In a step that could significantly push the bar for quality online education in the country, IIT Bombay has embarked on a commendable mass online education programme that will provide free online courses and give access to high quality, IIT-style education to Indian students in Indian languages.
On the Republic Day, Prof Devang Khakhar, Director of IIT Bombay, launched three Mass Open Online Courses (MOOC) in computer programming, thermodynamics, and signals and systems from the institute’s IITBombayX platform developed in collaboration with edX, a not-for-profit initiative by MIT and Harvard.
Describing the initiative as “pathbreaking”, Prof. Khakhar credited Prof. Deepak Phatak of the Computer Science and Engineering Department for bringing it to IIT Bombay. “The rapid evolution of technology makes it imperative for students and teachers to incorporate the various offerings of technology in their learning process,” he said, launching the first three courses.
The Introduction to Computer Programming will be 16-week course in two parts aimed at computer programming students. The course on Thermodynamics, designed for mechanical engineering students, will last 12 weeks. Signals and Systems will be a 16-week course in two parts designed for electrical engineering students. The students will get an honour certificate of achievement certifying successful completion of the course after they have qualified in the tests.
Simultaneously, IIT Bombay will also offer training workshops for invited teachers on effective teaching and mentoring students in online courses for each of these three subjects under the Train 10,000 Teachers or T10KT programme of the institute.
Mass Open Online Courses or MOOCs have emerged as the most inexpensive mechanism for offering quality education online to a very large number of learners and in addition to traditional course materials like videos, readings and problem sets, it incorporates aspects of active learning, collaborative discussions on forum, online quizzes etc.
Global educational institutions are increasingly adopting MOOCs and given India’s need for reaching out to largest possible number of learners, MOOCs are seen as the best way forward to ensure quality in education and vocational training.
“We have about 3500 colleges, but the academic infrastructure is not up to the expected levels and quality of education suffers. In other institutes, computer programming students may be given 10, 20, or 30 line programmes to write, but in IIT Bombay, students write 200 to 250 line programmes. So, simply put IITBombayX stands for extended online educational services from IIT Bombay and IIT-style learning,” Prof Phatak told The Hindu on Thursday.
He said the IITBombayX courses will be initially offered in English and Hindi, but eventually in all Indian languages as the project expands nationally. “The courses will also be important for collecting data on student behaviour and their approach in online education which we could share with other educational institutions,” Prof Phatak said, adding that anyone from 15 year-old to 75-year-olds can register for the courses, and there is no limit on how many can enrol at a time.
Prof Phatak said the IITBombayX platform will soon offer other courses like a course in agriculture designed by Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat), and a course by Tata Institute of Social Science on open source animation tools. “A chemistry course by Dr. Mangala Sunder of IIT Madras is also being planned,” he said.
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