Philip Altbach argued in a recent blog: ‘Universities and educators in less-developed regions of the world are climbing onto the MOOC bandwagon, but it is likely that they will be using the technology, pedagogical ideas, and probably significant parts of the content developed elsewhere. In this way, the online courses threaten to exacerbate the worldwide influence of Western academe, bolstering its higher-education hegemony.’
Business school professor Gianpiero Petriglieri further argues that MOOCs ‘worsen rather than eliminate inequality by providing credentials empty of the meaning and connections that make credentials valuable. Worst of all, they may become a convenient excuse for giving up on the reforms needed to provide broad access to affordable higher education’.
Do you agree that MOOCs bolster Western higher-education hegemony? Do you think that MOOCs may threaten the development of meaningful solutions to broadening access and threaten educator and faculty jobs?
Please write a brief response to this and/or comment on another post.
I will say No. I made a submission on the OpenUCT Initiative webpage. Here goes: Contrary to the submission that Africa’s absence from the global MOOCS map presents Africa as merely consumers of knowledge and not creators thereof, I feel that Africa is simply just not providing knowledge through this medium–at the moment. In truth, Africa is not yet ready for MOOCS. By their nature, MOOCS are more for public enlightenment, some kind of community service or institutional promotion, or institutional social responsibility project, than it is about the kind of learning for which most institutions are set up. MOOCS moreover are outward looking, in the sense that, while they may benefit a section of enrolled learners, appear to primarily target those out there who desire some general knowledge about a particular subject. They are not generally used as part of the credit awarding process of institutions. In any case, the very idea of MOOCS being ONLINE presents it’s own challenges on the African continent. True, there has been an unprecedented spread of mobile access in Africa. Even so, one must ask, how affordable and accessible is functional internet access as a result of this spread? In other words, how MASSIVE can MOOCS really be in Africa, at this time? Then one must consider the enormous costs associated with designing and developing a MOOC course, and wonder whether in the end, the effort is worth the cost. In this sense, one begins to question the very idea of “free,” which is often associated with MOOCS. In this very piece, Czerniewicz admits that MOOCS are really not open as the claim is. I am even worried about such terms as “providers,” because these terms seem to suggest that MOOCS by the way require some considerable infrastructure to set them up, such that they may not be easily and quickly replicated. This service provider bit adds to growing costs, which in the long run, few institutions can sustain. All things considered, I would submit that Africa should concentrate on achieving functional, affordable and accessible internet connectivity. Africa should sustain the efforts that have been made in the last decade or so to contribute to open content and grow OERs. In time, if MOOCS become really useful, Africa will adopt. Let’s not try to keep up with the Jones-es, as the saying goes.
@Jerome, certainly concentrating on affordable and accessible internet connectivity must be a priority, but I don’t think that developing online courses (or even MOOCs) would form part of the same enterprise? I can understand your reservations about what should be prioritised, but I was very interested to see Rachel’s post in the forum on whether African universities should produce MOOCs (see http://emergeafrica.net/live/emergeforums/topic/should-and-could-african-institutions-engage-with-moocs-and-if-so-how) – where she was saying that MOOCs don’t HAVE to be very resource intensive/expensive to produce, particularly if there is a specific target audience, rather than the more general public audience – her example, was healthcare practitioners. Do you think there could be some link between this approach and your suggested commitment to producing OERs and other open content?
Just one clarification which we may have not been clear about in the presentation: the MOOC ‘providers’ we referred to include a range of types of platforms from the high profile glossy Courersa to the more DIY Canvas and Coursesites versions. Your concerns about the course production expectations are valid, but there seem to be range of types/styles/forms of MOOCs emerging as the field develops. Do others have comments on this aspect?
@Janet and @Jerome and @Rachel, the challenge seems to be how to provide MOOCs that are relevant for the African HE landscape, produced here or in partnership with others, facilitating learning appropriate to the context, not excessively expensive, don’t rely on high connectivity and data, and…
@Janet I like the idea of targetting specific audiences eg farmers or health workers whilst extending the reach of a MOOC by incorporating other ICTs such as radio, tv, mobile phones and print media eg newspaper supplements(these are in fairly extensive use in many African countries) so as not to be entirely dependent on the computers and the internet …. This approach would probably require innovative collaborations/partnerships that could be problematic or not….
@Alice – that sounds very interesting – to combine the online affordances with other media like radio, TV, print media, but from my experience these can also be very expensive, especially if going for any kind of mass scale delivery 🙁 I am looking forward to reading the paper you posted up in the other forum. thanks for sharing.
I’ve tried summarise the discussion below. Please correct me where I might have misunderstood. – I look forward to your response!
Jerome disagrees. He maintains that Africa is not yet ready for MOOCS and that MOOCs are more suited for public enlightenment, community service, institutional promotion, or institutional social responsibility project, rather than formal HE learning. He expresses his concerns about affordability, accessibility, connectivity, development costs for setting up, and argues that they “may not be easily and quickly replicated”.He suggests that “ Africa should (rather) concentrate on achieving functional, affordable and accessible internet connectivity”. Africa should support open content and grow OERs. In time, if MOOCS become really useful and Africa will adopt them. (So Jerome, you don’t see Africa in the near future as a major creator of MOOCs?)
Janet suggests that MOOCs don’t have to be excessivily resource intensive or expensive to produce, particularly if there is a specific target audience. She refers to Alice who supports the idea of targeting “specific audiences eg farmers or health workers whilst extending the reach of a MOOC by incorporating other ICTs such as radio, tv, mobile phones and print media eg newspaper supplements so as not to be entirely dependent on computers and the internet.
The other forum topic that links very well with this one is “Should and could African institutions engage with MOOCs, and if so, how?”
So far the main arguments are:
Jerome disagreeing. He maintains that Africa is not yet ready for MOOCS and that they are more for public enlightenment, community service, institutional promotion, or institutional social responsibility project, rather than formal HE learning.He expresses his concerns about affordability and accessibility, connectivity, development costs for setting up, argues that they “may not be easily and quickly replicated”.Jerome suggests that “ Africa should concentrate on achieving functional, affordable and accessible internet connectivity”. Africa should sustain the efforts that have been made in the last decade or so to contribute to open content and grow OERs. In time, if MOOCS become really useful, Africa will adopt them.
Janet suggests that MOOCs don’t have to be resource intensive/expensive to produce, particularly if there is a specific target audience, rather than the more general public audience. Alice agrees with the idea of targeting specific audiences whilst extending the reach of a MOOC by incorporating other ICTs such as radio, tv, mobile phones and print media eg newspaper supplements so as not to be entirely dependent on the computers and the internet …. This approach would probably require innovative collaborations/partnerships that could be problematic or not and careful consideration of cost.
Are there any futher comments on the introductory literature shared in the introduction to this forum question?
Africa should participate , especially in the targeted MOOCS as these could provide educators with a sense of what our students are struggling with and what we could do to offer remedial support in the HE learning. I am particularly thinking about areas such as writing, numeracy and digital literacy.I like the idea of incorporating ‘mobile devices’ suggested by Alice.
Not being from the African continent I am often finding it ironic and a bit annoying to often see the discussion of relevance of digital technologies for Africa, led by people in ‘my part’ of the world. The two blog posts representing the views of colonialism, ironically by Americans, opposing Western Tech optimism for potentials that will definitely ‘save Africa’. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the real neocolonialism to not hear African voices represented in this debate, whether pro or contra MOOC.
Jakob has made a great point, but of course, that is by the way.
I believe strongly that Africa is set for MOOCs and a lot of Africans have started using it. I don’t know if there has been so much development since 2014 when this thread was active but am sure that the fact that Africa is not ready for MOOC is very untrue.
I will reiterate that MOOCs do not have to be overly expensive. If that is the case, then African Institutions can begin to create and deliver MOOCs.
Although, there are several hindrances to the success of MOOCs such as availability of Power, Internet Connectivity and so on, but Africans are known to be great adapters. We can survive under very hard conditions.
An average African provides almost every social amenity for himself including power, gas, water and in some cases good road. An average Nigerian for example spends a lot of useful time on social media, consuming Bandwidth, downloading videos, streaming videos and making video calls. This fact makes it possible to say that if MOOCs can be created to suit specific Audience (learners) Africa will gradually get used to it.
I am an African and I have participated (and still participating in various MOOCs). With my little experience and that of the people in my region, I believe that Africa is ready (infact, very ready) for MOOCs.
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