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Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 in Educational Technologies, MOOCs | 2 comments

Envisioning a Future for MOOCs in South African Higher Education

Envisioning a Future for MOOCs in South African Higher Education

It is quite easy to conclude that South African (SA) institutions have been slow in their uptake of MOOCs or slow in promoting of research within the MOOCs arena. However, I think SA institutions are overwhelmed by the changes currently taking place within the higher education system and they are also overwhelmed by the problems facing higher education. Our universities have to deal with largely underprepared students, non-aligned basic education system, transformation issues and low research outputs plus many more.

Whenever there is major technologically induced teaching and learning interventions, our universities usually take a back seat to see if they workout or not, and then adopt if they find the outcomes to be worthwhile. This is not a bad strategy at all, but it means that the pioneers will always remain the pioneers, and they will always top the university rankings, thus they will always attract the best students that the world/country has to offer.

With this said, I foresee MOOCs gradually being adopted by SA universities (not all) over the next ten years. As we can see, universities like UCT and Wits are already exploring MOOCs and offering home grown MOOCs to the public. I praise the teams at these institutions, as they are taking bold steps into the future whilst obtain first hand experience of the MOOC phenomena. A handful of other universities are still at the exploratory stage with research into the MOOC space taking center stage. My personal vision is to see South African universities working collaboratively on a large MOOC project, of which all the expert interest groups get together, obtain finance/funding to run the locally based MOOC platform and collaborate on research projects to advance the pedagogical benefits derived from MOOCs. As understanding around MOOC models, I also foresee more differentiation in terms of MOOCs delivery, purpose and design. Conversations, about localisation of content and MOOC recognition by the offering institution or by accreditation bodies such as SAQA, will soon take center stage. Furthermore, once SA MOOCs have proved their worth, government will come in to support larger scale projects with the aim of providing access to learning to those who could not make it to university, those who seek alternative access into higher education, or those exploring which study area to go into.

There so many other MOOC related issues in the horizon which I did not touch on, but one thing is for sure, MOOCs are here to stay and SA universities need to get involved in order for us to shape the direction that we wish to see them move. I would like to hear your thoughts about the future of MOOCs in SA, please share your thoughts on the matter.


  1. Hi Fred, thanks for a very informative blog which is full of optimism, while at the same time is mindful of the challenging future for MOOCs in SA Higher Education. Personally I would be happy for a MOOC course that brings a lot of localised content in terms of its syllabus, I am understanding by ‘localisation of content’ in your post you are refering to a curriculum that is shaped by local content and is written mostly by African and South African scholars and learners. This will be very welcomed especially in SA where I one still primarily reads theories and stories written by Western scholars. It gives me hope knowing that people like me in this continent are encouraged to be producers of knowledge & can also be trusted to produce meaningful and educational knowledge. As such I believe that the MOOCs platform is actually an important space for thenarratives that are currently subjugated and the empowerment of African scholars.
    Nonetheless I am not sure to what extent can we rely on “MOOCS to provide access to learning to those who could not make it to university” as you mentioned above. I am skeptical about this point,because for me MOOCs are created with a different learning philosophy which is not the same as traditional universities. Therefore those who could not be admitted at a university can probably take up one MOOC course, however not with the intention of completing their entire undergraduate degree online for instance. Can you therefore please clarify what you meant by providing access to HE for those who could not make it to university. Are MOOCs in your opinion capable of replacing or substituting a traditional university experience, especially at the undergraduate level?

  2. This is a very interesting perspective. Wits and UCT has been the only ones to jump aboard so far and now Rhodes seems to also wander in that direction. You might find this interesting, they’re currently undergoing research about the SA landscape of MOOCs users and have found very little interest in participation. Check out the survey for yourself, maybe if helping them spread the word will help this valuable research!

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