the country and the successful candidates get valid credits that can count towards their degrees. This national coverage means that taking an exam becomes more accessible and although candidates pay around $15 to sit an exam the money is refunded if they pass.

Another interesting feature of SWAYAM's strategy is that teachers are given the financial incentive of up to $150 per hour of online teaching (recorded video) and other rates for material development, according to a remuneration model issued by India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development. Universities can now allow students to take up to 20% of their degree programme as MOOCs thus offering greater flexibility and also recognising online education as an integral part of higher education in India. Universities can also offer other institutions' MOOCs and thereby widening their offer and making credit transfer more common.

Twice a year, institutions pick SWAYAM courses they’ll grant credit for in the upcoming term. Note that they may pick courses offered by other institutions, allowing them to tap into the strengths of schools nationwide to build richer curricula. For instance, they may leverage SWAYAM to offer high-demand courses for which they lack qualified instructors on campus.

The Indian government hopes that this scheme will help to widen participation in higher education by allowing new students to try a course, get credits and then hopefully move on from there into a full programme at a university. Maybe local centres can offer practical help to new student groups to help them learn the skills of online learning, for example in face-to-face introduction meetings to help them get started. None of this is particularly new since open universities have been working in this way for many years but it's refreshing to see that MOOC platforms can be integrated into the higher education system and offer alternative paths with tangible rewards.

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