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MOOCs in India, Cont'd


Last week, we noted that India is poised to become the global leader in MOOCs over the next few years. The country has all the characteristics that would drive people into the arms of MOOCs: lots of English speakers, a large number of young people with internet access looking for jobs, and a dearth of prestigious local schools that could pull them in. This week, the FT has a new post examining the state of play for MOOCs in India.

The piece cites a number of interesting statistics, but most notable is the chart (above) comparing the age distribution of users in India and the United States. What stands out immediately is the massive age gap between the two countries. In the United States, MOOCs are most popular among young and middle-aged adults, who are likely pursuing the courses either for personal edification or as a way of brushing up on certain skills for their jobs. In India, however, MOOCs are overwhelmingly patronized by those under 25, and sometimes by kids as young as 15. As the FT notes, this suggests that Indians are likely taking these courses specifically to prepare them for their careers, which makes employer buy-in doubly important:

These are people of a working age with big ambitions.

“Education is a local catchment area business,” Faruqui adds. Understanding their new target audience in these diverse, growing markets will be the key as Mooc platforms steer away from being a temporary fad and back on course to revolutionising education.

Indeed. It makes perfect sense that young people in the developing world without easy access to elite schools would see MOOCs more as a stand-in for traditional higher-ed rather than as a supplement, and it’s important for American MOOC providers to take this into account when designing new programs. Fortunately, MOOC companies appear to understand this as well, and are already beginning to act on it.

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  • Andrew Allison

    My take-away is somewhat different, namely that slightly more than 80% of Indians, and 50% of Americans who have visited a MOOC are under the age of 35. In order to draw any conclusions from this, we would need to know the relative percentages of the populations under that age. It’s roughly 25% in the US, and over 65% in India! In other words, the rates are about what one would expect given the demographics and relative access to the Internet.

  • free_agent

    The numbers at the very top of the graphic, “0.08M” and “0.23M”… First off, they aren’t very large; that’s only 80,000 and 230,000 out of student populations measured in millions. Secondly, they appear to be swapped, as the left-hand bars are about 2.5 times as wide as the right-hand bars.

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