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Our conversation With EDX CEO Anant Agarwal

Anant Agarwal is the CEO of edX, an online learning destination founded by Harvard and MIT. Anant taught the first edX course on circuits and electronics from MIT, which drew 155,000 students from 162 countries. He has served as the director of CSAIL, MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. He is a successful serial entrepreneur, having co-founded several companies including Tilera Corporation, which created the Tile multicore processor, and Virtual Machine Works.

Anant won the Maurice Wilkes prize for computer architecture, and MIT's Smullin and Jamieson prizes for teaching. He is also the 2016 recipient of the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize for Higher Education, which recognized his work in advancing the MOOC movement. He holds a Guinness World Record for the largest microphone array, and is an author of the textbook "Foundations of Analog and Digital Electronic Circuits."
We got a chance to interact with him regarding edx.


Q: What is the status of online Education (MOOC) India and Worldwide?
MOOCs have been a popular topic in the education industry in the past few years, and as we stand amid this decade, it's encouraging to evaluate how online learning has grown and to predict future trends.

MOOCs have clearly been a game-changing initiative. On edX.org we currently offer more than 1,300 courses in everything from Business management to Computer Science to The Science of Happiness to engineering and English language, and we see an overwhelming response from learners across all ages keen to engage more with online education. MOOCs have the potential to create massive  prospects and opportunities for students, employers and educators. They are not only bringing education to more people, they are also tailoring the learning experience to meet the needs of tomorrow's students, universities, and employers.

Blended learning is a trend we see in education - we see MOOCs as being completely synergistic with the traditional university model. As professors and universities produce MOOCs and run MOOCs on the edX platform, they are also incorporating these online courses in their campus classrooms. In blended classrooms, the on-campus university course can leverage the power of MOOCs to free up classroom time for interactive collaboration and discussion, testing, and problem solving.

Today, many universities have a four-year program. However, in the future, we see a change.

At edX, we embrace an unbundled approach to education, unbundling credit, time and content to create an approach that does not require learners to spend four years on-campus. By creating more opportunities for learners to take courses online and earn credit, we see new pathways to campus emerging for learners everywhere. Learning will be a mix of initial courses through MOOCs followed by on-campus learning and finally taking up a job in the last year while taking MOOCs, becoming lifelong learners.

At edX, we are embracing the unbundled approach to education. One great example is that we have partnered with Arizona State University to create Global Freshman Academy, a first of its kind collaboration that offers full university freshman level online courses for credit.

EdX is also collaborating with Universities in India and around the world and with various channel partners to offer blended learning and imparting job-ready skills backed by edX certifications and pathways to university programs to make Indian students more employable. 

As a further step to help learners advance or launch their careers, edX launched MicroMasters programs, a new category of Master’s-level online education to bridge the knowledge gap between higher education and the workplace. MicroMasters programs offer in-demand knowledge and a cost-effective, flexible pathway to an accelerated on-campus program or to career advancement. Offered in subjects ranging from artificial intelligence (from ColumbiaX) to cybersecurity (from RITx), business management (from IIMBx) and supply chain management (from MITx), MicroMasters courses are created by esteemed edX university partners, valued by top companies and linked to specific career outcomes.

Q: It is accepted as a blended learning solution but still struggling to be accepted as a standalone degree for employment in India.(a)What restricts these courses to be accepted like classroom education despite tests and credits?
I think it is just a matter of time. India as a nation has been used to the traditional way of education. However, the fact that India is the second biggest learner base for edX,  after the United States, speaks volumes about the kind of recognition MOOCs are receiving in India. Employers now are giving importance to MOOCs but it will take some time before being accepted as a standalone degree for employment in India.

As a response to the growing acceptance of MOOCs among Indian corporates, in the last year, edX has made significant corporate and strategic advancements in India. Chief among them include the launch of edX for Business site in December of 2016. 

EdX for Business provides Corporate L&D solutions for the evolving workforce, offering access to thousands of in-demand courses from the world’s best universities and leading institutions by creating a flexible and convenient way to empower employees to gain deep knowledge in highly relevant fields like IT, business management, data analytics and more. With edX for Business, companies can develop the workforce they need through customized solutions that allow them to train, engage and benefit employees in a cost-effective, flexible and scalable manner.

"With the pace at which the business scenarios are changing, having a future-fit workforce is becoming increasingly important for business. Online learning has the potential to revolutionize education. MOOCs and blended learning, will pave the way for ubiquitous learning. EdX for Business addresses high quality learning and development needs without having to manage the high cost debate. We would like to congratulate edX and are confident that edX will be instrumental in democratizing education in the country." said Dr. Aloknath De, CTO Samsung Research Institute, Bangalore.

b)    What is the scenario across the globe?
EdX’s reach extends around the world, with representation from every country on every continent. Learners all across the globe come together on edX to engage with each other while accessing high-quality educational content from the world’s top universities and corporations. The 11 million strong community of edX learners truly demonstrates how the power of MOOCs can be harnessed on a global scale, creating a community of learners with a shared passion for knowledge. This global MOOC movement is helping to improve education both online and on campus, as more institutions and organizations embrace the power of online learning and come together to innovate around how MOOCs are paving the way for non-traditional pathways to higher-education.


(c)     Do you think it will replace classroom learning in future?
MOOCs won’t replace universities, but rather enhance the quality of education by incorporating blended learning. In the future, education will either be blended or fully online. Purely face-to-face education will exist only in the history books. In blended classrooms, the on-campus university course can leverage the power of MOOCs to free up classroom time for interactive collaboration and discussion, testing, and problem solving. This model creates better efficiencies in the classroom and can foster a better quality of education overall for the money. And, the blended model exists beyond the university. We recently partnered with NIIT to redefine the online education space in India using a blended format.  Under this partnership, the live synchronous delivery capability and on-ground student servicing capability of NIIT will be combined with the world class MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) provided by edX and its university partners to offer futuristic talent development programs to learners in India.


(d)   Any tie- up with employers and universities to add these credits in the academic?

The workplace in India is changing more rapidly today than ever before and employers are in need of highly-developed talent. Meanwhile, college graduates want to advance professionally, but are realizing they do not have the career-relevant skills that the modern workplace demands. The MicroMasters programs (see above for more information) address this mismatch between business and education for learners, employees and employers, by providing access to courses that focus in-demand skills, like Business ManagementEntrepreneurshipUser Experience (UX) designAndroid Development and allowing learners to advance their career and employers to upskill and reskill employees. MicroMasters programs are helping to create a skilful, successful 21st-century workforce in India.

Working professionals often struggle to leave their job and upskill themselves with a full time qualification. MicroMasters programs provide learners with a flexible and affordable way to gain the knowledge they need to launch or advance their careers. For additional insight into how edX is working directly with corporations, please reference the answer provided above.

Q: How do you (Edx) see India as a market for MOOC Courses and what are your offerings and plans for India?
India has always been a priority market for edX. India makes up 11% of edX’s global learner base and has consistently been the second largest population of learners behind the United States Along with offerings from Tier 1 global institutes, edX also has strong partnerships with Indian institutions e.g. IIT Bombay, IIM Bangalore, BITS Pilani and blended learning partners e.g. NIIT and Pearson to impart job-ready skills to Indian learners. We look forward to continuing to grow our presence in India and to offer Indian learners more and more resources that will allow them to improve their lives and advance their careers through online learning.

Q: Please share current figures on following: Number and type of courses offered, popular courses in India and other countries, tie-ups, and student enrollment in India and other countries?
edX offers 1350+ courses from over 110 institutions across the globe. With over 11 million global learners and over 1 million in India itself, edX is growing from strength to strength. Some of the most popular courses globally are –
·       Introduction to Computer Science (CS50)-Harvard University

Some of the most popular courses for Indian learners are –
·       Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel - Microsoft
·       Introduction to Python for Data Science - Microsoft
·       Introduction to Computer Science - HarvardX



Q: How does a certificate program or MOOCs help in securing a job?

In India and around the globe, skilled workforce populations are on the rise, and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and other online courses can offer a necessary competitive edge in any market.  Additionally, skills needed for employment are changing faster today than ever before. The jobs people will have five years from now, may not even exist today, which is why continuous education is exceptionally important in today’s job market.
In a recent survey of edX learners, we found that 47% of edX learners listed their edX certificate on their LinkedIn or resume. And, we've heard from many individual learners who say edX courses help them secure a job, like Cheryl and Akshay.

For example,  Akshay Kulkarni an edX learner from India, explains how edX helped him gain a job at Microsoft. With the help of edX, he took the Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python by MIT. After this he went on to take Introduction to Computer Science  offered by Harvard University, Data Science for Genomics from Harvard. He also took on Engineering Software as a Service from UC Berkeley and was a community TA for these courses during the next term. All these edX courses and the SaaS courses from UC Berkeley in particular played a huge role in him getting a job at Microsoft.

Q:What is the minimum age to start taking up certificate courses and why?
There is no minimum age and courses offered on edX are open to all learners, everywhere. Courses range from high school level to university introductory level to more advanced topics. For example, courses in MicroMasters programs are graduate-level courses. Some courses offered on edX might have prerequisite knowledge, and if a course has suggested prerequisites, they will be listed on the enrollment page for that course.

Q:How can taking courses on edX help to advance your career?
Whether you’re looking to change careers or want to advance in your current role, edX courses can help you gain the skills to succeed and Verified Certificates can help you showcase your knowledge. Adding qualifications in the most in-demand fields like computer science, languages, data science and programming to your resume, CV or LinkedIn profile can help you to stand out to employers, making you a more attractive candidate for a promotion or even giving you the opportunity to expand your horizons and switch careers entirely. Please also reference information shared re: MicroMasters programs

Q:Please share the company names you are working with, in India, for corporate employee training. What are the different models in which you are working with them?
We're working with NIIT to offer blended learning using edX courses to Indian learners who require live tutor support. edX courses bundled with Instructor support from NIIT is available across NIIT Learning Centres, Training.com for individual learners as well as Corporates looking to upskill their workforce.

Q:Does edX have an edge over other MOOC players in India? Why?
“As the only leading MOOC provider that is both nonprofit and open source, edX is driven by our mission to democratize and re-imagine education by increasing access to high-quality education and creating a culture of continuous, lifelong learning.

Building on this mission, edX is bridging the knowledge gap between education and the workplace. By working with prestigious universities and top corporations to develop programs in the most in-demand fields, edX is empowering learners and professionals to gain deep, career-relevant knowledge. For example, the MicroMasters initiative (more info included in the above answers) offers a credential with a pathway to credit and helps learners launch or advance their careers, and MOOC programs, like XSeries, offer a deep dive into exciting, career-oriented subjects.”


Q:How much does an employer save if they train their employees on MOOC platforms?
We would not want to say this. Please use the messaging below:
India is one of edX’s fastest growing geographies and we will continue to invest in the country to drive this growth. MOOCs are a new-age model of learning that is now well-recognized by learners as well as the wider ecosystem. We are now in our second stage of growth with increased scope of corporate and strategic collaborations in India. At edX, we have seen global companies saving up to 80% on their L&D spent by replacing corporate training methods with MOOCs. We are working with several corporates in India to adopt best practices and maximise ROI by offering business support services e.g. customised catalog integration on their own portal, ease of access and performance tracking



Shrey Kapoor is a Tech-Enthusiast and Founder of Techphlie.com, which is one of the India's Top Tech News Website.Even Forbes and many other renowned publishers took his articles reference .Shrey is a social media analyst, strategic thinker and creative writer who is passionate to deliver the best, latest possible Tech-News to his followers and subscribers.

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