Millions of undergraduate and postgraduate students may have the option in a few months to pursue an online course on any subject, like Indian History or Political Theory, from a university of their choice by registering on a government portal.
Under the SWAYAM project, the marks they obtain will be credited to their final score sheets and will be treated on par with any regular course pursued at a brick-and-mortar institution.
The government initiative to offer quality education online to citizens for free has split academicians with some supporting the project that they say can democratise higher learning while others argue there’s no substitute to classroom teaching.
Several experts say the move could be a major boost for higher education in India, which is perpetually battling a shortage of infrastructure and qualified teachers.
So, if you are not happy with the teaching of a particular paper at your college or university, you could opt for an online course in that subject from some other university and it will not hurt your job and career prospects.
However, not everyone is convinced the human resource development (HRD) ministry’s Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) project is feasible.
“The government will have to ensure that everyone has access to computers and internet to make use of this scheme. So access is a major concern,” said former Lucknow university vice-chancellor Professor RP Singh.
“Also, grading and marking will be an issue as some are lenient in giving marks while others are not.”
Ministry officials are confident of rolling out about 500 online courses from April under the programme, similar to the massive open online course (MOOC) system followed internationally, but concerns remain.
Why would an Indian History professor of a particular university accept the marks awarded by his counterpart from another university or institution, ask some experts.
Or, why would a particular university offer a degree for a course a part of which may have been taught and evaluated by another academy? Besides, universities do not have uniform syllabi for any subject.
“It will not be a case of a university offering a course to students of another university, but rather an IT platform for courses would be put up prepared by a group of professors and teachers. It would be properly regulated and would also be accepted by universities,” explained a ministry official.
HRD ministry officials also said all the concerns would be sorted out soon at a meeting with authorities from the University Grants Commission, All India Council for Technical Education and state universities.
“Courses by SWAYAM will be ratified by the university and this will ensure that the credit transfer happens smoothly,” said Prasenjit Sen, rector, Jawaharlal Nehru University.