Think back to when you were in school and about the conversations you had with your favorite professor. Do you think it is possible that such a person can be replaced by a computer? The answer is no, and it would be silly to even try. The reality is that these exemplary professors spend most of their time grading homework or delivering the same lecture year after year, and therefore are not able to provide the necessary knowledge and skills sets, to students, required to secure a job.
However, online learning implemented with the right course design can be extremely effective in providing the students with the necessary skill sets. The US Department of Education conducted a study in 2009 and found that students in online learning conditions on average performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. In addition, it is believed that the online courses can greatly enhance on-campus learning and grant instructors more flexibility in their teaching methods. This proves that technology can free up professors from the more routine, repetitive aspects of teaching so that they can have even more time to spend with students providing quality knowledge which is theoretical and practical and thus can be used by the students in their professional lives.
To support this, a "blended learning" approach to education is needed, wherein students can view lectures online prior to coming to class and then use classroom time to pursue more interactive learning exercises and group discussions. The blended learning approach has been accepted widely and is widely used by some of the most progressive universities on their college campuses around the globe.
Another way MOOCs can provide support to the students and working professionals is through single courses and specializations. While a lot of people are pursuing single courses consistently, there are those who wish to pursue specializations which are course sequences. These sequences allow the person to quickly build a foundational knowledge in a career relevant field like data science or digital marketing or others, thus enhancing the knowledge and skills at the same time. The success of specializations can be seen at Coursera where corporate organizations across the globe, such as e-commerce firm Snapdeal, tech giant Google and others are helping in creating final projects for the specializations with real world applications.
Although online education has been accepted globally, corporate organizations in India have slowly begun to accept it. While companies want job candidates with advanced skills that didn't exist 5 - 10 years ago like software development, data science, and digital marketing, there aren't many such candidates. Through various studies, it is evident that the skill shortages prevent a majority of employers in India from filling vacancies. According to a survey of employers, around 78 percent of them stated that they are concerned with the growing skills gap in India while 57 per cent mentioned that they currently have open positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates.
But with the advent of MOOCs, the number of Indian students and employees who wish to gain the necessary knowledge and skills which they need to acquire in order to succeed in their jobs are turning to online courses. It can be noted that successful job candidates are taking a greater role in getting themselves a foundational knowledge in the skills they need throughout their careers. Every day, we hear from people who believe that talking about the skills they learned on Coursera and other online educational platforms in a job interview was the primary reason they got offered a job.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has outlined the training of young people for work as one of the government's four priorities alongside expanding Internet broadband access across the country. While the greatest challenge for online education in India is internet connectivity in rural areas, it has been deemed that in the next 6 years, India will need more than 40 million spaces at universities for its college-aged population which is double the current number of 20 million students enrolling in higher education institutions. As infrastructure increases, so will the popularity of online education as a means of gaining new skills.
The Indian government is also taking a bold but necessary step by prioritizing skill building and employability among its people. Education Minister Smriti Irani has conveyed the government's interest in using online education to reach out to a larger number of learners in the country. Looking ahead, access to online education for people around the world will continue to grow dramatically and thus it the duty of the online education platforms to be more focused on making learning more convenient and relevant for learners. (As told to Dylan Dï¿½Souza)
Dr. Richard C. Levin
He is the CEO of Coursera an education technology company that offers massive open online courses (MOOCs). Prior to becoming the CEO, Dr. Levin was a professor of economics at Yale University. Serving from 1993 to 2013, he is the longest tenured president of Yale University. He has published two books, The Work of the University, and The Worth of the University.