MOOCs teaching enhances the professional development of an instructor


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Interview series

Professor Upendra Bhandarkar, IIT Bombay

Mechanical Engineering



 

June, 2018 (II) By Dr. Veenita Shah

Professor Upendra Bhandarkar in IIT Bombay has his key research interest in Thermal and Fluid Engineering. He has offered MOOCs several times as a principle instructor for Thermodynamics, and a co-instructor in Use of ICT in Education for Online and Blended Learning and Foundation Program in ICT for Education.

Prof. Bhandarkar feels that MOOCs teaching enhances the professional development of an instructor as it allows you to realize your own mistakes while teaching, and permits you to amend them. “Viewing oneself or another instructor delivering a lecture, demonstrates tips to strengthen your pedagogic approach,” he told. Regarding his experience with MOOCs, he further added, “The first thing that strikes you in virtual teaching is the camera, and the lack of eye contact with the students or feedback from them. The instructors need to put in that extra effort to create short snippets of focused information, which can easily be processed by the learners. It takes an amount of brainstorming from the instructor in content design, its creation and organization.”

“MOOCs, providing pertinent and focused information in short videos, are extremely beneficial to working professionals, lacking the time to enroll in full-time courses to update their skills.”

Self-discipline and motivation in learners play an extremely important role in online learning. MOOCs provide an excellent platform to impart knowledge to a broad spectrum of scholars. However, it is upon the learners to choose the level of engagement and degree of participation as per their goals. Explaining his take on different audience and modes of deliveries in MOOCs, Prof. Bhandarkar says, “Targeting enthusiastic learners aspiring for knowledge should be a step forward for MOOCs, rather than enforcing education on disinterested students. Professionals with 2-3 years of experience in the industry recognize their skill deficiency, and are enthusiastic to learn. For such professionals, who are self-motivated to learn for their career, self-paced courses function the best, accommodating their work life. In our country, most of the student population is still not mature enough to realize that the benefit of learning is for self, and not just to earn a degree. I have realized that at least for our colleges, instructor-paced mode works better.”

MOOCs allow the masses with the opportunity to attempt for courses that they would either not have access to, or would be hesitant to take. Presently, we observe a large number of registrations at MOOCs platform from working professionals. MOOCs provide them the flexibility to pick and choose, and learn at their own convenience. Prof. Bhandarkar states, “A lot of skill enhancement is happening post-college, and after getting to work. This is when people realize what skills they lack in their jobs, and the need to enhance their knowledge. MOOCs, providing pertinent and focused information in short videos, are extremely beneficial to working professionals, lacking the time to enroll in full-time courses to update their skills.”

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"Lack of adequate bandwidth is a big disappointment for serious learners in remote areas.”

 

With respect to limitations of MOOCs, Prof. Bhandarkar points out that the lack of adequate bandwidth is a big disappointment for serious learners in remote areas. This also kills the enthusiasm and alacrity of scholars to learn. He further mentions that the lack of personal connect between the instructor and student is another big constraint of MOOCs. However, Prof. Bhandarkar talks about it in the positive light stating that since the students are not able to clear their queries immediately, it forces them to think over it themselves. In addition, it also fosters peer discussion on the forum leading to collaborative interactions in understanding concepts, problem solving, and discussing queries.

The desire to learn and enhance one’s knowledge and skills is a major stimulator in MOOCs. Prof. Bhandarkar shares, “In our education system, only a handful of students can get through the grueling tests and interviews of an esteemed university. However, through a resource such as MOOCs, anyone can avail the privileges of learning from world-class instructors. Thus, it is a key responsibility of instructors to be accurate in their content, and provide clear instructions to learners to make the most of it.” Prof. Bhandarkar conveys a critical message for the instructors to pay due emphasis on the quality of content, instructional design, and the overall learning experience of MOOCs participants.

Lastly, Prof. Bhandarkar expresses his gratitude towards IITBombayX team for their support in course administration, video schedules, recordings and editing in content design and creation of MOOCs. “The IITBombayX team was fantastic with meticulous planning. As instructors, we only needed to concentrate on the content creation, and could rely on the team for the rest such as video creation and other course management tasks,” he concluded.