Online course platform EdX, the not-for-profit joint venture between Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which had teamed up with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay in July 2013, has made further inroads into the country.

What was touted to be the first-of-its-kind initiative in India in terms of education has now moved into corporate boardrooms.

The course on clinical research, called Quantitative Methods in Clinical and Public Health Research, has become a regular drill at Piramal Life Sciences.

“The EdX platform is open to all. We trained our whole medical staff, which was part of the clinical department, with the course on ‘Biostatistics Clinical Trial Design’, which is part of the curriculum,” said Swati Piramal, Vice-Chairperson of the Piramal Group.

EdX's platform is used by global universities to develop innovative online, on-campus courses, which blend both teaching and learning models.

As Piramal added, “Since the software was not so easy to use, we had senior people at our research centre carry out additional classes to train young doctors. In September, there was another class which many of our people took. The EdX courses work as a source or curriculum and additional work can be done at a local level. It works very well.”

Piramal, who currently serves on the Dean's Advisory Board of both the Harvard School of Public Health and the Harvard Business School said, “Language is an issue with some of the regional offices, since EdX is in English. We use it to train the trainer, and then apply it in local languages so as to impart it onwards.”

She pointed out that India happens to be an important market for EdX, and is home to the largest population of EdX learners outside the US.

The same holds true for scientists. As Piramal said, “One of the biggest shortages in Indian science is the lack of research curriculum in our medical training. India has over 9,00,000 doctors, but few are trained to be physician scientists. By initiating this, we decided to fix the glaring gap in our country.”

In July, IIT Bombay joined the group of consortium members to develop next generation online and blended learning courses, as well as cater to a specific professional development need in India — training engineering teachers. With approximately 5,000 engineering colleges in the country, IIT Bombay has been using EdX's open source platform to increase qualified engineering educators in India.

(This article was published on January 1, 2014)
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