Casablanca – Education is a basic human right and the key to development.
The educational landscape is being transformed by ICT, just like many other fields; Massive Open Online Courses are the recent evolution of distance learning that addresses many challenges: quality, accessibility and freedom of charge. To discuss Moocs and the future of Education, US International Exchange Alumni hosted a web chat with Dr Anant Agarwal, President of EdX (and much more)
MOOCs and EdX
As defined in Wikipedia: “A massive open online course, shortly MOOC, is an online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants”
Courses vary in nature; duration can range from few weeks to several months. They are mostly self paced and eligible for certificates upon completion.
There is growing number of MOOCs providers, EdX is one of the well-financed and is associated with prestigious universities, making high quality content freely available to everyone with an internet connection. Particularly, new generations have the advantages of being comfortable with new technologies and likely to quickly adopt this way of learning.
With 21 partnering universities, EdX is providing 70+ MOOCs for around 1.2 millions registered users, after just one year of existence.
I was particularly pleased to learn that EdX is open source : anyone can download it and do the hosting on site, exactly like the Open University of West Africa. Engineers at EdX are working hard to provide interesting features and to improve accessibility over number of constraints. I think making this technology open source is both noble and smart.
Why take these courses
As Dr Anant said, free is not always the strongest incentive. There are other advantages . He featured success stories of students who got accepted at top universities after excellent work on moocs, and of job seekers who both enhanced their skills and benefited from credentials to get THE job.
Mentioning earned certificates in one’e resume and social media profiles is certainly an asset in job market.
EdX can be used to train teachers as well as there are courses targeted at teachers. Universities are encouraged to participate more with this type of content because there is an absolute need for high qualified teachers.
Best experience with Moocs
If Moocs are all that good, can we say goodbye to the old educational model? Especially if we know that even for more practical subject, EdX offers necessary simulators and online laboratories (electronics, biology, physics …)
Absolutely not! great teachers and real laboratories will always be a must. In fact, Dr Anant said studies and experiments have proven that blended education, which combines MOOCs and offline interaction is the best formula. As a result, teachers need to be trained to work this new way.
Students are also advised to work in groups and to create meetup ones: learning remains a community exercise and better results are obtained in this condition.
About EdX revenue model
While ensuring that courses and certificates will always remain free, other sources of revenue are considered, mainly providing services to the corporate world. You can learn more in the recording and the Wikipedia article below.
The big question
How can Moocs become widely adopted in Morocco? Where English is the third language, ICT deployment and internet infrastructure still need enhancement, and incentives for new learning methods are needed.
I had discussions with a telecom professional, an English professor and a researcher professor. Well, Moroccan internet providers are working towards a substantial improvement of coverage and quality; coming years will certainly bring much better experience. For massive adoption by students, the role of teachers is unquestionable, but that brings back the problem of English language…and motivation. As all curricula are taught in Arabic/French and the number of Moocs in these languages is much lower than English ones, switching to English is clearly problematic; it becomes a matter of self motivation and strong desire for quality. Luckily, there are always people who want to do better. The challenge would be to increase their number.
So let’s spread the word, encourage students and lead by the example.
For English teachers, here is a moocs on how to become a good writer, test and share with your students!
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