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Creating a UCT MOOC



Who is eligible to create MOOCs through UCT?

Our courses showcase the teaching or research of UCT academics and departments. Lecturers work with learning designers and course production staff from the university’s Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) to develop and deliver the MOOCs.

Between 2014-2016 the UCT MOOCs Advisory Committee selected 12 courses for development aligned with the UCT MOOC strategy, which has the following goals:

  • To showcase the teaching and research excellence of UCT
  • To give exposure to African content and knowledge
  • To profile key postgraduate programmes and research areas aligned with the university’s strategic goals
  • To support students in academic transitions
  • To make UCT’s knowledge resources globally accessible
  • To develop models and expertise in online learning that could be deployed in mainstream degree programmes

The VC’s Strategic Fund supported the development of the 12 MOOCs which are either under development or have been launched. This funding opportunity is now closed.

Courses with independent funding can be considered. 

For further information and background about MOOCs, visit the CILT website here, email MOOCs@uct.ac.za or contact Janet Small at CILT via email for any queries.


Why is UCT putting content online – for free?

There has been a massive rise internationally in enrolments in free online learning, but there are currently few African (and few other developing country) universities offering MOOCs. We believe there is an opportunity to share knowledge generated by leading academics and researchers, and to showcase UCT’s array of intellectual and teaching resources through MOOCs. We also believe that by joining in the global innovations in online education, we can apply lessons learned from MOOC teaching to our own on-campus online and blended offerings.

We encourage course creators to release the MOOC course materials as open educational resources (OER).


Are MOOCs the same as formal online courses?

MOOCs and online courses are similar in the sense that they are both courses that are offered in an online environment. The difference between MOOCs and online courses is that online courses typically have an enrollment fee attached, whereas MOOCs are freely available to anyone who is able to access them via the internet with a relatively fast internet connection. The MOOCs’ formats lend themselves to introductory material that can provide participants with a taste of a new field; or allow someone to master specific skills.

See detailed descriptions of approaches to MOOCs in a document compiled by the MOOC Implementation Team.


The table below provides a summary of the key differences.

Formal Online Course MOOC
Numbers: Participant numbers fixed and limited with maximum numbers in the hundreds or low thousands MOOCs have attracted tens of thousands of participants
Motivation: Participants are expected to have focussed motivation to earn credit or certificate MOOC participants have a wide range of motivations ranging from dipping in to see how a course is taught, to browsing, engaging with a community or achieving a certificate.
Profile of participants: Similar cohorts at fixed stages of school or career (First years, mature students, professionals). Often united by geography or nationality. Mixed cohorts with mixed ages, backgrounds, country of origin, language capabilities
Assessment: is a key motivator for students; needs to be rigorous, aligned with learning objectives and institutional and/or professional standards. Assessment is optional, flexible and may not be a motivator for all participants, yet creative and innovative assessment practices can drive participant behaviour.
Cost: Participants will pay for the course (directly or indirectly) Participants access the course for free, paying only in terms of the cost of an internet connection, and having the option to buy a certificate.
Role of teacher: responsible for teaching, guiding students through the prescribed curriculum, providing personalised feedback, managing formative and summative assessments and awarding the qualification. Teacher’s role is present but limited and varied; time and resource constraints do not allow for personalised teaching or guidance or marking assessments.


How MOOCs fit into our existing course provision

We have considered our current course provision landscape at UCT and how MOOCs might fit into it. As MOOCs do not offer formal credit-bearing opportunities, MOOCs exist in the semi-formal and non-formal areas of course provision. In this sense, they augment the institution's work in these spaces and help departments, faculties and academics to experiment reaching different audiences and new modes of delivery.

What are the different types of MOOCs?

There are many different ways of categorising MOOCs. We present a way of categorising MOOCs by audience and purpose, which may be helpful to others thinking about what sort of MOOCs to offer and how they might align with departmental or faculty strategy and perspectives.

Category 1 - Teaching Showcase: Showcase Teaching and introduce topics with high profile ‘rock star’ presenters

Category 2 - Gateway skills: Introduce fields and support students in undergraduate study

Category 3 - Graduate Literacies: Develop skills and introduce topics of postgraduate study

Category 4 - Professional showcase: Showcase professional careers for continuing education and qualifications

Category 5 - Research Showcase: Showcase research and special interest topics of interest to postgraduate level

How can I use MOOCs to improve my teaching?

Engaging with hundreds of learners online will require innovative approaches to course design, communications, pedagogy and technology, to ensure the optimum learning experiences for a broad range of people. Such lessons can be applied to enhancing our formal on-campus, blended and online courses.

As the experimentation continues, there are more and more MOOC-like courses developing some of which could be used as resources for regular teaching.

Here are some emerging examples:

  • Flipping courses with MOOCs
  • Blending MOOCs with face-to-face classroom sessions
  • Using MOOCs as Learning Resources
  • Using MOOCs for Professional Development
  • Wrapping a MOOC to supplementary skills for students

You can read the full paper: "Developing World MOOCs: A curriculum view of the MOOC landscape" for a fuller exposition of this approach.