MOOCs Rural Campus in India: A Jaaga initiative- insights from swissnex India

In today’s globalised world, a high speed internet connection coupled with MOOCs make it possible to shift your location to a peaceful rural surrounding to learn, ideate and develop, yet remain connected with happenings of the outside world. ‘Jaaga Study’ in modern India is an example of such an initiative. Written by Maitree Dasgupta – swissnex India

It was a good one hour drive from Bangalore city, we were on our way to visit the ‘Jaaga Study’ and meet its co-founder Freeman Murray, a techie, entrepreneur and angel investor from Silicon Valley, now settled in India for the past nine years. Jaaga is a community space in Bangalore which supports and connects entrepreneurs and online learners. In 2014, they initiated a unique approach with MOOCs called ‘Jaaga Study’.

Concept

The ‘Jaaga Study’ is for students/professionals who want to enhance their skills via MOOC courses on web and mobile software development. According to Freeman, ‘Jaaga study’ intends to develop a culture where peer to peer support, coaching and mentorship become part of the learning process. One can take a MOOC course on their own, in isolation: the ‘Jaaga Study’ wants experiment how the benefits of MOOCs can be leveraged with young students studying together, going together through fun and crisis moments in day-to-day life. In order to achieve this goal, ‘Jaaga study’ is an one year full time residential training with participants living together in a rural location with basic facilities outside Bangalore. Who knows, may be at the end of the course students will come up with great ideas for future start-up businesses, find potential co-founders among peers and more. MOOCs being the enabler of these possibilities will be the biggest takeaway for Jaaga.

Inspiration

Freeman started organising MOOCs study groups in Jaaga’s city set-up since 2009. Sharing his experience, Freeman mentioned that “ while the first meeting of the city study group was exciting with large participation, slowly the number of participants started declining in next group studies. It made us realise, it is extremely hard to take out 15 -20 hours per week from one’s daily schedule with work and family. Also we wanted to reach out to people who would see MOOC as an enabler for their future professional life, that is why we thought about a rural campus where people can concentrate without any distractions of city life.”

This January, ‘Jaaga Study’ started with 26 students and will be enrolling students in every quarter. Most of the students are in their early 20s, an age group highly open to experiment and full of ambition. At the moment, the students are all Indian. However, Freeman aims to have one third of the students from Indian cities, one third from local community and rest international participants.

The primary motivation of current students is to enhance their skills. Most of them already have a university degree, this courses will make them competent for the professional world. Some of them came with prior corporate work experience and for those ‘Jaaga study’ is an excellent opportunity to go back to school, network with peers and think out of the box for their own start-up businesses.

Daily structure

A regular day at Jaaga study begins with yoga and meditation. Then the students are free to take quick swim at the irrigation tank for the nearby banana plantation or one can fly their quadcopter or play table tennis or any sports of their choice. The morning academic session starts at 10am. It begins with a lightening talk about some new technology, something going on in industry, followed by online classes.  In afternoons, students work on open source projects in a group of five. The purpose of the projects is to help people get practical experience using some new technology. There are live servers going for each project, starting with the first demo in order to get an experience with the build process, handling development, staging and production environments. The students also have mentor sessions each week for a click-thru and code review.

Course content and MOOC sources

Participants learn courses on: html / css / JavaScript, Python, SQL, Android, Git, Unix, System administration, build management, cloud management, Object Oriented Programming & design, agile development and how to make money on the internet. By studying online classes from: CodeAcademy, TeamTreeHouse, CodeSchool, Udacity, Programmr.com, CodeLearn.org, Stanford, Harvard and MIT, as well as installing open source software and going through tutorials.

Return on investment

There is a monthly fee of Rs. 5000 for food and stay expenses and the participants need to pay Rs. 100’000 (CHF 1600) as tuition fee once they start earning. Monthly expenses are very reasonable for the students who are coming from middle class background. The tuition fee can be paid back within a year once they start earning and in fact less than software professional courses. The programme offered by Jaaga will definitely enable the students to find online jobs or start their own business right after graduation.

Open to international participants

‘Jaaga study’ is open for international start-ups/professionals who want to enhance their skills or work on a specific project that remained in an ideation phase. The international participant has to spend at least 3 months in residency. To know more about Jaaga study, click http://jaaga.in/study/.

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