Update (September 25): The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of a Joint Declaration of Intent between the HRD ministry and US Department of State to cooperate on the SWAYAM programme for online education. As part of this initiative, the SWAYAM platform server will be based in India and US universities will be invited to offer post-graduate academic programs with certification on the platform. More on that here.

Earlier: The Union HRD Ministry has initiated the SWAYAM Programme, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform that is expected to go live within this year. On this platform professors of centrally funded institutions like, IITs, IIMs, Central Universities, etc will offer online courses that will be accessible by all Indians free of cost. The learner will also be able to request for a verified certificate, though a small fee will be charged for that. During the first phase IIT Bombay, IIT Chennai, IIT Kanpur, IIT Guwahati, University of Delhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, IGNOU, IIM Bangalore, IIM Calcutta, and Banaras Hindu University have been brought onboard. Courses in areas such as engineering, social science, energy, management, and basic sciences, among others will be made available to learners.

It’s worth noting that during the budget presentation, earlier this year, Finance Minster Arun Jaitley had proposed the setting up of virtual classrooms and online courses for school education. He had also allocated Rs 100 for this initiative. Setting up MOOCs and virtual classrooms was one of the objectives of BJP’s 2014 election manifesto as well.

National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) also offers online courses from IITs and IISc. In fact, earlier this year in March it was the 45th most popular YouTube channel in India. NPTEL also launched a new e-learning course where it started to offer notes, assignments and tests, in addition to video lectures.

Smriti Z Irani SWAYAM Tweet

NROER update: Last year in August the Indian government had launched an open repository for school education called National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER), which claims to offer concept maps, videos, audio clips, audio books, multimedia, learning objects, photographs, diagrams, charts, articles, wikipages and textbooks for all grades in multiple languages. The HRD Ministry claims that the NROER portal has received over 45 lakh hits from 71,447 unique visitors, and that it has 13,773 registered users and contributors of e-content.

Readers will remember that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had also partnered with five international and national publishers last year in July, to provide students with online resources for English, science, social sciences and mathematics, including over 4500 animated content, 80 hours of live lectures and six hours of digitized simulation material. Government schools affiliated to the board can access these materials for free, while public schools can access the content for Rs 2 per month for classes I to VIII and Rs 10 per month for secondary classes.

National E-Library: This is expected to become operational in the 2015 academic year. The Ministry claims that this portal will assimilate content from central universities and premier educational institutions and make it available in a digital format. It also claims that the e-library will be accessible on any device – laptops, smart phones, and tablets. According to the Ministry, Israel, Norway, UK, and the UNESCO have already offered to work on this project as collaborators.

Setting up of a national e-library had also been mentioned in BJP’s 2014 election manifesto.

Know Your College Portal: This portal is expected to provide students with comprehensive information regarding educational institutes in India, including information regarding faculty, labs and infrastructure. There’s a Know Your College portal run by the Education Department of Gujarat government that’s already live. It isn’t clear if this same portal will cater to students across India, or if a new portal will be launched. Also, when will it go live? Given the number of educational institutions in India, plus the fact that HRD Minister Smriti Irani also announced that 19 new institutions will be come up shortly, including 5 new IITs and 6 new IIMs, this portal would be a great help for students.

Shaala Darpan: This initiative is expected to provide parents of students of government and government aided schools access to updates regarding their child’s attendance, assignments, and achievements on their mobile phones. The HRD Ministry claims that work has begun on this, though no fixed deadline has been mentioned.

Smriti Irani Twitter

GIS mapping of schools: The Ministry also claimed that GIS mapping of elementary and secondary-level schools in 13 states have been completed, and that it is currently underway in 8 other states. This exercise is expected to help in mapping infrastructure gaps and identify areas where more schooling facilities are required.

Campus Connect: Last month the HRD Ministry had launched a programme called Campus Connect and claimed that through it 21,000 colleges and 420,000 classrooms will be made Wi-Fi enabled. This programme is part of the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT). However, the Ministry didn’t reveal when this project is expected to be completed, or what the status of Wi-Fi connectivity or even internet connectivity in Indian educational institutes currently is.