From forensic science, environmental chemistry, cognitive science, anthropology and social psychology to financial management, managerial economics, Vedic language and literature. From artificial intelligence, management of libraries, Indian culture and art to population studies, petrology, retail management and silkworm crop protection… there is a wide range of options in massive online and open courses (MOOCs) if you want to learn more about a subject or add value to your resume. Meant for senior secondary, bachelor’s level and postgraduate level students, these MOOCs have been launched by the ministry of human resource development and University Grants Commission (UGC).
The portal for MOOCs called Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) aims to offer about 2,000 courses under a network/cloud of 80,000 hours of learning that can support 10 lakh concurrent users and up to three crore learners. Of these, more than 200 courses are currently available. Click here for more.
SWAYAM has been developed under a four-quadrant approach using audio-video methods, e-books, illustrations, text, case studies, research papers, and self-assessment. It includes curriculum-based courses covering diverse disciplines such as arts, science, commerce, performing arts, social sciences and humanities subjects, engineering, technology, law, medicine and agriculture.
Elaborating on the idea behind SWAYAM MOOCs and how they will help learners, Prof AK Bakhshi, chairman, Centre for e-Learning (CFeL), SGTB Khalsa College, Delhi University, that has developed 42 of the first set of 200 MOOCs, says, “These online courses have been developed by a team of senior academicians and are expected to enhance the gross enrolment ratio in higher education without compromising with the quality. These courses will also help in bridging the digital divide in the country. Anyone can enrol in these courses and upgrade their knowledge in a particular area and earn certificates even if they are working and cannot formally enrol in conventional courses.”
Learners from conventional universities can earn credits for up to 20% of their courses through these MOOCs. For remaining courses, they can use it as supplementary material. “Teachers can also benefit a lot as they can enrol and can access all the e-content,” says Professor Vimal Rarh, deputy director, CFeL, who is also a member of the UGC Task Force Committee for MOOCs.
What’s unique about the courses
The SWAYAM portal will host MOOCs which are highly interactive and can be accessed on computers/laptops or even smartphones. “MOOCs have e-content, activities and assessment spread across weeks as per different credits along with other features such as introductory videos. For example, for all our 42 ePGPathshala MOOCs, the learner will be completing the course in 15 weeks, out of which there are two weeks (8th and 15th week) for revision and assessment. The MOOC coordinator along with teaching assistants will facilitate the discussion forums and answer learner queries. For students seeking credits, online assignments submitted by them will also be graded by the teaching assistants with an appropriate feedback mechanism,” says Professor Rarh.
For the e-content developed for these MOOCs, a blend of various technical tools have been used keeping in mind the subject and topic requirements. “The ultimate aim is to present difficult concepts in a simpler way for the learners. We have also used graphics, visuals and animation, etc in videos. Our MOOCs are a manifestation of how technology can be used to enhance the quality of education in the country,” she says.
However, the biggest challenge in the development of e-content is to enrich static content through multimedia. “The static content needs to be enriched with videos, audios, animations, simulations and graphics to make self-learning of a virtual reader a great learning experience,” adds Professor Bakhshi.
Assessment and evaluation
The parent institution will give the equivalent credit weightage to the students. The host institution and the parent institution will be responsible for evaluating the students registered for their MOOCs courses.
The evaluation will be based on predefined norms and parameters. A comprehensive evaluation throughout the length and breadth of the course will be done through specified instruments like discussions, forums, quizzes, assignments, session examinations and final examination.
The exam can be conducted in online or offline mode. The final marks/grade will be communicated to the students and his or her parent institution (where he or she is enrolled as a regular or part-time) within four weeks after the end of final exam.
As per the UGC (Credit Framework for Online Learning Courses through SWAYAM) Regulation, 2016, there are six National MOOCs Coordinators, nation-level agencies designated by the government, for coordinating the online courses and for overseeing their quality in a designated sector of learning. These include National Mission in Education Through ICT, NPTEL (a group of 7 IITs and IISc), Consortium for Educational Communication, Indira Gandhi National Open University, National Council for Educational Research and Training and National Institute of Open Schooling.