Bringing class-rooms to your desktop | An interview with Dhawal Shah, Founder,...

Bringing class-rooms to your desktop | An interview with Dhawal Shah, Founder, ClassCentral.

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MOOCs stand for Massive Open Online Courses. These are free online courses from universities around the world (e.g. Stanford, Harvard, MIT) offered to anyone with an internet connection.

Several popular MOOC provider platforms have emerged, such as Coursera, Udacity, EdX, and NovoEd, that partner with universities and professors to offer MOOCs on their platforms. One of our tech ninjas, Akshat Goel, took a course in Social Network Analysis by Prof. Lada Adamic from the University of Michigan from Coursera last year and had a really good experience.

MOOCs are designed for an online audience, teaching primarily through short (5-20 min.) prerecorded video lectures that you watch on weekly schedule when convenient for you.  They also have student discussion forums, homework/assignments, and online quizzes or exams.

Although initially many MOOCs were focused on computer science and engineering, MOOCs have expanded and now a wide range of subjects are being offered, in fields such as business, medicine, music, social science, literature, the humanities, and more. New courses are being added every day!

Class Central is an aggregator of MOOC course listings and continually looks for and bring high-quality MOOCs from reputable providers (and not just from the major providers).  Dhawal Shah, Founder, Class Central  who is a Computer Science graduate from Georgia Tech and a software engineer in the silicon valley, shares with us his tid-bits of his journey in the short interview below.

Q) How did the idea of ‘Class Central’ come to your mind?
A)
Class Central was something that I built for myself and launched over the thanksgiving weekend in Nov 2011. At that point I had been working at my first full time job after graduation. The AI class from Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norving was wrapping up and Coursera (which hadn’t taken on the name Coursera yet) had announced around a dozen courses, but each course had its own separate website. So I just built a one page website which lists all the courses. All I wanted was to sort the courses by date so that I could schedule which course can be taken when.

Q) What is your vision/mission behind class-central?
A)
 We want to build an ecosystem around MOOCs that will guide learners towards their educational goals cc.

Q)What hurdles did you face while starting?
A)
Not many. Launching a website is really cheap now-a-days. There are lot of tools, resources, open source frameworks which have reduced the entry barrier as well as allow you to build products in a short amount of time. Using Bootstrap (CSS framework) and Symonfy (PHP framework) I was able to launch Class Central in a weekend.

Q)How does Class Central work? Do you have collaborations with online courses providers or its web crawling?
A)
Its a combination of both. There are good number of providers who send us regularly updated course listings, while there are some that we crawl. We also get tips from our users about new courses.

Q)According to the data received by you from your users, what are the top providers? What are the top courses people are opting for?
A)
Currently there are around 1300 courses. This number is constantly going up with new courses are being added every day.Going by which courses people are clicking on – Coursera, Open2Study, and, edX are the providers which get the most clicks. Generally the most popular courses are introductory in nature. Introductory programming/CS courses do well on Class Central.

Q) You are providing services since 2011. What difference do you see between the courses being offered then and now?
A)
The first wave of MOOCs in 2011 were overwhelmingly concentrated in the Computer Science/Engineering category. But we are now seeing the emergence of courses that tackle a broad array of topics. Significantly, the Humanities (comprising numerous sub-categories) has edged out Computer Science/Engineering to become the largest category.

Q) How has the response been till now?
A) The response has been great so far. The Class Central website is responsive and works well on mobile/tablet screens. More than 8 lakh people have used Class Central to find MOOCs. After USA and Russia, India is our third largest audience.

 Q) What advice will you like to give to people opting for these online courses?
A)
 Do it for the knowledge and not the certificate. And please don’t cheat!

The above article has been adapted from  Techaloo.com.

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