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NEW DELHI : The Union government and several private entities are jointly building a repository of online education which will host thousands of courses from domestic and global education platforms and standalone online education providers, two people aware of the development said.

Several courses, including those from top education aggregators such as edX and Coursera, will also be mapped to Indian university curriculums, a government official and a private partner involved in the project said.

“Given the huge demand and acceptance of technology-enabled learning and courses, such a repository will help in mapping individual learners’ choice to available courses, universities and mentors," the government official mentioned above said on condition of anonymity.

“This will also aid the virtual university idea, and the academic bank model of education that authorities have been talking about for the last four months," said the official.

The move will benefit students, academics and those seeking continuous learning to improve their professional skills, said Pramath Raj Sinha, co-founder of Ashoka University and founder of Harappa Education, which offers online courses to educational institutions and professionals. Sinha’s Harappa Education is one of the entities helping the government in this initiative.

“This is an idea of NITI Aayog and the Union education ministry is there from the government side. Some courses are already there, but a formal inauguration will happen sometime soon. What online courses are doing is expanding the reach of quality education beyond campuses. Look at Harvard, MIT or any top university. They are focusing on online courses," Sinha said.

Sinha highlighted the example of Tarun Khanna, a Harvard Business School professor who teaches ‘Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies’ via edX. “I think Indian university students in relevant streams can study that and if someone wants a certificate you will get it from edX and Harvard by paying a small fee," Sinha said. On edX, the six-week course costs 14,500.

“Good courses are available both in India and outside, but a platform like this shall curate and bring them to students and institutions. If you are an undergraduate mechanical engineering student in a remote town or small city and are finding it tough to study thermodynamics, you can register on the platform. Then it will tell you what courses are relevant for you depending on the course curriculum in India," said Sinha.

The move aligns with education regulator University Grants Commission’s recent permission allowing colleges and universities to offer up to 40% of their course work online in 2021. This is separate from it allowing dozens of varsities to start full-fledged online degrees in the past couple of months. “The academic bank of credit, online degrees, multiple entry and exit system, and virtual university can all benefit from such a platform," said the government official mentioned earlier.

On 29 January, the Union education ministry had said that the government will take steps to establish a virtual university, which will be different from open universities, though few details are available yet.

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