Seven leading IITs, Infosys, TCS, Cognizant and industry lobby Nasscom are coming together to launch a bunch of free, online courses that could potentially help 100,000-150,000 people a year get high-quality education and make them job-ready.
The courses will be offered using the model of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which is globally creating an upheaval in the world of higher education. The first three courses in computer science are expected to roll out this October.
“This programme is particularly relevant to India because of the high number of young students who need to be educated and trained,” says Lakshmi Narayanan, vice-chairman of Cognizant.
MOOCs make high-quality education from top universities accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world, online and for free.
The model was rolled out in early 2012 back-to-back by two start-ups, Udacity and Coursera, both emerging out of Stanford University. This was followed by edX, MIT-Harvard’s online courses platform.
About 15 faculty members from the seven older IITs will form the faculty and are currently designing the course.
The participating IITs are Delhi, Madras, Kharagpur, Kanpur, Roorkee, Bombay, and Guwahati.
“We are currently working out the details of the programme in consultation with Nasscom,” says Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director, IIT-Madras.
“We are also hoping to rope in more than 500 mentors on a voluntary basis from industry and academia,” adds AK Ray, professor of the Centre for Educational Technology at IIT-Kharagpur.
This is the biggest industry-academia partnership to help students and professionals access top-quality course content and meet specific industry demands. “For the first time, students from both rural areas and metros will have access to the same content, channel, tests, experts and certification,” says Cognizant’s Narayanan.
People who take the courses will be eligible to write proctored exams for a minimal fee and get certificates. For the computer science courses, IIT will give certification. For the foundation courses, industry will give certificates. It could also be a joint certification with IITs.
“Students from the second year onwards in science and engineering from any college can take the courses that will be offered multiple times a year,” says Andrew Thangaraj, associate professor of electrical engineering at IIT-Madras. “It will make a difference in their career progress.”
Google is providing its Course Builder platform for hosting MOOCs. HackerRank will provide their web portal, where students can practise their programming assignments and get them verified and graded.
Till now, IITs have been offering open courseware on the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL). This is a repository of video lectures created by professors of the seven older IITs and IISC-Bangalore available to anyone, anywhere in the world on Youtube etc. However, NPTEL does not give any certification; neither does it have any interaction or synchronised classes. In the next phase of NPTEL, all these seven IITs and industry have joined hands to offer courses on the web-based MOOCs platform, which will also offer certification.
“Cognizant has been discussing this idea with academia and industry for the past three years… Cognizant will make available infrastructure at its training facilities during off-peak times, such as weekends, to enable students to take tests and get certified,” says Narayanan.
Initially, IITs will run three mini modules of a computer science course, including programming, algorithm, and data structures. Each module will have 12 lectures and there will be a total of 36 lectures over 12 weeks.
Going forward, the plan is to repeat this model in VLSI (very large scale integration) embedded systems and other branches of engineering and general sciences.
“Industry is getting involved with inputs on applicability and problem-solving aspects with the aim of making students more industry and job-ready,” says Sandhya Chintala, executive director, sector skills council, Nasscom, who is leading the programme for the industry association.
Industry has also shared a brief on the skills needed for 67 entrylevel job roles. IITs will make these available on MOOC platform. “This is the first time that industry has articulated the performance of an individual at an entry-level job role. This clarity will help formal or non-formal training institutions to get people job-ready,” says Chintala.
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