16 Universities to start MOOCs

The Central government has identified 16 universities across the country to start Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), said V S Chauhan, Member, University Grants Commission, here on Monday.

Leading educational institutions of the world have realised the scope for such programmes and are offering courses online, he said.

He was delivering the National Education Day lecture, held at University of Mysore premises.

Noting that the extent of success MOOCs could enjoy was still being debated, he said that the courses would allow students to learn from the best scholars around the globe.
While some international varsities are currently offering 800 courses across various disciplines, Indian institutes, such as IIT Mumbai, IIT Chennai and others have started MOOCs recently.

He said that thrust has been given for such sectors in the 12th five year plan. Apart from it, increasing capacities in existing universities, so as to accommodate more students, encouraging international collaboration and faculty development, were among the priorities of the Plan, he said.

“Even though varsities will have to increase their capabilities, aggressive expansion will only harm them in the long run. Gross Enrolment Ratio in India stands at 16 per cent, which is much below the global average of 27 per cent. India lags behind when compared to developing nations such as Brazil, Phillipines and Malaysia in this respect,” he said.

The low ratio, he said, was due to some unique anomalies in Indian society, which are based on gender, caste and geographic location. “We have to realise these complex problems before venturing to deliver higher education in the country,” he said.

Universities are seen as source of “marketable commodities”, where the manpower is trained for specific jobs. “The over emphasis on placement, which is a vice of the varsities, has gone beyond any discussion. Such emphasis has created a notion that placement was a commodity supplied to students who enrol for a course,” he said.

Aiming his criticism at unitary institutions, schools where courses of only one discipline are offered, he said that such institutions were a threat to a system, where students from various disciplines interacted and exchanged ideas. “Sadly, this is happening world over,” he added.

He said that the process of appointment of vice Chancelors to varsities must be streamlined. There is considerable delay in such appointments, and the delay has hurt activities of the varsities. Quoting an instance, he said that Oxford University appointed its vice chancellor, a year before the incumbent VCs tenure ends, he said.

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