By Hannah Winston
Washington — Do massive open online courses offer countries around the world an affordable way to democratize higher education? Maybe, speakers said at an event on Monday here at the Embassy of Norway, but at best such a possibility is a long way off.
The discussion was part of Transatlantic Science Week, an event sponsored by the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research that looks for solutions to problems shared by Norway, Canada, and the United States.
Torbjorn Roe Isaksen, Norway’s minister of education and research, said MOOCs have the potential to “give people all over the world access to education.” But he said he knew of no MOOCs reaching into developing countries in South America and Africa.
He said that data from companies that provide MOOCs show that most of those who enroll in the courses have already completed degrees and are looking to further their learning. MOOCs aren’t necessarily attracting people who have never had a formal education in the first place, he said.
Dag Rune Olsen, a professor of biomedical physics at the University of Bergen, said using MOOCs as a path to educational equality around the world would not work unless countries and the MOOC companies could find a way to draw in those students. “If MOOCs are going to contribute to the democratization of society, they need to reach new learners,” he said.
Using digital tools like MOOCs, he said, can help countries reach higher-education goals they have set for themselves—in enrollment, completion, and so on—but he warned that countries, and specifically universities, cannot just clutch technology and tools.
“A fool with a tool is still a fool,” he said.
[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/international-reach-of-moocs-is-limited-by-users-preferences/48285 ]