AUSTIN, Texas — The advent of MOOCs or, Massive Open Online Courses, has taken the educational world by storm, offering courses in higher education to the general public for little to no cost. Unfortunately, not all have been able to benefit from this enriching, technological phenomena, especially those in the developing world. However, USAID has recognized the potential of MOOCs to open up pathways for young adults in developing nations and has partnered with MOOC facilitator CourseTalk, The International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) and The University of Washington’s Information School’s, Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA) to develop an initiative that will discover how MOOCs can help young adults in the developing world obtain successful careers.
Many questions remain unanswered about the potential of MOOCs to a help advance developing nations. Little research has been conducted to address why developing nations are not utilizing MOOCs and what can be done about it. Yet the research that has been conducted shows that those who participate in MOOCs tend to be well-educated and citizens of developed nations.
Here is where the Advancing MOOCs Initiative comes in. This $1.05 million initiative will at first focus on three developing target countries, Colombia, South Africa and The Philippines, then potentially implement its successful components in others. The research will be conducted by TASCHA, sponsored by IREX and will determine what courses people in target countries are enrolling in, how to improve their access to MOOCs and help them chose courses that will help them get better or new jobs. According to an addendum on the Advancing MOOCs Initiative Program Statement, USAID has three objectives:
- Advancing global understanding of MOOC enrollment, completion and utility in developing nations or emerging economies
- Improve MOOC service provider offerings to increase the utility of MOOCs for workforce development in target countries
- Increase MOOC enrollment and user rates through advanced marketing of MOOCs.
USAID’s core principle behind creating this initiative is quite practical but the potential implications are innovative. By improving and increasing access to MOOCs in developing nations, USAID believes that the young adults who drive the nation’s workforce will have the opportunity to learn valuable information and skills from online courses and eventually obtain gainful employment.
CourseTalk has provided USAID the platform on which TASCHA will conduct the research required for this initiative. CourseTalk, an online aggregator of MOOCs, operates as a collector of online courses available for public enrollment. Its website includes courses from Stanford, Harvard, and MIT.
The Advancing MOOCs Initiative homepage states, “Online courses have the potential to expand quality education and career training worldwide but few people in developing countries access them.”
MOOCs have incredible potential to bring education to those who would not otherwise receive it. In doing so, they invert the traditional model of higher education and make us reconsider both the hefty price tag of higher education and what it means to be ‘educated’. They demonstrate the ability of the Digital Age to close the gaps that exists in societies that cause disparities of all kind.
The target countries of the Advancing MOOCs Initiative are nations that are beginning to emerge on the world’s global market. South Africa, The Philippines and Columbia have made incredible advances from a past damaged by poverty, violence and political insecurity. However, the Advancing MOOCs Initiative is creating the possibility for these nations to build themselves at the most elementary level of advancement: education.
Those who are interested in receiving more information or being a part of the Advancing MOOCs Initiative are encouraged to visit the website at: The Advancing Moocs for Development Initiative
– Candice Hughes