MOOC at a click

Affordability and flexible access is popularising online education in India. Prachi Rege detects the speeding trend.

Affordability and flexible access is popularising online education in India. Prachi Rege detects the speeding trend.

Technology is making the world go round and this is happening with amazing alacrity Thanks to the IT boom and innovation,online education is expanding across the globe and so much more in India. The fever is catching up with students and professionals alike, who are taking to the online learning like fish to water.

Consider this. India is the second largest market for Coursera, an educational technology company founded by Stanford University to offer Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS). Experts believe that the Indian e-learning market will grow to over $40 billion in the next four years.

"It`s definitely a rising trend," says Gaurav Vohra, CEO, Jigsaw Academy, which offers online courses in analytics. The benefits of online learning are huge and will have a huge impact on traditional learning. In time classroom learning will have to include some component of online learning as well, he predicts.

The roots of the e-learning mode of education in India could be traced to initiatives taken by institutions like NIIT Netvarsity and IGNOU, which started the virtual campuses in the late 1990s. Although these were online education programmes with a limited scope, they nevertheless brought about a new wave in the country`s education industry. "This particular medium of education delivery became prominent only toward second half of the last decade," says S Nagendra, executive VP, MeritTrac Services Pvt Ltd, part of the Manipal Global Education (MaGE) and an online testing and assessment services company.

One of the major reasons for rise of online education is its accessibility to large numbers. In case of India which constitutes17% of the world`s population, it is a fact that educating its vast population spread is a challenge. Moreover, the demand for education has increased considerably in the last two decades. "Traditional education institutes don`t have the wherewithal to address this need. As a result, a large number of degree as well as short, quick and focused certificate programmes are offered on the online platform," explains Nagendra.

Referring to research reports, Vohra suggests that in the year 2003, 40,000 instructors were teaching 150,000 online courses to more than 6 million students across 55 countries. Since then, the global e-learning market has grown by 900 per cent, and it is predicted that by 2019, 50% of all classes taught will be delivered online. "Online education is economically viabile and is not constrained to a classroom. As a result, universities like ours can expand their reach and offer training to talented students across the world," reflects Robin Goldberg, CMO, of the Silicon valley-based Minerva University, which has opened admissions to undergraduate students from across the world.

Minerva is waving off tuition fees for the first year and will then charge $10,000 per year for the next three years of the course. With the current turmoil in the economic climate, this has and will be a win-win situation. "This is almost 25% of the cost that foregin students pay in the US for an inhouse course," says Goldberg, who believes that economical aspect of good qaulity education at a low price is always an opportunity and never a risk.

They will offer the first two semesters of the undergraduate programme in San Francisco and the subsequent semesters will be conducted in seven countries across the globe. "Students will be given a choice of seven countries. So they can either study the course in their home country or a country of their choice. A professor from San Francisco will deliver the lecture online," explains Goldberg.

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Distant past

1840: Sir Issac Pitman, the English inventor of shorthand, came up with an ingenious idea for delivering instruction to a potentially limitless audience: correspondence courses by mail.

1873: the first official correspondence education program, called the "Society to Encourage Home Studies", was established in Boston, Massachusetts.

1895: Distance learning was legitimized as a term used by the University of Wisconsin in their catalog.

1911: The University of Queensland in Australia founded its Department of Correspondence Studies in 1911, which also relied on Australia`s postal system.

1921: First radio courses, offered by Penn State College.

1953: The University of Houston made distance learning history when it began offering the classes on television.

1960: PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations), the first computer assisted instruction system developed at University of of Illinois, was widely used with more than 1000 terminals worldwide.

1962: Stanford University implemented a type of online education that allowed students and teachers to communicate with each other with instructions and notes online.

1982: Computer Assisted Learning Center (CALC) was discovered in Rindge, New Hampshire, as a small, offline computer-based, adult learning center.

(source infographic- http://


India is playing a major role in the growth of online learning opportunities throughout Asia. Over the past few decades, it has developed numerous world-class universities and colleges which are fast becoming destinations for some of Asia’s best and brightest, and their online programmes are experiencing a similar boom. Part of the explosion of interest has stemmed from economic concerns, as many simply can’t afford to take two or more years off from work to attend a traditional college. Online schools help to solve that problem, and with programmes expecting to bring in a whopping US$1 billion in revenue by the end of the decade, it’s clear that distance learning has staying power in India. While home-based schools are doing well, including the popular IITs and private schools like Sikkm-Manipal University, American universities are also bringing online ed to India, offering courses at MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Cornell to Indian students.



Learn online

1) Sikkim Manipal University -

2) Symbiosis Center for Distance Learning -

3) Annamalai University -

4) Osmania University -

5) Gurukul Online -