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BW Businessworld

'Huge Opportunity For Online Learning In India'

Anant Agarwal, chief executive officer of edX, an online learning venture of Harvard and MIT, has tied up with Indian educational institutions

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Anant Agarwal is the Indian American chief executive officer of edX, an online learning venture of Harvard and MIT offering free courses. Agarwal, who visited India to tie up with institutes and corporates, said India and China are the largest markets for his company to tap. edX is present in 196 countries, providing free online courses to over 7 million students. A Stanford alumni, Agarwal taught the first course of edX on circuits and electronics from MIT, which drew 155,000 students from 162 countries. 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". During his visit, Anant also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who according to him wanted to take a course himself on urban planning and design. He talked to BW Businessworld about his work:

How did your meeting with the Prime Minister go? Did he promise anything?
Tying up with the government will be useful for us to help us partner with the premium government institutes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was impressed with our work and he encouraged us to take it another level. In the past, we have launched a course on scratch programming that relates very closely to Digital India programme and girl child education, so we discussed future endeavours.

What is the future of online education in India, considering the fact that India's internet penetration is very low and access to online education in smaller cities is less?
We have a mobile app that is growing rapidly, India is the largest smartphone market. However, having said there are many courses that need a larger screen space. But nevertheless, the opportunity for online learning in India is huge. The government has set a clear direction with Digital India.

Which premier educational institutes edX has partnered with in India and abroad?
We have partnered with IIM Bangalore and IITs in Mumbai and Delhi. We have partnered with all major US universities, including University of Pennsylvania, Arizona University. The US is our major market with over 2 million students. Globally, too, major universities have been tied up.

What are the big changes that have taken place in massive open online courses (MOOCs) in recent times and in edX in particular?
MOOCs was earlier about creating individual courses in many areas and people could take them for free. Today, we have broken through in many major dimensions. One big example is today we offer complete programmes, not just individual courses, and we have also made a breakthrough with offering programme credit and certificates. For example, we launched a major data science programme with Columbia University. There is a free option; if you do that you have the option of looking for a job in data science. Usually each programme is three-six courses and each course is about 10 months. Some of them have virtual proctored exams. We recently launched a programme with MIT in supply chain management with virtually proctored exams and students who pass that will earn the credit of a micro master's credential from MIT. We are launching a computer science programme from IIT Bombay and a business programme from IIM Bangalore in the next week or two. So right now you can learn anything on MOOC for free, but if you want a micro master's credential, you have to pay a fee of $400 for the entire programme.

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