ALISON.com set up in 2007, is regarded as the pioneering MOOC platform of the world and has over 7 million registered learners, a million of them from India. Mike Feerick, Founder and CEO of ALISON.com was in Delhi recently to understand local needs and also enter into an alliance with Bhopal-based education & training network AISECT. Autar Nehru had a short interview with him.
Why is India of interest to you?
India is a big country with a lot of thrust on skilling. So, we really want to understand local needs. There are over one million from Indian using our platform. So, we should be able to provide courses that address not only individual aspirations but societal needs as well. And there is no other way than online mode that you can scale up. Secondly, India has thousands of world class experts in various fields. We also want to explore and access these experts for our course material.
With AISECT partnership, you are endorsing blended learning model?
AISECT is a national player and has deep and varied reach in the country. It has a brand value and success behind. By associating with AISECT, we are also expanding our reach by opening up direct access for Indian learners through AISECT’s 23,000 training centres across India to ALISON’s free learning resources Those enrolling at their centres will have added advantage of facilitation and guidance, which is better for them. But at the same time, we remain free and available for everybody.
How you are different from other MOOCs for instance say edX or Coursera?
We work in the bottom of the pyramid. That is to say that we provide 100s of certificate courses of short duration and covers both conventional and non-conventional. We offer basic skills for everyone and therefore cater to practically masses. It is about empowerment. The other platforms you referred to are more in institutional framework and catering to people at the top of pyramid by almost competing with higher education institutions.
How do you see India progressing in skilling and upskilling its large youth population?
Mobile Phone is the surest path for India to reach and upscale. What most people don’t realize is the fact that you can not only teach anyone anywhere, you can test them anywhere as well. Mobile platform is going to emerge as the main bastion of education. Government and society have to get used to smart phones. Technology does n’t’t change how we think. But our objectives must change our mindset. Make mobile phony affordable to everyone.
Any other observation?
People in India have fixation on certification but I find at other places it is learning. That mindset has to change. Employers here too must be asking what informal learning have you done. Self-development is essential and focus should be there and small small skills make a lot of sense.
Many people use YouTube for such things largely?
Oh yes, YouTube is one of the largest platforms for educational content. But MOOCs have the advantage of administering a logical, sequential courseware in a learning environment.
The completion rate of MOOCs is abysmally low. Your take?
People come on MOOC platforms to have a look just like window shopping. Bulk of visitors don’t give serious thoughts initially. But disruption has already started. You don’t to teach or pay for something that can be easily done through online. So in coming years a lot of things from formal system will automatically shift to online.
You mean to say classroom teaching/learning in universities and institutions will be really disrupted?
Yes, that is a reality people have to accept sooner than later. I always tell these people that you will have to position yourself uniquely to survive in future. Concentrate on things that are not completely possible online.
Your ongoing engagements with India.
I’ll visit India again in July and try to meet top government officials to see how ALISON can help in skill India imitative of the government. And as I said India is strategically important for us.