MOOCs and Skills Training

In recent years, a global increase in access to the Internet, a demand for quality and affordable higher education and the willingness of some international higher education institutions (HEIs) to experiment with Web 2.0 tools and concepts, has resulted in the substantial growth of Massive Open Online Courses  (MOOCs).

These courses allow for new ways of learning skills and gaining accreditation and, as such, offer much in the way of skills development.

In this section, the concept of MOOCs will be introduced and their application for digital media skills training explored with reference to some of the major  resources available.

MOOCs: An Introduction

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Disruptive Change or 21st Century Innovation?

In recent years, a global increase in access to the Internet coupled with a demand for quality and affordable higher education and a willingness on the part of faculty at some international higher education institutions (HEIs) to experiment with Web 2.0 tools and concepts has resulted in the substantial growth of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The growth in these courses is driven primarily by issues of cost and access, as outlined by Cathy N. Davidson in her article ‘Are MOOCs Really the Future of the University?’. In parts of the developing world, in particular countries in Africa, an already-existing skills shortage is exacerbated by limited access to HEIs and the sometimes prohibitive cost of obtaining a degree. In contexts such as these, MOOCs have been proposed as a potential solution. However, the utopian vision put forward by proponents of the system – free, quality education delivered online – is countered by anxiety from some faculty members at HEIs, focused predominantly on what this would mean for the traditional university system.

What is a MOOC?

What then, differentiates MOOCs from the online learning already practiced by many HEIs in South Africa? MOOCs are ‘massive’ – some courses have enrolments of over 100,000 students – and are ‘open’ in the sense that anyone can register to attend the course (often without paying any fees). A recent webinar presented by Paul Stacey discussed ‘The Pedagogy of MOOCs’ and provided a history of the MOOC movement. Stacey explained that the cMOOCs were the first iteration of this courseware and focused on “knowledge creation and generation rather than knowledge duplication” (Stacey, 2013). These MOOCs were experiments in pedagogy as well as courses but although interesting in their own right failed to receive the enrolments and recognition that later MOOCs have.

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A Case Study in Community-Focused Indigenous Knowledge Management

I contributed to a book on knowledge management for development, focusing on my work with the Libraries and Heritage Department. Its available on Amazon for a crazy expensive price!

Prevailing ideas about knowledge management in post-apartheid South Africa have been marked by notions of redress, the recognition of previously marginalized narratives and categories such as intangible heritage and indigenous knowledge. Key to these developments has been a democratizing turn, a participatory approach to the development and management of knowledge resources. Born of changes in the broader political context and the policy environment, the Ulwazi Programme is a new South African heritage initiative that has been set up by the eThekwini Municipal Library’s Libraries and Heritage Department to preserve and disseminate indigenous knowledge of local communities in the greater Durban area. The Programme, in the form of a localized Wiki, functions as a collaborative online archive of local knowledge and histories that are collected from the community by volunteer fieldworkers and then shared via the Internet and on cell phones. This utilization of a combination of open-source and social media applications for archival and heritage purposes is unique in South Africa. The chapter presents the structure and the implementation details of this indigenous knowledge preservation system.

  • Publisher: Springer US
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Publication Name: Knowledge Management for Development: Domains, Strategies and Technologies for Developing Countries

The Development of a User-generated Digital Library

Current ICTs and mobile technology have the potential to empower communities to preserve and manage their own local knowledge. This paper looks at the development of the Ulwazi Programme, a community-generated digital library of local content, based in the eThekwini Municipality of Durban, South Africa. The programme uses crowd-sourcing and Web 2.0 technologies to enable communities served by the municipal library to contribute to a digital resource of local knowledge. By creating an online platform that inhabitants of the municipality can engage with and contribute to, the author argues that communities start participating in the global information society. Making this information more widely available can also serve to promote cross-cultural understanding and tolerance and in turn, social cohesion. Technology empowers communities to record what they feel is important in a way that makes sense and is logical to them. The Ulwazi Programme increases the capacity of the local communities of eThekwini to develop and access content in their own language. Previously technologically-marginalised communities now have online access to local knowledge, along with the prospect of participating in the global information society and developing digital literacy.

Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Publication Name: IST-Africa 2013 Conference Proceedings

The number in my pocket: the power of mobile technology for the exchange of indigenous knowledge

Greyling, E. and McNulty, N. 2011. The number in my pocket: the power of mobile technology for the exchange of indigenous knowledge. Knowledge Management for Development Journal. 7 (3): 256 – 273. Available HERE. See a summary in poster form HERE.

The last decade has seen the development of online databases becoming an established norm throughout the world for the preservation of indigenous knowledge. However, in the absence of desktop computers and ubiquitous Internet access, Africa is limping behind in this quest for global information, with the digital divide ever widening and the wealth of indigenous knowledge fast disappearing for the people of this continent. In a bid to address these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Africa is recognizing the potential of the mobile phone to enable the continent to catch up with the global information society. Since 2000 some 316 million new mobile phone subscriptions have emerged on the African continent. For them the cell phone has become an information hub, the primary interface through which to connect to Africa and to the rest of the world. A recent, promising development has been the introduction of browsers on mobile phones. This, combined with the 3G network all cellular providers have migrated to, means that ordinary Africans are accessing the Internet from their phones in ever-increasing numbers. The success of a number of Internet-based mobile applications means that the average cell phone user now associates his phone with more than just the calls he makes or text messages he sends. He can also play music, show video, find out where he is via GPS and access local and global information. This paper describes a concept for the development of user-generated content compiled in an online indigenous knowledge database, making use of current mobile and web technologies. Informed by empirical practice based on a South African case-study, the different tools are discussed, highlighting the interaction between the library, the community and the technologies. The participating role of local communities leading to enrichment of the database is juxtaposed against the library’s anchor role as custodian of the knowledge resource. The preservation of context-related local knowledge creates a digital library of relevance to local communities. Technical functionality enables the social interaction that results from knowledge sharing. Short and long-term benefits that the community stands to gain are discussed and the limitations of the model pointed out.

Niall McNulty presented a poster at the The Third International m-libraries Conference ( in Brisbane, Australia in 2011.  The poster outlined the Ulwazi Programme’s plans for developing a system to collect indigenous knowledge via mobiles phones in the eThekwini Municipality.