‘Revolutionary’ is a word that seems well suited to South Africa’s current tertiary education environment and the #FeesMustFall movement, which began in October last year, doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down. While the student-led protests achieved extraordinary results, managing to convince government and universities to adopt a zero percent increase for 2016, the costs associated with attending technical colleges and universities in South Africa are still prohibitive for the majority of our population. Enter the era of the Mooc! It may sound like a Japanese cartoon character, but Moocs offer a possible solution to South Africa’s tertiary education crisis.
An acronym for Massive Online Open Courses, Moocs have been around since 2008, gaining popularity internationally around 2012. Up until recently though their application in South Africa has only really been theoretical, but with the opening of the first Moocs in Cape Town and Johannesburg late last year it seems things are on the move!
Adapted as ‘Massive Online Open Varsity’ (Moov) as part of Gauteng’s Vulindlel’ eJozi youth empowerment programme, the online learning programme is accessed via eleven video-enabled digital learning sites throughout the city’s libraries, including Orange Farm, which has more than 900 students already signed up for various courses and curricula. According to a press release from the City sent out last year, the online ‘varsities offer up to 25 000 non-matriculants, matriculants and post-matriculants the opportunity to complete a range of courses from foundation to tertiary level. A Digital Skills Curriculum which aims to teach the skills required for the growing digital economy, has also been developed in partnership with Google Reach, and is currently being piloted at Orange Farm.
While there are definite limitations to this system of learning, especially in South Africa with its bandwidth constraints, Moocs do at least offer an alternative to traditional tertiary institutions which currently face their own set of problems.
Click here to read more about Moov at work in Jozi.