A Brief Overview of MOOCs

Posted by Wilma De Villiers

The need for better educated workers has increased over the year because of the central role of information and knowledge. Universities and Colleges could not keep up in fulfilling this need. A new model was needed to provide “quality, affordable post-secondary education to a much larger number of students”. Many people belief that online learning is the answer to the challenge and that it is emerging as the key technology enabler to transform higher education.

There has been a significant increase in the use of online learning. In 2008 open teaching got a new name, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs are online platforms offering different courses and some are associated with universities and some are offering free courses and try to generate funding to become self-sustained.

MOOCs’ have different purposes, e.g. some are built on the idea of democratising education and other focusses on improving specific skills. One of the main purposes is to reach the masses to empower them. The idea is that costs should be reduced to make it even more accessible but currently this is a challenge, e.g. I looked at the cost of an online short course (10 weeks) and it costs R12, 500. Sharing of knowledge is another purpose of this platform.

There are many questions around the value of MOOCs. Yes, it is more accessible but one of the most important questions are: Will the certificates be recognised by the workplace? Certification is offered but it is not credit-bearing. It is also not recognised by the necessary quality assurance bodies. A solution is that these courses should be part of a quality assurance body.

I have only touched the top of the iceberg regarding this topic because a discussion to cover all the areas cannot be done within 10 to 20 sentences. There is a lack of proper research because this is still a new field. I certainly do see the need for MOOCs’ but personally feel that it is now focussing on personal development and not necessarily to increase one’s work opportunities and/ or skills.

Posted by Wilma De Villiers






July 20, 2015

2 responses on "A Brief Overview of MOOCs"

  1. Thanks for the informative Introduction Wilma. I totally understand when you say this is a huge topic. I think we are still in the process of understanding and unpacking MOOCs. You mention recognition at the workplace, do you not foresee the workplace changing its recruitment strategies. I am not sure about in SA, but I know in the US some IT companies no longer look at what the student (prospective employee) has on paper (certificates) but rather what the student can do. Companies are spending a big portion of their budgets on retraining the incoming workforce despite them having qualifications on paper. With this said, MOOCs could play a bigger role in competency empowerment (as the cheaper alternative to formal learning)… Just a thought…

  2. I totally agree that companies can use MOOC’s to empower their workers and to encourage life-long learning.

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Massive Open Online College SA

MOOC SA has moved from being a project to a sub-mainstream MOOC platform. Our new focus is to create an online college full of free/affordable courses offered through the goodwill of professionals and through corporate/gorvernment entities that wish to offer affordable training en masse to their employees. It is a good platform for course designers to try out innovations in terms of course delivery. It is also a good platform for Organisational Developers to try out various ways of training delivery. ...Read More...

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