Rain or shine, go and learn

Interview series

Prof. Kannan M Moudgalya, IIT Bombay

Chemical Engineering

May 2018 (I) By Dr. Veenita Shah


Prof. Kannan M Moudgalya, from IIT Bombay, has conducted several courses involving flipped classroom model as well as hybrid MOOC model of delivery. These course include CL692.1xA17 Digital Control, Part 1 & Part 2; FDPICT001x Use of ICT in education for Online and Blended Learning; and FDP101x Foundation Program in ICT for Education.

While there are no significant differences in the core content of a traditional classroom teaching and online learning, we agree that MOOCs are fundamentally different in many other aspects. Technology and analytics today allow the design of sophisticated MOOCs, which were not feasible earlier. Prof. Kannan shares that a traditional classroom instructor requires much less planning as compared to content creation and preparation for MOOCs, which requires a lot more effort for many reasons. “An instructor does not wish to make mistakes in MOOCs since it is a permanent record of content online. Additionally, copyright material can’t be utilized for MOOCs, so instructors need to create and prepare their own course content from scratch, which doubles an instructor’s job in preparation for the course. However, an instructor doesn’t mind investing so much time and effort in creating a good quality content, keeping in mind the reach and reusability of the content,” he explains.


“Unlike educational institutes, MOOC instructors don’t run out of time due to cancellation of classes, which leads to a skewed coverage speed in the later part of the semester.”


Prof. Kannan believes that the choice between a self-paced and an instructor-paced course depends on the context of learning. “I am using the IITBombayX platform to offer my course (Digital Control) to students at IIT Bombay. It is a semester-long course with pre-schedule timeline for each week. I need to synchronize the course with the classroom speed; and hence, only instructor-paced learning works in such scenarios. On the other hand, self-motivated learners can benefit well from self-paced MOOCs as well,” he told.

Online learning is critical in a country like India where millions of people aspire for learning from outstanding teachers and excellent study material. Unfortunately, many of these aspirants do not have access to good teachers. As stated by Prof. Kannan, “The online learning methodology of MOOCs is one of the most appropriate modes of meeting such objectives through which an admired teacher can disseminate his/her knowledge and content to thousands of students across the country. All students are treated equal without any discrimination. In a MOOC, unlike in a regular classroom, the learners do not miss out on the study material, even if a class is missed. Unlike educational institutes, MOOC instructors don’t run out of time due to cancellation of classes, which leads to a skewed coverage speed in the later part of the semester. Thus, the unwarranted stress on faculty as well as the students is avoided in MOOCs, where rain or shine, you go and learn.” In addition, Prof. Kannan explains that the inability to cope up with the speed of the teacher can also be managed through MOOCs as these online videos allow leaners to focus, replaying the hardest part of the lecture that they are trying to learn, and also take a break.


“MOOCs should not be burdened on students as an add-on classroom activity, in addition to their existing course curriculum.“


One of the considerations for an instructor is to be precise and clear in his course content. It takes planning and effort from the instructor’s side; however, he/she should be careful to design optimum content matter for it to not overwhelm the students. “Careful design of courses with small video snippets and quality content will ensure engagement of learners in MOOCs. However, MOOCs should not be burdened on students as an add-on classroom activity, in addition to their existing course curriculum. In this regards, the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AIECT) are considering to commit 20% of a college score credit towards MOOCs. Several universities are preparing the incorporation of MOOCs in their curriculum as elective courses. Furthermore, we should encourage and create a mechanism through which talented teachers from any institute can create MOOCs, and make it available. Strong commitment, along with appropriate resources, infrastructure and support are required to train qualified teachers to become MOOC providers,” says Prof. Kannan.

Some of the current challenges with MOOCs in our country include the existing assessment mechanism, personalized guidance, and the adaptability of technology for the participants. The fight against the pervasive technological barrier should be continued to provide educational access to learners across the nation. Additionally, Prof. Kannan states that the spontaneity of an exceptional faculty member may be missed out in MOOCs. This spontaneity could have enlightened the students with his/her wisdom and experiences, which were never meant to a part of the class. “This may happen with only one percent of the instructors, whereas the modern pedagogic aids of MOOCs benefit a much larger crowd in becoming better teachers. Students can post their questions on the forum to the instructor, and also participate in discussions and queries from fellow learners. If we broaden the meaning of the word classroom to make it virtual, it can be as good as or, at times, better than a classroom due to the scalability of the program and reusability of the content matter,” he said.

Prof. Kannan also compliments the IITBombayX support team for their significant contribution in making the conduct of MOOCs simpler for instructors. “In an activity like MOOCs, contribution of a support team is extremely important, and it will be very difficult to sustain without the same. The unwarranted stress of scheduling the video shoots, uploading courses on the website, and proofreading of transcripts was seamlessly handled by the team,” he told.

At last, Prof. Kannan encourages learners to participate in MOOCs, which provide a lot of liberty to pick and choose, study, and even learn content that requires some pre-requisites. The flexibility provided by MOOCs takes care of the geographical differences as well as different time schedules of teachers and learners. With the growth of innovative technologies, MOOCs are evolving with each passing day to provide a more potent, collaborative and personal learning experience.