Inputs for an Article

Brief quotable answers to a request for input to a forthcoming article on open online learning.

Do you want to reduce the 'lurkers' as used in an article on your website for any reason? Which is to say, how can the courses be designed to minimise the drop-outs if at all
There's no reason to reduce the number of lurkers. They're no causing any harm, and their curiosity may eventually progress to greater engagement. When a course is open, it attract a large number of people who just want to take a look, and that's fine.

We should not confuse people who take a look and then leave with "drop-outs". The people we think of as "drop-outs" are people who have made a significant investment in time and tuition, and then fail or withdraw. In an open course, there is not such a significant up-front investment, and therefore much less concern about people who would rather do something else.

The way that MOOCs can influence career prospects of a candidate. For example- if a hopeful in India wants to use Coursera to find a job abroad- would that be a viable course of action? 

The short answer is yes. Let's not forget that when people take courses online, even Coursera courses, they learn. This improves job chances because it makes a person better qualified. Additionally, being able to cite participation in such courses - particularly with a portfolio of work to substantiate your active participation - is a significant indicator of work attitude and committment. Taking a course in Coursera is far batter than doing nothing.

How would a free online courses site make money on its own (besides grants)?

I personally see no reason why governments would not support free and open online learning. They are a far more accessible means of offering advanced education than  traditional tuition-based universities. In India I would see the provision of open online courses as a natural extension of IGNOU's mandate and mission.

I question the premise that a core purpose of an online course provider is to make money. We have to remember that in many cases the source of this money is the people least able to pay the cost: the students. Online course providers should be looking for funding from those who benefit from a mobile and educated workforce: governments and industries.

Any emergent thoughts for future growth.

I tink that open online courses will take on a life of their own. What that means is that while today the courses are offered by a single educational institution, tomorrow they will stand on their own and be accessed by a number of educational institutions to support local programs.

Companies like Coursera and Udacity who offer online courses now will learn (as we learned) that these courses need online community to best serve participants (and that participants will build such a communityh with or without the organizers' participation). As these communities grow stronger, they will assume a greater role in the management of the course.

Five best online course portals according to you- in terms of variety and quality of courses, ease of site navigation and contribution to job success 

There are not yet five online course portals - what we are seeing today is mostly lists of courses offered by a single provider. A number of sites have set up crawlers that are scanning the websites of major providers. But there is not yet a single directory that taps into the rich range of free an open learning opportunities on the web.

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