Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) might not be a term many Zimbabweans identify with. However unpopular they may be locally and regionally, MOOCs are nothing to go by.This massive connection of Learners and Teachers is a career advancing, economic reviving and technology booster with unprecedented levels of potential. So before we go any further, go ahead, sign up for one!
But what is a MOOC?
A MOOC is a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a large number of people. Usually the course is at a University level. Anyone with internet access can register for a MOOC for free! This is probably what makes these courses such a beauty. MOOCs are exciting, intuitive, innovative and very involving.
A brief history
MOOCs are a recent and widely researched development in distance education. First introduced in 2008 (in a course developed by Stephen Downes and George Siemens) they have gained popularity over the years. A big leap in 2012 popularized the MOOCs worldwide. Though recent, MOOCs have their roots deep in correspondence studying, something that has been there for a while now.
Readiness for MOOCs
Internet penetration rate in Zimbabwe stands at 48.1% (PORTRAZ fourth quarter report, 2015). While this is way below the highest rate in Africa (Kenya’s 69.6%) it is still way above the African average of 28.6% and decently above the world average of 46.4%. Local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have done well in the past few months to provide ordinary Zimbabweans with fast, reliable and affordable services. While there is still a long way to go, we have also come a long way. Mobile telecoms companies like Econet have gone the extra mile to provide services like Econet Zero, a service which offers FREE internet access to world-class education content for all Econet Broadband users in Zimbabwe with the objective of reducing barriers to accessing free knowledge enabling learning.
Find the list of zero-rated websites that Econet wireless subscribers can enjoy here
A MOOC for everyone
The diversity of MOOCs offered online is massive. It is no exaggeration to say everyone can find a suitable course to take up.
MOOCs for industry
Any reasonable employer will know this, ’employees are the life-blood of any company,’ easily the most valuable asset. It only makes sense to invest in them. In fact, employees today have come to expect these kind of investments. Training and learning opportunities are often sought after when people are making decisions on where they would like to work.
Large corporations like Google, SAP, AT&T have embraced MOOCs with such passion. In 2015, Google enrolled 80,000 of their employees for Udacity‘s HTML5 course. This is a perfect example of an organisation using MOOCs for staff training. SAP have gone all the way by offering their employees and clients with dozens of Open Courses
Though not at the very top of the list of benefactors, African corporations can get very good results from MOOCs. Any organization wants to get maximum benefits from staff training while minimizing costs as far as possible.
Certification not an issue
A very common trend in Zimbabwe (and the rest of the African continent) is to put certification ahead of knowledge. While certification is a good way of showing one approved, it is not a good measure of proving skill or knowledge. Reports have shown that Rolls Royce spend £40m on training a year but only £2m on certified training. That’s why the ‘certification’ argument doesn’t really matter that much. Successful organisations want skills and competences, not bits of paper. This is often a message lost on education providers. It is also a good reason for MOOCs being more relevant, unshackled by the obsession with paper certification. Even though MOOC providers may not primarily offer certification, there usually is an option to get one (verified certificate) at a small fee.
Here are some benefits that companies can get from MOOCs;
- Employees can access training on a 24/7 basis
- Boosts employee productivity and profits.
- Improves employee retention rates.
- Ensures that employees are up-to-date with skills and professional knowledge.
- Address real world challenges to improve on-the-job performance.
- Organizations can identify motivated employees who possess desired skill sets.
MOOCs for innovators and Entrepreneurs
One of the greatest challenges with entrepreneurs is the focus on sales, marketing, product, delivery and cash – never learning. MOOCs present a would be solution to this problem. There’s present a flood of good business training. The major benefit being they are free, non-bureaucratic, immediately accessible, therefore a boon for cash strapped, small businesses. MOOCs are also not too time straining. Entrepreneurs and innovators have a little less time than might be consider normal to achieve targets. This also makes it very difficult for them to attend many forms of conventional learning. In most cases, the time that is needed to complete a MOOC is not heavy.
MOOCs for Academia
Zimbabwe’s Tertiary Institutes have suffered brain drain and lack qualified instructors. Many a times teaching assistants double-up as lectures while a whole department might go without a single professor. Well-structured online courses from leading academics (in the form of MOOCs) present a unique opportunity for both local learners and teachers. Learner’s can take up MOOCs to advance their knowledge while instructors can use them to present students with courses that are as good as those delivered by world-class universities.
MOOCs for Africa, by Africa
Within the borders of Africa lies very unique problems and challenges. While MOOCs will benefit the continent on a huge scale, it should be noted that most of the courses were probably not designed with the continent in focus. African institutions have a major role to play in closing this gap. The continent needs a set of courses alleviate problem unique to its people. Many universities in Africa practice some form of online distance learning, but only a few are already advocating or mobilizing for MOOCs. Open universities in Mauritius, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe provide one form of e-learning or the other, but the proper application of MOOCs is still at a developmental state for many. South Africa on the other hand have made notable strides in offering MOOCs. In June this year, the University of Witwatersrand became the first university in Africa to offer MOOCs on edX.
As exciting as they may be, there is always a downside to everything. While thousands of people sign up for MOOCs everyday, statistics have shown that less than 50% ever start the course. Even less people go on to finish the. In fact, the average completion rate for massive open online courses is less than 7 per cent.
Find listed here some of the most popular here.