The LexGaze Weekly - WE THE PEOPLE

MOOCs proliferating the education system: Are we choosing quantity over quality?

Arijit Sanyal

Issue 11 | August 30, 2020

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), with seamlessly integrated modules and flexibility, have changed the way people perceived digital education. EdTechs such as Coursera, upGrad, Udemy, BYJU’s etc. have provided an overwhelming number of courses during this pandemic to revive the cycle of education which had nearly collapsed. While a number of platforms have experienced a surge in number of registered users, many such courses are far from being trustworthy, as the modules are not necessarily in conformity with the needs of Indian students. This issue can be linked with the scarcity of funds and trained professionals which has forced the EdTechs to adopt a “one size fits all” approach while designing their courses, leading to the quality being compromised.

Having a straight jacket formula has left negligible scope for feedback as the courses are available right after their launch without going through a review mechanism. Moreover, to keep the cycle of competition alive a good number of websites in association with start-ups have proliferated the education system and created a sea of affordable MOOCs. The availability of an array of courses on the same subject has compromised with the quality of modules offered, barring a few, indicating that price isn’t the only thing to go down with the advent of these courses. On the other hand, courses offered by EdTechs having a global presence have been offering a wide variety of courses tailored as per the market requirements, but have remained out of reach for a considerable portion of students in India because of affordability issues.

Though EdTechs based locally have been providing these courses at affordable prices, improper market research and lack of trained professionals who have been curating the modules have directly impacted the overall efficacy of the same. This is where EdTechs with global presence have made the difference, as their modules are based on diverse needs and a prospective learner may select one which suits their requirements. To deal with this problem, it is expected that these platforms adopt a wider approach by tailoring courses on various levels and departing from their current approach of releasing courses solely on the basis of competition and marketing. Furthermore, courses curated by global players have to undergo a strict review process initiated by the partner university and the platform offering the same jointly before being launched which ensures the quality of the services being offered whereas their Indian counterparts are driven by profit motive which has led to students enrolling for multiple courses solely because of the price and not for the content being offered. This should be dealt with by bringing in a regulatory body which ensures that the modules confirm to the current market needs and offer multi-tier learning instead of the current “one size fits all” approach.

To further ensure that enrolment is not guided by monetary factors, the NEP must be amended to create an extra-curricular credit bank, requiring students to complete courses/diplomas in their respective disciplines, to ensure they register for courses which will assist them in advancement of their careers. 

Furthermore the current proposal of credit bank must be made more inclusive in order to recognise trainings and courses offered by global EdTechs, in absence of which students will be forced to compromise on the quality, apart from monetary constrains as the global players tend to offer monetary concessions to those who cannot bear the cost for the same. Considering that the authorities act on the above suggestions, another major problem with MOOCs have been the mode of evaluation. A majority of MOOCs, global as well as local tend to rely on simple assessment consisting of MCQs or peer graded assignment. A platform which allows the course takers to assess their own submissions and mark one another cannot be relied upon, let alone considered authentic. In order to deal with this efficiently western universities have devised an evaluation mechanism requiring the course takers to submit application-based assignments, while departing from traditional submissions based on rote learning.

Indian EdTech market is expected to grow seven times and valued at $ 1.7 billion in years to come (World Economic Forum). For a market with potential where enrolment has not been a problem, quality is an area of primary concern, considering the impact it has on the future human capital. With a prospective certification board at the helm of affairs, necessary aspects such as pricing, content, skills, evaluation etc. can be regulated thereby paving the way for horizontal development in the field of digital learning. Education primarily rests on brand name and India being the hub of eminent institutes should be the one leading the race for developing and exporting MOOCs to other nations and not the other way around, which has unfortunately been the case.