CATEGORIES:Higher Education – Best Innovation in Open and Distance LearningNAME OF THE PROJECT/INITIATIVE:myonlinevarsity.comAPPLICANT DETAILS:Swaminathan K, C.E.O.Think Big Edu-Venture (India) Pvt. Ltd,Old. No. 146/2, New No. 48, Habibullah Road,T. Nagar, Chennai 600 017.DETAILS OF PROJECT/INITIATIVE IMPLEMENTING AGENCY:As AboveDETAILS OF THE PROGRAMME/PROJECT/INITIATIVE
Brief description of the programme/project/initiativeLife does not stop after College...why should Learning?When a group of thought leaders in both academics and business started ponderingthis seemingly surreal question, the result was the formation of ThinkBig EduVenture, a company focused on blazing a new trail in Distance Education, andmyonlinevarsity.com is the first offering from this group.myonlinevarsity.com is a Social Learning portal conceived to bring the besteducators and subject matter experts to a global student base pursuing ManagementStudies in the Distance Education mode.Why was the project startedWhile the goals of Distance Education are well understood and laudable, it alwayshad a stigma attached to it when it came to quality, curricula and academic rigor. Itnever was viewed on par with brick-and-mortar classroom based education; not bythe students or by their prospective employers. However, thanks to the rapidproliferation and adoption of Internet and Social media in India, we now have amechanism to make Distance Education realize its full potential and make a seriouscontribution to creating a whole new generation of highly skilled knowledgeworkers.Recent studies have shown that despite India’s increased contribution to the globaleconomy, its Managerial skills are inadequate and ill-equipped to flourish in a highlycompetitive knowledge economy. How then do we scale the Managerial talent poolto the projected 20 million in 5 years? Not by opening up more traditionalinstitutions but through a robust Distance Education curriculum and deliverymodel.myonlinevarsity.com is thus the culmination of market needs, advances inbroadband technology, and cost-effective infrastructure.
ObjectiveOur vision is to empower and facilitate a global student base to learn from the verybest educators and institutions regardless of subject matter, location and time. Webelieve this transformational delivery model of high quality education will fosternew avenues of learning and lifelong skill development for the knowledgeworkforce.Target Group – The initial group are professionals who aspire to earn aManagement degree/diploma but are unable to because of family and workcommitments. Plan is to subsequently launch social learning portals targeted at IT,Vocational Training and more.Geographical reach - Theoretically there are no limits. But because of our focus onpartnering with Indian Business schools, there is an implicit bias towards India.Date from which the project became operational - Jan 2011Is the project still operational - Yes10 points that make the programme/project innovative? 1. Distance Education always meant learning in isolation. But not anymore! Our social learning platform is designed to maximize interaction, communication and collaboration with fellow students and instructors alike. This reduces drop-out rates and dramatically increases the chance to successfully complete the education. 2. Our curricula are jointly designed by leading academicians and global companies, thus speeding the transition from academic learning to on-the- job performance. 3. Our faculty members delivering the video and audio lectures have been recruited from premium institutions like IIM, IIT and other leading B-schools. The best teachers are now available to everyone regardless of time and distance. 4. Our mission is to provide quality, affordable education to all. To this end, we have pioneered a ‘Freemium’ model to monetize. This is no different than the Open Source revolution that has changed the software industry forever. In myonlinevarsity.com, basic content such as voice-enabled PPTs, digital library access, interaction with the student community is perpetually FREE. We charge only for premium content such as video lectures and live classroom. We are democratizing higher education! 5. Through partnerships with preeminent institutions, we provide our students with academic choices to pursue specializations and programs which interest and intrigue them.
6. Based on a proprietary pedagogy, the subjects have been broken down into small learning units with quizzes to reinforce the learning. Features such as Chat, Discussion forums, and Email allow the students to get help when needed. In our world, no student is left behind! 7. Our leading edge Social Learning platform with live video streaming and social interaction features provides a conventional classroom like environment with all the convenience and flexibility of a Distance Education program. 8. Designed to support multiple access environments from a PC to mobile gadgets such as Smart phones and Tablets, we provide a flexible and convenient learning mechanism to match the students’ busy schedule. A student can even listen to the audio portion of the lectures through any basic web enabled phone; it is just that simple and convenient! 9. Specially designed Data Center to address high availability, scaling and performance for 24x7 Learning 10. Customize content to match specific domains and corporate needs. Curriculum gets a practical, real-world slant through this approach thereby reducing the need for on-the-job training. 11. Partnered with numerous Recruitment agencies that will provide Placement assistance to help realize the career goals of our graduating students.List the 5 achievements of the programme/project? Convinced the best educators of our vision, and got them to contribute to the content. Our early adopting students’ approval of the pedagogy, content and the overall learning experience. Scalable infrastructure guaranteeing availability and accessibility to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities even from a data card. Major universities signing up as Education Partners to certify and confer degrees and diplomas to our students. Evoking interest amongst Corporates to use our programs as part of an overall Employee retention strategyList the 5 key challenges faced while implementing theprogramme/project/initiative and how they were overcome? 1. Adoption by students of a web enabled Distance education program in India was unproven. By involving students, faculty and the Technology team throughout the roll out process we were able to iteratively refine the overall end user experience. This collective design approach gave us the confidence to roll this out to a larger student base. 2. Identifying and convincing faculty from prominent B schools to deliver lectures at our Chennai studio was a logistic nightmare. But our Content team pulled it off masterfully through some creative scheduling and precise planning,
3. Designing a comprehensive curricula complying with the syllabus of multiple universities was no easy task. Required meticulous construction and assembly of the learning units to ensure continuity and flow. 4. Our streaming video content required a scalable data infrastructure to guarantee minimal “data buffering”. We had to identify a India-based data center team (video is best served if the servers are located close to the end user geography) and work with them to custom build an infrastructure to support this need. 5. Getting the world to know of our existence in a cost effective manner. This was accomplished through extensive use of Social media, online communities and other viral marketing techniques.List the 5 points how can the programme serve as a model that can bereplicated or adapted by others? Involve all stakeholders – students, faculty, and technology team throughout the implementation and rollout process Never compromise on the quality of faculty as that is a core value of any ICT enabled Distance education program Design a FREEmium business model. This will require giving away some basic product/service for FREE to everyone and monetize a few through advanced services Offer Live online classes and collaborative projects to simulate a real world classroom atmosphereList 5 points to elaborate on the scalabilty of the programme / project /initiative Plan to extend the offerings to cover other domains such as Healthcare, Finance, and Information Technology. This will pretty much cover all the key areas of the knowledge economy Content creation is time consuming in addition to being expensive. Plan to involve the community to create, share and monetize content. Repackage existing content into various short term Certificate program to reach a wider audience. Ex: Content from several Marketing subjects can be quickly repackaged into a Contemporary Marketing certificate program. With global accessibility to the platform, international students can easily get trained, certified and educated. Though our current focus is Higher Education, the platform can be used to cater to K through 12 students