How to use MOOCs to revolutionise African education

Samuel B. Hailemariam, Platform & Learning Lead at EDACY, shares his thoughts on how MOOCs can contribute to Africa’s growth and be a catalyst for the impact of education.

The abundance of high quality massive open online courses (MOOCs) have made educational content accessible to more people than ever. According to Coursera, over 15 million people have registered to Coursera classes since the company was founded in 2012. A recent survey found that 36% of respondents from emerging economies gained tangible career benefits from the MOOCs they took. Despite that MOOCs continue to increase access and opportunity to education, Africa — especially sub-Saharan Africa — still suffers from education exclusion. African leaders and educators must design policy changes that leverage this paradigm shift in learning. Here are some of my recommendations for policy and education practice that could give rise to such a transformation.

1) Investing in IT infrastructure in schools: the cost of computers and related equipment has been declining steadily for the past 2 decades. Yet, the majority of schools in Africa lack computer labs and internet access. This is not entirely for lack of resources. Educators and policymakers must work together and envision the future of education and the role a school plays in creating a competitive and innovative society. To derive the highest benefit from MOOCs, African schools should be active in providing a conducive environment for students to participate in MOOCs.

2) Training traditional teachers to take on the role of facilitators: when speaking with students from various African countries, I find it common that teaching is done in a similar and rigid fashion. A teacher stands before students, presents the course material and allows for a question-answer period in class. This approach leaves the student more as a spectator. To improve the educational experience, teachers should spend more time facilitating the classroom and creating an open environment for learning. When students engage with each other, learning becomes an enriching team sport. MOOCs offer an interesting opportunity for teachers to assume a facilitator’s position and become part of the learning team, as well as save their time to give extra support to students facing difficulties with the course materials.

3) Making students set learning objectives: MOOCs have a high dropout rate. Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera, highlighted the fact that completion rate is below 10%. This data could pose a warning to educators in Africa about the viability of teaching through MOOCs. A good example is the practice of setting learning objectives before the start of the course and regularly check-in progress via learning diaries. It is an effective method to improve student involvement and commitment. Educators should provide tools and methods to students that enable them to be the owners of their own learning. Doing so will motivate students to give MOOCs the well-deserved dedication and appreciation they deserve.

4) Active collaboration with industry: having access to world-class course material should convey to African businesses that there is a real opportunity to compete on the world stage in terms of innovation. By working closely with academia and designing programs that support practical education, African businesses will play a fundamental role in shaping the future of the continent’s growth.

At EDACY, we have integrated the above concepts and created a program that trains African (graduate) youth using selected MOOCs, provides additional support with the course material through our university partners, and places graduates in practical training via apprenticeships in companies. We are looking forward to reinvent learning in Africa with novel and empowered methods. Join us and participate in creating the next generation of African Makers.

Samuel B. Hailemariam

Ready to change the status-quo? Join the digital transformation movement to Get Africa Moving, Again. Pre-register now for our second cohort on to start your transformative journey and become a software leader by working on innovative projects at top enterprises. Let’s #GetAfricaMoving
Prêt à challenger le status-quo? Rejoins le mouvement de la transformation digitale! Pré-inscrits toi maintenant pour notre 2nde cohorte sur pour commencer ton parcours transformateur et devenir un leader en développement logiciel en travaillant sur des projets innovants au sein d’entreprises leaders. Let’s#GetAfricaMoving
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