These BTechs used NPTEL, Udemy, Coursera MOOCs to get new jobs, open research avenues

Engineering students are closing gaps between BTech and skill requirements at jobs with MOOCs from NPTEL, Udemy, Udacity and Coursera.

Representational Image: ShutterstockRepresentational Image: Shutterstock

Sanjay | May 31, 2022 | 09:35 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Between 2016 and 2020 Ambar Kumar “half-heartedly” studied his four-year full time BTech in electrical engineering from National Institute of Technology (NIT) Silchar, Assam. He had to “settle” for electrical engineering after he failed to get admission in his dream course, computer science engineering (CSE) for not ranking high enough in the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Main.

Despite this, he secured a job in a Hyderabad-based IT firm at the end of his course and now works as an Android software developer there. He credits his “success” to massive open online courses (MOOCs).

In the first year itself, he enrolled in a free eight-week MOOC on Android development offered by online course platform, Udacity. He also did a course related to android functioning offered by another provider, Udemy.

“I was more into MOOCs than my regular course and it is helping me in my current job too. The faculties at MOOCs provider platform taught really well. My resume was shortlisted because of the MOOCs that I completed. They helped me in the job interview too,” he said.

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Like Kumar, there are lakhs of engineering students and professionals in India who enrolled themselves in MOOCs offered by different platforms including government-backed National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) and private companies – Udemy, Udacity, Coursera and edX. NPTEL is an initiative of seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) – Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Guwahati and Roorkee – and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Professionals who have completed MOOCs said that they are more confident of performing their duties in their respective companies as they have acquired “required skill sets” needed in the job market. With a stable internet connection, they are learning about the things that they never got to know before. The disruption in the education sector due to Covid-19 pandemic also pushed the students to go for MOOC or online learning.

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California-based MOOC platform, Coursera in its 2021 Impact Report said that India is home to the second largest group of learners with 1.36 crore learners after USA which has 1.73 crore learners. NPTEL’s official website says it has seen over 1.6 crore enrollments since 2013. Over the same period, it has had over 15 lakh exam registrations. Learning on NPTEL is free but students have to pay Rs 1,000 per course to sit for the in-person, proctored certification exam to get a certificate.

NPTEL, Udemy to research

Suriya Prashanth is currently pursuing MOOC on introduction to machine learning on NPTEL. He has already completed three MOOCs on quantum computing and machine learning after completing masters in Physics from Tamil Nadu’s Madurai Kamaraj University in 2021.

“During my MSc Physics course, I developed an interest in quantum computing and machine learning. I have already completed three MOOCs related to these in the English language and am enrolled in a fourth course in Tamil now,” he said. “We learn from uploaded videos that are 10 minutes to 60 minutes long.”

“After completing MSc physics, now I want to do research on quantum computing and machine learning. I need to know the basics before I can present my research topic. These MOOCs are helping with that,” he said. “The best thing about MOOCs is that you get to learn things from the highly qualified and experienced persons of a specific field. There are chances that I can get an internship and jobs too after getting the required skills through these courses. “

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Vivek Tiwari who is currently pursuing a PhD in irrigation and water table from IIT Roorkee found MOOCs useful as well.

“I am from civil engineering and I found well-researched and structured MOOCs on Udemy. I learn things when I need to know about them while doing projects and assignments. I was doing an assignment that required knowledge of Python and I started learning Python from Udemy. Now, I am doing a course on ArcSWAT as I need it for my research work,” he said.

Better jobs

Shivam Singh who graduated with a BTech in electronics engineering from NIT Silchar in 2020, completed four courses on networking and cybersecurity from Coursera. Now he is working with an IT firm in Hyderabad.

“The syllabus of MOOCs are designed on the latest technologies and software used in companies and the job market. The syllabus of our regular courses are 15-20 years old,” he said. “MOOCs help make you ready to use the latest technologies with ease when you get a job and improve your employability. I used the MOOCs skills while doing a mini project as part of the test for the job.”

Yogesh Chauhan, an assistant professor at Government Engineering College, Palanpur, Gujarat has completed 14 MOOCs from NPTEL, each lasting four to 12 weeks.

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“I appear for online exams to get certificates and I have been the topper in five courses. The certificates of these courses are valuable and toppers of the courses also get opportunities to work on many projects in IITs as part of summer internships. I also received a summer internship offer from IIT Kharagpur. These multidisciplinary courses are beneficial for career advancement for faculties like me. I teach students with more confidence in innovative ways,” he said.

Graduating with a BTech graduate from a Nagpur engineering college in 2017, Vishal Gade spent some time working at a company in Kenya. While there, he enrolled in MOOCs on Udemy.

“I did a team building management course on Udemy to equip myself with the skills set to lead a team of engineers. It has turned out to be beneficial for me. These courses give you practical knowledge that are needed in the job market,” he said. Gade is now a project manager at a Mumbai-based company.

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Blockchain, artificial intelligence

Online courses also come to the rescue if the regular degree programme does not cover all that a student wishes or needs to learn.

“Through MOOCs you get to learn concepts which you probably won’t learn in your regular college courses. New courses on emerging technologies such as electric vehicles, smart cities, and so on are not easily available in colleges but they are available in the form of MOOCs,” said Neeldhara Misra, associate professor at IIT Gandhinagar who also designs MOOCs related to topics in computer science.

“Universities have a limited amount of time and the coursework reflects topics most relevant to the degree in question and that can fit a fixed duration. MOOC platforms are not constrained in this way,” she explained, adding that in India, MOOCs are seeing more enrollments in emerging areas like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), smart cities, cryptocurrency, data science, renewable and solar energies.

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Courses on non-technical subjects are gathered at the education ministry’s MOOC platform, Study Webs of Active–Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM). It is now being used to teach components of courses in colleges, train teachers and for material in regional languages. In April this year, University Grants Commission (UGC) invited online proposals from higher education institutions for development of courses for Arctic, polar studies for the platform.

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