Are MOOCs Not Democratic?

Aaditya Tiwari
3 min readFeb 22, 2017

There is a Sanskrit Shloka, ‘Amantaram Aksharam Na Asti, Na Asti Moolam Aushadham, Ayogyah Purusho Nasti, Yojakah Tatrah Durlabah’. It means there is no word from which a Mantra cannot be formed, no plant which does not have some medicinal properties, there is no individual who is not capable, what lacks is the presence of the facilitator. This shloka assumes that there is a basic intelligence in all individuals, all they need is a guide, a guru who can show them the right path. Swami Vivekananda too used to say ‘Education is the Manifestation of the Perfection already present in Man’.
Indian Education System has for too long been mired by those who think that it is the teacher that teaches and only then a student learns. There is an inherent doubt in the ability of a student that they can learn. This very doubt has stifled original thinking in our students. They are always looking for external aids to learn even when they have the resources. Teaching in India has become a one way process. Instead of cultivating an environment of learning we have a culture that promotes rattafication. The basic skill to learn independently seems to be absent from our education curriculum.

Massive Open Online Course as the name suggests are on a web based platform that can be accessed by one and all to choose from a large repository of courses. A student sitting in a distant place can access best of the courses and be self-reliant. A student’s learning will not be defined by the place she is in or the college she attends. MOOC also empowers the student to be free from the restrictions of a defined course. Today most jobs require an individual to have an inter-disciplinary approach while the colleges in India are still fixed on the one course one syllabus mode. The very fact that someone is trying to mint money from this mode cannot be a reason to reject the entire platform of learning and if someone suggests this, they can only be called regressive.

Prof Apoorvanand in his article cites the case of San Jose State University where the Department of Philosophy faculty members refused to include MOOCs from other celebrated Universities on the basis that exact same social justice course cannot be taught across the country. The faculty wrote, “Departments across the country possess unique specialisations and character, and should stay that way. Universities tend not to hire their own graduates for a reason. They seek different influences. Diversity in schools of thought and plurality of points of view are at the heart of liberal education.”

While the wisdom of the learned Professors is not in question, the very argument made against MOOCs falls flat where uniformity is being promoted in garb of protecting diversity. Clearly MOOCs will provide much more diversity to the class and bring in many more perspectives and unique experiences. If at all it is the inconvenience of getting out of comfort zones and questioning a singular world view.

MOOC as a platform is set to revolutionize the landscape of education in the country. It will take the education from closed corridors of university campuses to distant places and to students who wish to learn against those who spend time in campuses sitting on dharna and blocking academic buildings. It is one intervention that will truly democratize education by giving the choice of “learning” to the student.

(My reflection on the article of Prof Apoorvanand where he made an argument against MOOCs.



Aaditya Tiwari

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