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Open online courses: A welcome step in Indian education system

IANS November 23, 2014 13:23 IST

New Delhi: India has officially jumped on to the open online courses bandwagon with the government announcing Swayam, an initiative that aims at providing affordable and quality education to citizens for free.

The move is a welcome step in India, which battles a shortage of infrastructure and qualified teachers in higher education, with the model also having the potential to democratise higher education, experts say.

MOOCs or massive open online courses is a system aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. It does not always quantify as formal education but provides a platform to study quality courses from institutions offering them, usually for free.

The government had announced the programme as part of the initiatives undertaken by the ministry of human resource development (HRD) in its first 100 days in office with the aim to reach out to 10 million students.

HRD Minister Smriti Irani said that the initiative was undertaken in the light of concerns expressed over the quality and affordability of education. She also said that an Indianised version has been provided to students.

Welcoming the initiative, experts said that the availability of the model was a "great asset" for motivated students.

"MOOCs have the potential to become a teaching/learning platform, with universities certifying the competence (degrees) and providing the opportunity for networking and developing other skills. In this scenario MOOCs are like textbooks," T.V. Prabhakar, professor, department of computer science and engineering at IIT-Kanpur, told IANS.

Describing MOOCs to have the "potential to democratize higher education", Pushkar (one name), a professor in the department of humanities and social sciences at BITS Pilani, said that it offers India's young population a platform to get themselves an education "despite the nation's failed higher education system".