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What participants find valuable about MOOCs

10 Aug 2016 - 14:00

“Taking MOOCs is about lifelong learning”, a sentiment shared by UCT MOOC participants from around the world and articulated by Ebba, an online education quality assurance consultant from Sweden. 

MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses offered by leading universities across the world at no cost and with no entry requirements. The University of Cape Town (UCT) is the first African university to offer these courses and one and a half years on it decided to ask some participants how MOOCs have impacted their lives. 

Ebba went on to elaborate, that while she is excited about how MOOCs have opened up access to university level education for a wide range of people; she also found value in taking MOOCs as a professional. She even includes relevant MOOCs on her CV. But it is not just professionals, such as Ebba, who have seen the benefits in taking MOOCs. 

James, a postgraduate student in South Africa conveyed how taking MOOCs had helped him change direction and decide on his future course of study, “How MOOCs have impacted my life is essentially by allowing me access to fields of study which I wouldn’t have access to before, and with the knowledge that I’ve gained I have been accepted into a scientific degree where I will now use these skills”. James explained to the UCT team how his participation in a MOOC led to him earning a scholarship to study at an overseas university. Another student, Damiana, had taken MOOCs to prepare her for university; one to improve her English and academic writing; and another aligned to her field of Medical Anthropology. She described how the MOOC on academic writing helped to build her confidence to tackle her first year of study.

From students to pensioners, MOOCs are having a positive impact. Molly, a pensioner from Cape Town, had attended the UCT Summer School for years, but could not continue due to decreased mobility. However, after hearing from her daughter about MOOCs, she is now able to continue taking courses, online from her own room, and feels she is getting “the best of both worlds”.

Specific to the South African context: Alison, an occupational therapist in a rural hospital in Hoedspruit uses the UCT Education for All: Diversity, Disability and Inclusion MOOC for professional development. Being at an isolated hospital, Alison explained that it has been very challenging to find opportunities for hospital staff to attend seminars, courses or training. By downloading some of the video lectures from the course and showing them off-line to a group of occupational therapists during a staff training session, Alison said that they have introduced useful adaptations to their hospital practice. Once someone signs up, the fact that the MOOC learning material is always available means that learning can happen at any time, something Alison and fellow therapists are grateful for. 

An entrepreneurial story of professional development came from Nosifundo, a nurse educator, in Port Elizabeth who has completed five MOOCs on the FutureLearn platform, including Education for All. Each course, however, was completed on her smartphone because she does not have a laptop. This further recognises the impact that MOOCs are having, and can have on the lives of South Africans and others who may otherwise not have access to learning institutions such as UCT.