edX, IIT BombayX and everything in between

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IITBX

Insight had published an article on IIT Bombay’s plunge into the world of online courses last year on edX. Here’s the link to the article.

IIT BombayX, the institute’s very own Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider has completed its first year in offering online courses on its online portal. Taking cue from the Harvard-MIT initiative edX, the concept of IIT BombayX was pioneered by Prof. DB Phatak of the CSE department, to help students all over India get access to top quality teaching facilities at IIT. We interviewed Prof. Gadre and his team for Signals and Systems, a course currently being offered on the online portal.

The concept of IIT BombayX was pioneered by Prof. DB Phatak of the CSE department, to help students all over India get access to top quality teaching facilities at IIT.

At present, three courses are being offered on IIT BombayX: namely, Introduction to Computer Programming (CS 101 at IIT Bombay) designed by Prof. Phatak himself, the Signals and Systems (EE 221) course headed by Prof. Gadre and Thermodynamics (ME 209) by Prof. Gaitonde of Mechanical Engineering. The courses run similar to their edX counterparts, comprising of weekly lectures, problem sets, and occasional exams. “While these courses have been made available on edX, they have been tailored suitably for the Indian audience”, Prof. Gadre outlined. Every course has a back-end team led by the professor in charge of the blueprint of the course, teaching assistants (mainly IITB students) catering to aspects of doubt-solving and the discussion forum, and the technical staff looking after execution. A studio has been set up in the old CSE building where the lectures are recorded. The institute has provided for all the technical equipment required for this project.

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“The advantage of a separate portal over edX helps in storing the entire data on Indian servers. edX has been generous enough to source out its code and IIT BombayX has been built on this platform”, reports Ashwith Rego, the TA for Signals and Systems. It is expected that IIT BombayX will have a better reach than edX in India because of the so-called IIT Bombay brand value. “We have also dubbed a few lectures and problem solving sessions in Hindi for students’ better understanding”, Ashwith adds.

It is expected that IIT BombayX will have a better reach than edX in India because of the so-called IIT Bombay brand value.

The response in the first year has been quite heartening for the stakeholders involved. “Around 10,000 students registered in all for the three courses. At the end of first year, 250 plus students had completed the courses and were provided with certificates on completion”, adds Prof. Gadre enthusiastically. He has divided his entire course into 2 parts this year, to ensure that more students stay with the course for longer periods, and complete it. Multiple workshops for teaching staff on “teaching these courses and exploiting IIT BombayX as a platform to the maximum” were also held on IIT BombayX.

Around 10,000 students registered in all for the three courses

Whether IIT Bombay students would be able to take credit courses on IIT BombayX, similar to foreign universities, however, seems to be irresolute. Prof. Phatak has been working on the concept of blended MOOCs where exams on IIT BombayX would carry a certain weightage in the final evaluation in universities. A trial of this concept was run in Gujarat University where around 1000 students took Signals and Systems on IIT BombayX as a part of their curriculum and some weightage was allocated to the examinations on the portal.

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The response from the Gujarat University students has been encouraging enough, citing “in-depth lectures and wonderful discussions on the forum”. At present, professors like Prof. Sridhar Iyer of the CSE department and Prof. Swaroop Ganguly of the Electrical Engineering department, along with Prof. Phatak at IIT Bombay have implemented the flipped classroom model for their respective courses.(We’ve described this in detail in page 4 and 5 of our flagship print edition 17.1 Video-lectures are uploaded on the portal/Moodle and lecture-slots are used for discussions and problem solving.

Prof. Phatak has been working on the concept of blended MOOCs where exams on IIT BombayX would carry a certain weightage in the final evaluation in universities.

In conclusion, we’d like to quote Professor Gadre on the future of this platform inside and beyond IIT-B. He responds, “With this system, we have been able to connect with students all over the country and help them learn on a much broader platform compared to their classrooms. This system has very high potential to revolutionize the academic community.” However, as a strong advocate of the teacher-student relationship, he cautions, “The classroom interaction is the best way of learning for any student. This technology shall help in enhancing and augmenting learning but not replacing the traditional teaching method.”