Massive open online courses, though controversial, are improving lives all over the world
By Anant Agarwal
Back in 2012, the term MOOC was everywhere. The acronym, which stands for massive open online course, was the buzzworthy darling of both education and tech media.
Enthusiastic supporters predicted that MOOCs, which are often free and open to anyone with an Internet connection, were going to tear down the traditional university, completely disrupting higher education as we knew it. Some even claimed that within a few years, many brick-and-mortar colleges might cease to exist.
That dire prediction hasn’t come to pass. Critics have pointed out that MOOCs don’t have the high completion or engagement rates one would like to see in a traditional classroom. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have tremendous value. We’ve learned in the past few years that MOOCs have instead demonstrated potential benefit as a catalyst for change within universities and all over the world. MOOC platforms have helped entire countries build their labor forces and create conduits for dramatic social change.
For example, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor now relies on MOOCs through an e-learning site called Doroob to combat a crushing skills gap in its labor market. Hovering around 29 percent, the unemployment rate for Saudis between ages 16 and 29 is driven largely by a lack of necessary skills. Using MOOCs to build talent on a massive scale, the ministry offers free training to anyone with a will to learn – providing technical education to 400,000 students within two years. In Doroob’s first year, more than 50 percent of learners enrolling in these skill-building MOOCs were women.
Jordan is engaged in a similar program with the support of the Queen Rania Foundation. The MOOCs on their site, Edraak, enrolled more than 131,000 students in its first year and 40 percent of these were female. The overarching goal in both countries is to improve the labor market by giving their large-scale workforces access to learning and developing the skills most desired by employers in the region.
MOOCs have proved to be a remarkably effective way of meeting labor-focused goals and filling very real positions. In India, the assessment company Aspiring Minds – which helps organizations, governments and institutions measure and identify talent – has been connecting MOOC learners with companies that have open positions in related fields.
[ Full article available at U.S. News & World Report: http://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2016-02-01/the-global-mooc-moment ]