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MOOCs for Development

About the Conference

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement is greatly expanding capacity to meet the growing demand for educational and learning content worldwide. Many of the world's leading higher education institutions are attempting to enable access to high quality education for people around the world, including the disadvantaged and under-served. To date, however, the MOOC movement has paid insufficient attention to the reality of needs in the developing world.

The 2014 MOOCs4D International Invitational Conference brought together scholars, policy makers, program officers, administrators, and technologists from the education and international development sectors. The main goal is to better understand the dynamics surrounding this situation and deliberate on solutions and action plans that will enable MOOCs to serve the development needs of resource-poor communities of learners – those at the "bottom of the pyramid."

Rationale

The recent rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has generated significant media attention for their potential to disrupt the traditional modes of education through ease of access and free (or low-cost) content delivery. To date, nearly all of the attention has been on how major research universities can create their content for worldwide consumption. The vision of the MOOCs4D Conference is to focus the conversation specifically on the developing world by broadening the discussion to consider: new definitions of MOOCs, new frameworks for the utilizations of MOOCs, and new directions for MOOCs in the developing world.

The popularity of MOOCs may be seen through an increasing demand for post-secondary enrollment that is predicted to increase from 150 million students in 2009 to 250 million students in 2025. MOOCs have a distinct advantage in that they use technology to scale, and are able to provide learning opportunities to many more individuals than traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. Not only do MOOCs hold out the prospect of greatly expanding capacity to meet growing demand worldwide, but they also offer the potential of enabling access to high quality education to all persons regardless of socioeconomic status, even in the most impoverished and under-served regions of the world.

These developments have generated considerable excitement in higher education worldwide. Current MOOC platforms have students registered in nearly 200 countries, with about two-thirds from US and Western Europe regions, about 6% from Brazil, 5% from India, 4% from China, and the remainder from everywhere else. And these numbers may be changing rapidly. With such a rapid worldwide expansion, there are concerns about the relevance of content offered, languages of instruction, how to meet diverse learning needs, cultural differences in teaching, and accessibility in various regions with poor telecommunications infrastructure.

Questions Addressed:
  • What obstacles prevent access and use of MOOCs among disadvantaged populations at the 'bottom of the pyramid,' especially in developing countries?
  • What resources outside of MOOCs need to be mobilized to enable access to education for all?
  • What opportunities can be provided by MOOCs to address the persistent inequities found worldwide?
  • How may MOOCs be used to promote improved economic, health and social outcomes?
  • Simply put: How can MOOCs be harnessed as a tool for development (MOOCs4D)?

Conference Co-Chairs

Dan Wagner

UNESCO Chair in Learning and Literacy

Professor of Education

Director – International Educational Development Program

Joseph Sun

Vice Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
 
Penn Planning Committee & Planning Team

Invited Speakers

  • Mamadou Adj (École Polytechnique de Dakar)
  • Patrick Aebischer (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  • Jamie Alexandre (Foundation for Learning Equity)
  • Dendev Badarch (IITE, Moscow)
  • V. Balaji (Commonwealth of Learning)
  • Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman (Minister of Education, Pakistan)
  • Adel Ben Taziri (Universite Virtuel de Tunis)
  • Gayle Christiansen (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Robert Cronin (IREX)
  • Kostas Daniilidis (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Jennifer DeBoer (MIT)
  • Nodumo Dhlamini (Ruforum, Nairobi)
  • Bakary Diallo (African Virtual University)
  • Papa Youga Dieng (Organization Internationale de la Francophonie)
  • Masennya Dikotla (Molteno Institute, Johannesburg)
  • Stephen Downes (National Research Council of Canada)
  • Steven Duggan (Microsoft)
  • Ezekial Emmanuel (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Meg Evans (Udemy)
  • Robert Gregoire (University of Moncton, Canada)
  • Juliana Guaqueta Ospina (IFC)
  • Alex Hague (Kepler.org, Rwanda)
  • Karen Hauff (GIZ, Germany)
  • Larry Hirschhorn (Center for Applied Research)
  • Rebecca Jackson Stoeckle (EDC)
  • Malavika Jayaram (Harvard University)
  • Ticora Jones (USAID)
  • Abdulwaheed Khan (UNESCO)
  • Sandra Klopper (University of Cape Town)
  • Vijay Kumar (MIT)
  • Minghua Li (East China Normal University)
  • Ryan Litman-Quinn (University of Pennsylvania)
  • John MacBeath (Commonwealth Education Trust)
  • Mpine Makoe (UNISA, Pretoria)
  • Rory McGreal (USAID)
  • Abdellatif Miraoui (University Cadi Ayad, Morocco)
  • Barbara Moser-Mercer (University of Geneva)
  • Leda Munoz (Omar Dengo Foundation)
  • Tumurpurev Namnan (MUST)
  • Clara Ng (Coursera)
  • Nguyen Hoi Nghia (Vietnam National University)
  • Dimitrios Noukakis (EPFL)
  • Mary Ochs (Cornell University)
  • Driss Ouaouicha (Al Akhawayn University)
  • George Papagiannis (UNESCO)
  • Kimberly Parker (WHO)
  • Andy Porter (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Candice Reimers (Google)
  • Michele Rimini (OECD)
  • Ed Rock (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Tarek Shawki (AUC, Cairo)
  • Adel Ben Taziri (Virtual University of Tunis)
  • Gard Titlestad (International Council for Open and Distance Education)
  • NV Varghese (National University of Educational Planning and Administration New Delhi)
  • Libing Wang (UNESCO-Bangkok)
  • Freda Wolfenden (Open University UK)
  • Deirdre Woods (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Papa Youga Dieng (Organization Internationale de la Francophonie)

Partners Funding and support was provided by the Office of the Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, with matching support from the following schools and centers at Penn: Annenberg School for Communication Graduate School of Education School of Engineering and Applied Science Perelman School of Medicine School of Nursing The Wharton School Penn Libraries Additional funding and support came from the following conference co-sponsors: Microsoft, Coursera, UNESCO, International Council for Open and Distance Education, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, and Commonwealth of Learning.

Partners

Funding and support was provided by the Office of the Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, with matching support from the following schools and centers at Penn:

  • Annenberg School for Communication
  • Graduate School of Education
  • School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Perelman School of Medicine
  • School of Nursing
  • The Wharton School
  • Penn Libraries 

Additional funding and support came from the following conference co-sponsors:

Microsoft, Coursera, UNESCO, International Council for Open and Distance Education, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, and Commonwealth of Learning.