The Human Resources Development Ministry of India has announced plans to launch SWAYAM, a Massive Open Online Courses platform that will offer for free more than 2,000 courses to nearly 10 million students across the country.
According to internal sources, most likely the Prime Minister Narendra Modi will present SWAYAM at an official ceremony on August 15. The HRD Ministry chose the tech giant Microsoft as a technical partner for the initiative over the next three years.
SWAYAM stands for Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds. It will also feature an Indianised version available at no additional costs to students whose level of English is insufficient.
The SWAYAM platform will provide high-quality courses in all disciplines not only to undergraduate and post-graduate students, but also to school-level students in 9-12. According to government officials cited by The Economic Times, once finished the interactive platform will feature more than 2.5 lakh hours of classes which will make it the biggest directory of interactive e-learning resources under a single heading.
A dedicated team of Microsoft professionals will set up the state-of-art application for which the company and All India Council of Technical Education signed a deal of Rs 38 crore. As per the contract, Microsoft will be in charge for SWAYAM for three years; after that, AICTE will take over.
Upon the launch of the platform, the UGC (Credit Framework for online learning courses through SWAYAM) Regulation was finalized by the Ministry of Education, notes India Today.
As Akshaya Mukul of The Times of India writes, the participating students may transfer their earned online credits into their academic record of their home university.
All the online courses will be available on SWAYAM by partner institutions identified and approved by a dedicated National MOOCs coordinator. Two times a year all the universities' registrars will be given a list of online classes offered in each semester. Physical facilities such as scientific and computer labs, libraries, and more will be at students' disposal for free by the parent institution. The successful completion of e-learning course will lead to a certificate issued by the parent university through the host institution. A senior government official commented:
"This would allow any student in India to take the courses offered by the most qualified teachers on SWAYAM, especially bridging the academic deficit experienced in the backward areas and helping improve standards of education."
The HRD Minister Smriti Irani first announced the SWAYAM initiative as a part of the measures undertaken by the Ministry in its first 100 days in office.
The move is a welcome step in the country, which is trying to combat weak infrastructure and a lack of highly-qualified teachers. According to academic professionals, the innovative platform is also an attempt to increase the quality of teaching and to modernize and democratize the local higher education, IIT Bombay notes. Experts in education also added that such an initiative is a great asset for motivated students from unprivileged backgrounds with limited financial resources.
T.V. Prabhakar, a professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT-Kanpur, commented:
"MOOCs have the potential to become a teaching/learning platform, with universities certifying the competence (degrees) and providing the opportunity for networking and developing other skills. In this scenario, MOOCs are like textbooks."