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NPTEL also takes the MOOCs route; time for govt to unify all education offerings?

National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) has launched a new e-learning course in association with IIT and IISc.

As of now, it offers a certified course on programming, data structures and algorithms targeted at second year college students, with an option to attend a test in-person at the end of the course in May or June 2014. The course will run over ten weeks with 2-3 hours of lectures per week and online assessment of work. The course is powered by Google’s open-source MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) platform Course Builder and it runs on App Engine and Compute Engine.

The programme is an initiative by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and it has tied-up with several other companies in the online education field such as btechguru.commyopencourses, and Classle. That said, it’s not clear what these tie-ups mean, or how much information these websites contribute to NPTEL and vice-versa. It already offers more than 700 courses, though most of them are just e-books or YouTube videos on specific topics. With the new course, NPTEL is looking to operate like other  MOOC providers in the market by offerings lectures, assignments and tests.

NPTEL has been recording and uploading lecture videos for the past few years and its YouTube channel has more than 13,000 videos that have received over 100 million views combined.

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Needs a focused approach

The government already has an open education website in NROER, so it’s not clear why NPTEL exists as a separate website at all. NROER is supposed to be India’s flagship initiative in open education efforts and its aim is to empower all by providing resources in multiple languages and formats. Indian government also operates Sakshat, as part of its national mission on education through ICT. All services provided on the website, such as e-books, virtual classes and testing services, are available freely under the creative commons license.

That being the case, it’s time for MHRD to consolidate all its education offering under one roof instead of creating multiple websites each with its own resource set. The idea is great on paper and the goals of these projects look good too, but the implementation so far has been sloppy much like Aakash tablets that were supposed to empower students across India. The government has managed to compile a lot of good education material on these websites, but by offering them on different websites it has become difficult for students to find the right resource they might need to understand an issue.

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