Are Massive Open Online Courses The Future Of Higher Education

By Muriel M. Wafula. Muriel is a 24 year old professional from Bungoma Kenya. She is an accountant for Wamulu International

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are the future of higher education though in some countries the legislative base regulating the use of ICT is not yet comprehensive enough to warrant broad utilization of ICT in the rural areas. Public awareness about advantages and opportunities that come with the ICT is very minimal especially in the rural areas partly due to digital divide between rural and urban leading to a country and or international wide low level of computerization skewed in favor of urban areas. MOOCs with the current and technological changes will remain the future of higher education.

Higher education in some countries is achieved after basic education. It is offered in secondary schools, colleges and universities. There are clear transition strategies from basic to higher education in some countries and students who pursue higher education are mature, informed and connected mobile phones with WAP facilities.

The progression rate from primary to secondary and tertiary educational institutions, is largely determined by the students’ performance, attitude and the choice of subjects, which may be limited by facilities e.g. library and classrooms. Other household-based factors including the high number of girls who get married after secondary school, contribute to low gender parity in tertiary institutions. Total enrolment in public technical, industrial, vocational and Entrepreneurship training (TIVET) institutions is low in most African countries due to limited spaces available in TIVET institutions, only a small proportion of eligible school levers are absorbed. In addition there exist serious gender disparities in terms of overall enrolment in science and technology-related professions due to high fee charges and space limitations. With the rapid population growth exerting pressure on the available learning institutions the university enrolment, the transition rate from secondary schools to universities still remains low because of inadequate facilities in the same universities, compelling both the public and private universities to begin distance learning programmes through massive open online courses as a strategy to reach many students who were not able to be accommodated in the institutions. A policy that calls for participation for all, equity and inclusion.

Massive open online courses have become universal as they access leaners to both local and international information. They have provided opportunities for learners from different countries far a part from each other to share ideas, knowledge and experiences without incurring travel expenses. Learners have interacted with their lecturers and friends through exchange of learning materials on mobile phones, computers and laptops. Interested learners who cannot afford travel expenses, heavy fees and expensive learning materials can access information on internet at a low or less cost.

Some countries, in support of MOOCs have come up with programmes and policy interventions to ensure that many leaners access internet for information thus getting education. Such interventions to avail benefits of new technologies especially ICT include: establishment of the ministry of information and communication, construction of submarine fiber optic cable for international connections and fiber optic backbone infrastructure for national connections. Other interventions are the ongoing process of establishing digital villages and call centers at the locational level. Some governments have introduced laptops in the Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) to prepare them for online courses in future. Many governments have either removed or reduced taxes on computers and laptops, which has enabled many citizens to acquire them at a lower cost and establishment fibre cafes as ICT information centers. Introduction of purchase of bundles of different and lower denominations has enabled many people with internet connectivity phones to get and download information on mobile phones for the purpose of education at a lower cost.

Portability and storage are other factors in quality education. A lot of information can be stored in computers and laptops more easily than carrying heavy books and taking a struggle of writing notes.

Some countries and governments through legislation have initiated programmes for rural electrification to ensure that all schools, other learning institutions and all social amenities get electricity supply so that a large percentage of learners become computer literate. Interconnection rates for call between mobile and fixed, and those between mobile to mobile have reduced. Various companies have erected boosters to enable network availability for internet connectivity.

Most secondary schools in many countries have computers and computer lessons. Many students get proper grammatical statements and meanings of vocabulary or difficult words from computers. Others look up the meaning of difficult words from mobile phones that have internet connections. This equips students with higher educations opportunities. They get access information missing in the available instructional materials (books) from the internet through mobile phones, laptops or computers. Internet connectivity has equipped many people with international information and reduced the world into a global village. I strongly believe that massive open online courses (MOOCs) are the future of higher education.

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