The recent phenomenon of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has caused ripples in the otherwise serious business of higher education. In a country such as India, MOOCs and what they promise to offer appear to be a natural solution to the challenge of delivering high quality education to a large number of young engineering students bridging the employability gap. However, the phenomenon is in its early years, and several lacunae have been discovered and some have been addressed as well. While the promise of educating everyone in a scalable manner is probably some years away, several simple and practical goals are immediately achievable through MOOCs, particularly in a country such as India.
The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) has been focussed on online learning for more than a decade now. NPTEL is a project run by the IITs and IISc Bangalore, and is funded by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. Through its portal http://nptel.ac.in, NPTEL offers one of the largest collections of video and web courses in engineering and allied areas.
NPTEL has recently embarked on offering online courses through its new portal https://onlinecourses.nptel.ac.in/. The portal is powered by Google, and the certification is in partnership with NASSCOM, India's umbrella organisation for IT and other high tech industry. This new effort has been termed NPTEL Online Certification or NOC, in short.
While the delivery of courses is similar to MOOCs, a few important innovations in NOC make for a good fit in the Indian milieu. Firstly, the certification is based on a proctored exam through a test administration service. Secondly, the certification is being provided along with an industry recognised body. Thirdly, the certification has an eligibility clause - only students who score above a certain cut-off can get the certificate.
NPTEL's partnership with Google has been enduring. All NPTEL courses have been available through a dedicated YouTube channel for several years now. The online courses portal is built on Course Builder - an open-source MOOC platform released by Google. The portal has important innovations such as an online edit/compile/run system which is useful for programming assignments.
From March to July 2014, an online course on Programming, Data Structures and Algorithms was run on the portal https://onlinecourses.nptel.ac.in/ with great success. The certification process is in the final stages of completion. Currently, two new courses - Introduction to Programming in C and Basic Electrical Circuits - are open for registration. It is our hope that
NPTEL Online Certification (NOC) proves to be invaluable for both students and employers, who can benefit from high quality learning and certification in the future.
a guest post by Professor K. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras and Chairman, Programme Implementation Committee (PIC), NPTEL