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Making sense of Moocs : A guide for policy-makers in developing countries

Organisation des Nations Unies pour l’Education, la Science et la Culture 20612Making sense of Moocs : A guide for policy-makers in developing countries
Publié le 29-09-2016. Ajoutée le 29 septembre 2016


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Over the past 20 years, higher education has undergone major transformations, brought about by: (i) increasing internationalisation and student mobility; (ii) an ever-growing demand for quality higher education and lifelong learning; (iii) changing student demographics; (iv) the rise of online and blended learning, (v) cross-border higher education and (vi) recognition and quality assurance of qualifications in a digital world without borders. At the same time, access to the Internet and broadband service has increased. According to the International Telecommunications Union, 43 per cent of the world’s population is now online, with some form of regular access to the Internet, and the number of Internet users globally has reached 3.2 billion, of whom 2 billion are from developing countries (ITU, 2015). The huge growth in mobile connectivity, particularly in the developing world, has also brought online content and interaction to a global audience.

Since 2012, known as “The Year of the MOOC,” massive open online courses (MOOCs) have expanded worldwide, shaking up the higher education landscape and potentially disrupting the model of brick-and-mortar universities. Whilst higher education institutions have long been engaged in the delivery of online content (via, for example open educational resources and virtual learning environments), the rapid advent of MOOCs is regarded by some experts as an education revolution — according to Class Central (Shah, 2015a), the total number of MOOCs reached 4,200 in 2015. However, most of the current MOOCs are delivered by top universities in the Global North, which many observers consider a one-way transfer of knowledge from the developed countries to the developing world.

The present UNESCO–COL Guide on MOOCs is designed to raise general awareness amongst policy-makers in developing countries as to how MOOCs might address their concerns and priorities, particularly in terms of access to affordable quality higher education and preparation of secondary school leavers for academic as well as vocational education and training. With very few exceptions, many of the reports on MOOCs already published do not refer to the interests and experiences of developing countries, although we are witnessing important initiatives in more and more countries around the world. With due regard to the latest global developments concerning MOOCs, including enthusiastic and critical debates around them, this Guide seeks to highlight the potential of such courses to meet (however partially) some of the requirements of large-scale, effective training and supplementary (credit-oriented) learning in developing countries, maintaining an objective account of MOOCs rather than taking a position. It is hoped that after reading the Guide, policy-/decision-makers will be in a better position to understand the “MOOC phenomenon,” capitalise on the advantages of these large-scale courses and use them as a strategic opportunity to help meet local needs and develop related capacities. Ultimately, this publication is designed to raise the awareness of policy-makers in terms of the potential that online learning, including in the form of MOOCs, has for building new learning pathways towards tertiary education and for expanding lifelong learning opportunities. Several global developments and initiatives have prepared the groundwork for such possibilities.

The open education movement. Education is about sharing. The OpenCourseWare programme, launched in 2002 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has triggered a global movement in favour of opening up education, embodied by the development and adoption of open educational resources (OER). Countries and educational institutions around the world have formulated policies and launched initiatives in favour of developing, adapting, adopting and sharing quality online repositories with an open licence. With technology rapidly evolving, policy-makers and higher education institutions need to better assess ways in which MOOCs and OER could be effectively leveraged to improve access, enhance quality and potentially lower the cost of higher education.

Increased use of online and blended learning in higher education. In recent years, colleges and universities have been adding more online offerings to meet students’ needs and expectations in terms of accessibility and affordability, as a means to accommodate their financial constraints and to help them balance family and workplace responsibilities. Online programmes are resources for students and working adults, who are increasingly seeking such programmes for degree completion and career advancement. By integrating online and face-to-face approaches, blended learning provides learners with both flexibility and support. MOOCs are seen as an important tool to widen access to higher education for millions of people, including those in the developing world, as a means to ultimately enhance the quality of their lives.




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