CourseraMountain View, California-based online education company Coursera has announced Coursera Learning Hubs, an initiative that will offer people physical spaces where they can access its Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for free. In India, Coursera has tied up Lady Sri Ram College (New Delhi), Learning Links Foundation (has offices in 10 Indian cities) and Bluebells Schools International (New Delhi).

International partners include U.S. Department of State, Digital October, Overcoming Faith Academy Kenya (in collaboration with PiCreate and Tucklets.org), TAPtheTECH, LEARN. TT and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT). It has also invited any organisation that is interested in joining the initiative to sign-up by filling this form.

Coursera offers courses in various fields ranging from arts-technology and  economics to law. The Hub framework aims to improve the accessibility and support for online education, especially for those students who may not have access to the Internet at home. As per their plan, students can take Coursera courses at these learning hubs and participate in interactive learning sessions with facilitators in their area.

This is very similar to the initiative launched by Bangalore-based Jaaga a few days back called Jaaga Study. This one-year course on computer programming uses Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) from various sources online to conduct classes offline. Jaaga Study was selected as one of five global winners in the ‘Reclaim Open Learning Innovation Challenge’ conducted by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, the MIT Media Lab, and supported by the MacArthur Foundation, and programme will be launched in January 2014 and is currently accepting applications.

It’s worth noting that MOOCs are gaining in popularity in India; we are the second largest market for MOOCs just behind United States, and 12% of edX‘s users are from India. The main problem with MOOCs has been the high drop-out rate which hovers around 90%. In Coursera’s case however, that might not be a big worry as the transfer of information happens in a physical space rather than via a browser, where bunking a class is as easy as closing a tab.