Who doesn’t want Ivy League education? But, in a country like India where demand for quality education far exceeds the supply, there are neither enough slots for qualified students nor adequate financial aid.

Here enters Massive Open Online Courses or MOOC – free of cost courses for everyone from anywhere.

Anant Agarwal, President, edX, a MOOC platform founded by MIT and Harvard University, says, “MOOCs are the great democratiser. Anyone can register and take courses, as there is no application process, and no costs.”

Australian National University has even created the first ever Hindi MOOC, a 10-week course, called ‘Engaging India’ which will start on April 29.

Indian enrolments are also consistently on the rise and are the second highest for most MOOC providers such as edX and Coursera. For Coursera, which now has more than 6.7 million users worldwide, India is its second largest user base after the US.

Agarwal says, “As of December 2013, edX had 1.9 million online learners. About 15 per cent of these learners were from India, which is the second biggest chunk, compared with US students accounting for 37 per cent.”

While Coursera does not have any university partners in India at the moment, edX has tied up with IIT Bombay. Under this, IIT Bombay will offer some of their regular courses to students across the globe. Two of their courses — CS101.1x: Introduction to Computer Programming, Part 1, by Deepak Phatak and ME209x: Thermodynamics by Uday N. Gaitonde — are set to start on July 29 this year.

BITS Pilani, too, is currently exploring MOOC platforms for Special Private Online Courses for its own students (on-campus and off-campus).

Shan Balasubramaniam, Dean, Academic Resource Planning at BITS Pilani, says, “BITS Pilani is running two courses using the platform provided by Coursera based on a pilot agreement. MOOC platforms are not only likely to enable increased reach but also provide technical advantages in understanding learning behaviour of students and engaging with students apart from a classroom environment.”

On whether there is rise in the number of Indians opting for MOOCs, Agarwal says, “The response from India has been overwhelming. For MITx’s Circuits and Electronics course, more students enrolled from India (30 per cent) than from any other country, including the US (22 per cent). These numbers are increasing at a rapid pace as we add member institutions, improve access to videos, and increase our capacity to provide multi-language translations.”

The way forward MOOCs are surely the way forward for India which faces the shortage of good faculty. Pramath Raj Sinha, Founder & Trustee, Ashoka University, says, “Using traditional faculty-student ratios, India will need over a million new faculty in the next 15 years to meet its gross enrolment ratio targets.” On the revenue model, Agarwal says, “We are currently exploring and experimenting with different types of revenue models including licensing courses, and making our open source platform available to NGOs, IGOs and corporations for internal training purposes. Currently, we are offering MOOCs for free and even certificates are free. But in future we will start charging students.”