The Place of MOOCs in Africa's Higher Education

The Place of MOOCs in Africa's Higher Education

Stephen Odebero (Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kenya)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8170-5.ch012


In this chapter, the contentious issues of access to digital technology between the various social groups, the rich and the poor, the youth and the older generations, including rural urban livelihoods in Africa is tackled. The chapter examines the place of MOOCs in Africa's higher education and addresses the important question of digital divide in the design and delivery of MOOCs with a special focus on Africa. Using the multi-access learning theory, it is observed that the merits of investment in MOOCs included increased GDP in Africa, increased women participation in HE, creation of cultural independence in the continent, and recruitment and marketization of African institutions of higher learning. However, for Africa to enjoy these benefits, it has to surmount such challenges as high costs of design and development of MOOCs apart from developing online learning systems contingent on her own needs, practical realities, and aspirations.
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Background Information

The British online dictionary has defined MOOC as a noun which describes a free course that is studied online by a big population. The students who partake of the course have to log on to the website and proceed with their studies. The Wikipedia on the other hand define it as a recent phenomenon in distant education that only emerged as recently as 2012 and refers to an online course with unlimited participation of learners’ trough the website. It notes further that the same is not entirely open as it is embedded with interactive forums that would help build a community of academics such as students, professors, and assistant professors. This understanding bring to the fore what has been describes by Allen and Seaman (2014) as blended online learning and MOOCs. The duo have noted that in situations where only 30 to 79 percent of the content is delivered online through online discussions but with a reduced number of face to face meetings, then this course qualifies to be called blended or hybrid type. Typically therefore, three types of online learning have been identified (Allen & Seaman, 2014).

Web Facilitated: In this category, only 1-29 percent of the content may be delivered online. This category is essentially a face to face delivered course but may use web based technology to facilitate the course management systems (CMS) or even use the web pages to post the syllabus, the course outlines, descriptions, continuous assessment tests and assignments. This is the most popular mode of online learning and commonly used in African countries especially universities. The actual percentage use of the web to deliver content may vary and in many instances be far much lower than 29 percent. Higher education institutions in Africa have most of their budgetary allocations focused on IT infrastructure. The Ministry of education in Kenya has provided guidelines that require 10 percent of all income in HE institutions in the country to be invested in the provision of IT and its accompanying infrastructure. HE institutions have responded by purchasing computers, internet connectivity, computer laboratories and related infrastructure. But quite often than not, most of the huge budgetary allocations have gone to naught with little to show of it as corruption has consumed most of the budget. Moreover, the lack of basic skills in IT and inadequate infrastructure has bogged down HE institutions resulting in Czerniewicz and Naidoo (2013) concluding that Africa has been left as recipients of global education offerings and not creator of it. However, a sizeable number of HE institutions in Africa use web technology to post course descriptions and outlines, advertise their courses and programs, market new courses and tuition fees charges and to send and receive assignments especially term papers.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reducing Digital Divide: This is where effort is made to minimize the disparities in the use of modern technology to study online by different social groupings, gender, and geographical location including rural urban livelihoods.

Higher Education: Refers to education got formally or informally at an institution of higher learning usually a university. For the purpose of this study, this will be limited to university education.

Digital Divide: This is conceptualized to refer to differences in the acquisition and use of modern technology such as ICT through computers, mobile phones, laptops and work stations etc The disparities could be by gender, geographical location, rural and urban livelihoods and/or any other relevant criteria for differentiation.

MOOCs: Refers to massive open online courses where a large number of students get admitted to university programs online but with sizeable contributions of face to face interactions.

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