Unbundling the clock, the curriculum and traditional degree programs By Anant Agarwal, CEO, edX (by MIT & Harvard)

Three young Indian businesspeople working together.

Anant Agarwal is a professor at MIT and CEO of edX. edX is – world’s largest non-profit open-source MOOC platform founded by MIT & Harvard. Edx.org offers free courses from world’s leading institutes & professional bodies e.g. MIT, Harvard, Berkley, IIT-Bombay, IIM-Bangalore, Microsoft and many more.

A report by UNESCO states that going by the current trend, India will be half a century late in achieving its global education commitments and the country needs fundamental changes in the education system.

As today’s students are pushing for a non-traditional (non-residential) education, many educators are now asking probing questions about traditional degree pathways, and if they are the right fit for all students.

While there are substantial benefits to students coming to campus to work closely together with faculty and with each other, we should re-examine why three-four years on campus is considered to be a magic number for a college degree programme. Why not imagine an alternative path of lifelong continuous education?

Why not envision a world where students continue to learn even after they find work? After all, technology is changing everything so fast, knowledge is not static anymore.

We should consider a visionary idea of the unbundled approach to education – unbundling the clock, the curriculum and the traditional degree programs. Unbundling the clock might mean that a student takes the first year of college fully online, maybe even while in high school. Then, the student might attend two years of college on campus. Working in-person with other students is important to learn collaboration and other social skills, which are harder to do purely online. This would be followed by a stint in the workforce to gain real-world skills. Finally, learners would take online courses as needed throughout their career – in place of the traditional final year.

Unbundling the traditional degree programs will offer even more educational opportunities. This might mean that a student obtains a digital credential for a modular amount of online work, for example an online course such as edX MicroMasters certificate. This credential can stand on its own, showing knowledge and skills in a field to launch or advance a career, or can lead to on campus programmes since it is a credential with a pathway to campus and credit, and is recognized by industry leaders such as Oracle and Infosys.

MicroMasters programs, including a Business Management and a Entrepreneurship program from IIMB, are one of the latest learning trends in MOOCs that provide the next level of innovation in learning and addresses the skills gap by creating a bridge between higher education and the industry to create a skillful, successful 21st-century workforce.

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