MOOCs and the teacher

Shantanu Rooj and Vipendra Singh

Technology is changing the way learning happens, and thereby also changing the expectations that students, parents and the industry have from teachers. W.B Yeats’ description of education “as the lighting of fire not filling of a bucket” does not resonate with the kind of school education that is still being passed off as quality education. An explosion in online learning, much of it free, means that the knowledge once imparted to a lucky few has been released to anyone with a smart phone or laptop. Students invariably compare their teachers with the ones they watch on global learning platforms. The canvas has widened, the benchmarks have gone up, the aspirations are sky high! In a world where ‘Google knows everything’, learning and education has to grow to something more than just passing on of acquired information.

Massive Online Open Courses or MOOCs, bring a whole new potential to education. Several global multi-institute platforms (even in-house MOOC platforms owned by institutes) are slowly but surely creating a buzz among the administrator, teacher and learner communities. The buzz is catching momentum owing to a definite push from UGC (University Grants Commission) to adopt technology in education, availability of low-cost data packages, a variety of technology innovations making high quality streaming video at low speed internet connections possible and an increased smart phone penetration in the country.

While much of the noise on MOOCs centers on the benefits for the learners; teachers stand to be impacted just as much, if not more, than the learners. At present the dialogue is very student-centric, but we need to focus on the underappreciated and unrecognized teachers and discuss how MOOCs can benefit them as well.

MOOCs create a global brand for teachers
The best teachers, who have confined themselves to teaching in physical classrooms, would, at best, be able to teach a few thousand students in their lifetime. MOOCs create an explosion where these online courses are viewed and taken by millions of students from across the world. This creates a sense of immortality for the work of the teacher and leaves an indelible digital footprint for students to benefit. There is a great demand for good teachers from students across the world. MOOCs provide a unique opportunity for teachers to create their own brands.

MOOCs have a longer shelf-life when compared to other Intellectual Property Rights created by teachers
The essential commonality between MOOCs, books, research papers and articles created by teachers is that all of these are manifestations, expressions and proof of intellectual capabilities and knowledge of the course creator as a teacher, scholar and researcher. These online courses are stored in various libraries for very long periods of time and hence are exposed to a worldwide audience. The audio-visual nature of the content creates a better connect with the audience and good ones propagate very fast on the Internet.

MOOCs help teachers reshape the way they teach
The very process of creating a MOOC course, which includes planning of the course, deciding the pedagogy, preparing slides, listing out the supporting learning material, designing the assessments, video recording of their lectures and the final editing process is an engaging, informative and valuable experience for the teacher. It’s a new world, a new challenge, a new experience. Teachers face a new set of students who come with new expectations! It becomes important for the teacher to spend time researching the topic and to also see a few similar courses created by reputed and experienced course creators. The process is exciting and fulfilling and the final result is the overall improvement of the teaching capabilities of the teacher!

MOOCs encourage teachers to become tech-savvy
Technology is everywhere – entwined in almost every part of our culture. It affects how we live, work, play, and most importantly learn. With mobile and other wireless devices, like the Internet of Things, becoming an increasing requirement across every industry today, it only makes sense that our schools are also effectively deploying technology in learning. MOOCs are a great way to initiate a lot of teachers into using technology for teaching. First time initiators learn a lot during the process and discover new facets of technology that can help them make their courses more engaging. Once online, teachers also discover new patterns in student learning behaviour and can make suitable modifications to better the learning outcomes.

MOOCs provide analytics that improve teaching
Data analytics in education, among other things, enable bespoke, personalized student experiences, with teaching catered to students’ individual learning styles and competency levels. Schools are drowning in data from website usage, email and social networks, among other sources; this is in addition to student data, including information about assignments, activities and performance. Schools are applying tools and proven practices for business intelligence, predictive analytics, financial performance and strategy management, all with an eye toward increasing efficiencies and improving student success. Teachers can benefit from the multiple analytical tools available; both for predictive and prescriptive analytics. Predictive tools answer an important question: Based on what’s already happened, what’s going to happen next? Prescriptive answers the ensuing question: In light of what we believe is going to happen, what are the recommendations on how to best respond? These two dimensions of smarter analytics allow teachers to detect patterns that exist within the masses of data, project potential outcomes and make intelligent decisions based on those projections.

Dumbledore tells Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets, “It is our choices more than our abilities that reveal what we really are.” The advice is important for all educators because their choices around the questions will decide their future and the fate of the students they impact. Online learning is revolutionizing the world of education and it impacts every stakeholder in a profound way! Teachers need to embrace the change and prepare themselves for the winds of this revolution and re-adjust their sails! Time is running away!

Shantanu Rooj is the founding member and CEO of Schoolguru Eduserve Pvt. Ltd., India’s leading education technology company focusing on online higher education. He is a CBSE All India Topper and Gold Medallist from the Indian Institute of Technology. He is a passionate education entrepreneur, investor and speaker and also serves on the Board of Schoolguru Eduserve. He can be reached at [email protected].

Vipendra Singh is the Senior Vice President of Schoolguru Eduserve Pvt Ltd. He focuses on strategy development and implementation, building capabilities in operational analytics and driving revenue generation for the organization. He can be reached at [email protected].

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