On August 6th ‘10, the world woke up to Bill Gates saying, “Five years from now, you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world, on the web for free,” at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA. “It will be better than any single university”. Today, being half way there, traditional university education is threatened by the phenomenon that is the World Wide Web.
It was in 2010 that I heard of MOOCs and just three years later, they’ve created a massive stir in the world of post-secondary education. MOOCs are online platforms where video lectures and study resources are available free of cost, for anyone who signs up. The cherry on the cake is that the lecturers are from reputed universities around the world, a few being MIT, Harvard and Stanford. So, the MOOC platform meant that I could listen to what the students at MIT (yes, THE Massachusetts Institute of Technology) were listening to in their class.
It gave me instant wings to fly and fly far. MOOC lectures are extremely convenient to access; you could even be on the bus listening to them. It’s a classic global classroom simulation, where all the students who sign up for a course are part of a common mission – education. These MOOCs provide scope for discussion forums and interaction among students. This intellectual sphere therefore, also helps build diverse social spheres and cultural perspectives. Today, there are a number of MOOC platforms that offer incredibly diverse classes, from a vast range of international universities. This means that you could be studying one stream at college and at the same time receive formal instructions on subjects that you’re interested in (but can’t take at a traditional university).
I, for example, am an Engineering Major, but I’ve taken MOOCs on dance, philosophy, public speaking (which had over a hundred thousand students enrolled), film critiquing and even songwriting. With MOOCs, there’s practically no cap on what you could choose to study. To help you evaluate your understanding of the provided material, MOOCs are graded and some are also credit based. Another bonus is that since they’re evaluated, you will receive a certificate of completion.
Colleges from around the World are offering MOOCs now through platforms like EdX, Udacity,Coursera and many, many others. Students from around the world come together with one commonality- a deep interest in the subject. Meanwhile, it’s interesting to note that India still has only about a third the number of MOOC users as the US does. But, that still makes it the largest market for MOOCs outside the States. Why us? Probably because India has the largest population of university-age students in the world (94m and growing).
When I started with MOOCs, I never thought I would take away from it as much as I did. The experience is phenomenal in terms of the exposure I received. Formal instruction is available on a plethora of subjects and isn’t limited to conventional university ones. If you want to push your limits while expanding your horizons, online education is the answer. It helps equip you with the skills and tools required to thrive in an ever-demanding industry. Indeed, what Bill Gates said resonates perfectly with what we’re witnessing today. The web has truly proved to better than any single university. So, if you haven’t already, it’s time you stepped into this dynamic world of online education. It could take as little as a devoted ten hours a week to steer your life in a new direction.
- Ahima Keshava, Bengaluru