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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CUP South Africa partners with NGO Worldreader

Interviewed for an article in The Bookseller magazine about a mobile learning project I initiated with Cambridge University Press and the NGO Worldreader.

Article below and source here

CUP South Africa (CUP SA) has partnered with NGO Worldreader to make content for schoolchildren freely available across sub-Saharan Africa. Worldreader has developed an e-reading app, hosted on cloud-based mobile application platform BiNu, which enables “feature phones”—those without Android or iOS operating systems, typically Nokias, which are widely used across the continent—to be used as e-reading devices.

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Pioneering Mobile Learning in Africa: A Partnership Worldreader

Mobile learning holds immense potential for enhancing education and literacy in Africa. Recognizing this potential, Cambridge partnered with the NGO Worldreader to bring educational content to schoolchildren across sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative focused on utilizing widely available feature phones as e-reading devices through an innovative e-reading app developed by Worldreader.

The Challenge

In sub-Saharan Africa, there is a need for accessible educational content, especially for young children. While feature phones are widely available across the continent, they traditionally lack the advanced functionalities of smartphones. The challenge was to leverage these feature phones for educational purposes and provide diverse language content to address the needs of children from different linguistic backgrounds.

The Solution

Worldreader developed an e-reading app hosted on the cloud-based mobile application platform BiNu, transforming feature phones into e-reading devices. Cambridge recognized the ingenuity of this development, as it meant that anyone with a feature phone could now have an e-reader simply by downloading the BiNu Worldreader app.

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