Only determined people can make the most of MOOCs!

Interview series

Nagesh Karmali, IIT Bombay

Computer Science and Engineering

July, 2018 (II) By Dr. Veenita Shah


Mr. Nagesh Karmali is a Senior Manager, heading a research group in the department of Computer Science at IIT Bombay. With his broad research interest in the field of databases, analytics, recommendation systems etc., he has served as a co-instructor to MOOCs, including Introduction to Computer Programming, Foundation of Data Structures and Implementation of Data Structures.

IITBombayX MOOCs platform, being opened to people from all walks of life, caters to numbers beyond the scope of a traditional classroom. Exemplifying his experience, Mr. Karmali stated, “In MOOCs, a student is privileged with a lot of flexibility to study anywhere and anytime, and does not necessarily follow a routine. However, only determined people can make the most of MOOCs. For one of our courses, we witnessed class strength of 58,000 students, though only 2-4% of them were active on the discussion forum. This, in a way, also reflects the current MOOCs scenario, and the efforts needed towards its advancement.”


“Most of the MOOC instructors develop their own content. We can benefit more if instructors collaborate with each other to improve on the existing content, and contribute towards its novel features.”


MOOC learners are diverse, coming from many cultures, all ages and backgrounds across the nation. With diversity ranging from elementary schoolers to Ph.D.s, the desire to learn and connect with the educational community persists in these learners. “We experience a diverse crowd on MOOCs with different intellectual capacities. Some of the learners are well read and aware of the subject, and enroll only to update themselves with the current findings in the field. These participants often collaborate to share knowledge, and in effect contribute to mutual learning,” shares Mr. Karmali.

Blended MOOCs attempts to emulate our current education system, incorporating face-to-face (F2F) interactions through the use of information and communication technology. Currently, a lot of IITBombayX MOOC education involves F2F interactions, which play an important role in this learning experience of participants. Mr. Karmali states that instructor-paced or self-paced learning in a blended learning environment is the way forward for MOOCs. “Instructor-paced mode of delivery keeps learners synchronized with a regular dose of content and assessment. Though the self-paced mode provides flexibility to students, some students who need assistance during the course may also feel directionless and abandoned in this learning experience. This is also supported by our data, which shows that self-paced MOOC participants tend to drop out far more than instructor-paced MOOC learners,” he told.


“Learners’ feedback and experiences should be used to reflect back, and bring a change in the functionality of a course, if required.“


Discussion forums play a key role in most platforms, with increased engagement, enhanced motivation and reduction in dropout rates. Mr. Karmali believes that group discussions should be promoted at the forum, or through another medium for the student peers to interact with each other. The informative discussion on other forums can also be linked to MOOCs discussion forum to provide relevant and existing information. “I feel that the number of lecture videos can be reduced to incorporate more of discussion content such as articles and research papers. Small discussion groups (<15 participants) should be created for students to be able to discuss their queries and content effectively with their peers. Such an enforcement of interaction will greatly benefit the students,” he told.

“Most of the MOOC instructors develop their own content. We can benefit more if instructors collaborate with each other to improve on the existing content, and contribute towards its novel features,” says Mr. kamali. He also suggests the use of digital applications such as Whatsapp groups and Facebook to benefit MOOC learners. Additionally, upon completion of a course, a regular communication on the platform regarding upcoming course updates, newsletters, related articles etc. will keep the participants engaged and informed.

According to Mr. Karmali, planning and creating a MOOC is a daunting and challenging task. “Unlike traditional classrooms, MOOCs do not have scope for any mistakes. Videos are released to the world only after meticulous proofreading and several beta testings.” A regular classroom teaching does not demand as extensive organization as MOOCs, which require massive planning for each and every activity. Recording, editing, compressing and fragmentation are some of the tasks associated with video creation. Transcript writing and content management on the web portal are some of the additional activities to be performed with responsibility. “The team of IITBombayX is doing an enormous job with all video creation and management activities, in addition to making F2F interactions possible with remote centres all across the country,” admired Mr. Karmali.

“We have only experienced a fraction of MOOCs success in our country since it is not a part of our academic curriculum yet. We require internet with adequate bandwidth in every city and village for a large-scale geographical spread of the platform,” add Mr. Karmali. We all realize that it is impossible to achieve a 100% success rate; however, it is important to continue to encourage learners. Mr. Karmali suggests the use of analytics on MOOCs platform to study the learning pattern of participants, and utilize the same towards instructors’ benefit. “Learners’ feedback and experiences should be used to reflect back, and bring a change in the functionality of a course, if required,” he added.

Looking forward to the future, Mr. Karmali concludes, “Online learning will embrace huge success in the coming years since it provides one with personalized learning and some credentials from an esteemed university. The learners need to research and explore the diverse nature of work and skill requirements in the industry for them to make the most of such courses offered through MOOCs.”