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India, Bellwether for the MOOC Movement


To appreciate the potential impact of online education, look abroad. In India, MOOCs have grown so fast that some are beginning to wonder whether they could soon become the dominant educational force there. In the FT, Karan Khemka argues that India, with its massive college-age population, considerable number of English speakers, and shortage of domestic schools, is the perfect place for MOOCs to gain a serious foothold. Western MOOC providers seem to have noticed this as well:

Many Mooc providers are already bundling courses into “packages” that roughly correspond to short certificated programmes. Universities still fear offering Mooc degrees, which could cannibalise fee-paying courses. But that will not stop ambitious education providers in emerging markets such as India offering real-world qualifications….

India lacks higher-education places but foreign universities face barriers to entry. So why not tap the Indian market through Moocs in combination with targeted assessments?

While it is unlikely that Moocs will dramatically change the economics of going to college for an American teenager, Moocs could be transformative in markets where there is not enough capacity to meet demand for university education. Just as some developing countries have bypassed fixed-line telephony for mobile solutions, Moocs could help developing countries to leapfrog the bricks-and-mortar model of higher education. And universities might be able to do well from them: for higher education, the fortune may indeed be at the bottom of the pyramid.

Top-tier schools like Stanford and Harvard have been attracted to MOOCs as a way to expand their brand into the world’s fastest growing markets without making expensive investments in physical infrastructure. And with the announcement of new programs like Coursera’s State Department partnership to expand courses to the developing world, it looks like American schools finally getting serious about establishing a strong presence in these markets.

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