By Kingsley Nwezeh
Have you enrolled in an institution of higher learning online? Are you tied down by work, disabled, battling financial problems or encountering problems of geographic accessibility? These impediments are no longer challenges.
The internet revolution has created another opportunity for millions in cross conditions to acquire more knowledge and advance professional careers on cyberspace. Welcome to Massive Open Online Courses-MOOC.
With just your internet connection, your next certificate of accomplishment is within reach, no matter where you are in the globe. There are no major requirements other than the fact that you can read and write English Language, then prove it by going through the courses and meeting 80-100 percent of course requirements: sign up with your email, use a password, go through the lecture (video), reference materials, discussion groups, quizzes, examinations, peer review scores in some cases and obtain your statement of participation if you went through the free audit or certificate of accomplishment in the case of paid track.
What’s more? It is self-paced. You study at your own pace. You could dedicate some hours weekly from your tight work schedule until you graduate. You also have the opportunity to further your studies by taking a masters or doctorate based on your previous qualifications that meet the requirements of the institutions.
Millions across the world have already benefited from this innovation. And universities are shocked at the huge potentials of MOOC when compared to traditional university education.
So far, 570 universities worldwide are participating in the MOOC revolution, offering well over 4,200 courses on entrepreneurship, information technology, databases development, engineering, public speaking, e-commerce etcetera.
Unlike the traditional higher education, a single lecturer offering a virtual course could have 100,000 students from different continents at the same time.
Universities and other specialised MOOC providers have organised courses for millions of people across the globe and the interest is growing by the day. The universities include Havard University (Harvard Open Courses), Duke University, Stanford University, George Washington University (GW online), Australian National University, University of Hong Kong, Seoul National University, Kyoto University, University of Toronto among others.
Other notable providers of MOOC include Iversity (www.iversity.org), a winner of the MOOC Production Fellowship held in 2013, Alison (www.alison.com) provides courses for workplace skills with the slogan: “a new world of certified learning”, Udacity (www.udacity.com), develops some courses in collaboration with Google, Facebook, Amazon and others, MIT OpenCourseware, Allversity, Academic Earth which offers curated collection of best free courses from world’s best universities notably Yale, UC Berkeley, Princeton, Harvard, MIT etcetera.
Other MOOC providers include Coursera (www.coursera.org), considered the most popular provider of massive open online courses globally. Coursera has more than 10 million users in 890 courses from 117 institutions, edx (www.edx.org) -owned by MIT and Havard University, one of the largest providers of MOOC education internationally.
The US Embassy, Abuja Initiative
In a bid to bring this huge academic benefit to Nigerians, the United States Embassy, Abuja, through its Information Resource Center (IRC), Wednesday, August 17, 2016, organised a one-day programme to enlighten Nigerians on new ways to build new skills, facilitate career progression, acquire more knowledge and generally improve living conditions. Director of the IRC, Sagir M. Ahmed, took about 100 participants, made up of lecturers, trainers, civil servants and journalists, through the untapped benefits of MOOC in Nigeria.
He said the IRC was willing to partner with Nigerians by providing IRC members and others the opportunity to use IRC facilities in Lagos and Abuja with fast internet connection to access such free courses online.
MOOC courses, he said, were based on videos, articles, games, social learning, quizzes, assignments and other proprietary methods which can be conveniently accessed at anytime, from anywhere.
E-learning, he argued, is a global trend but more pronounced in Europe and America. Virtual libraries, he contended, have also taken over physical libraries.
As a journalist, always eager to learn more, I had also taken some courses on the Iversity platform. I took two courses : Public Privacy: Cyber Security and Human Rights, Disasters and Ecosystems: Resilience in a Changing Climate. Presently, I am studying 22 courses on Iversity, four on Edx, three more on Alison and one on Udacity.
They include: e-Tourism: Communication perspectives, Cultures and Identities in Europe: Past, present and Future, Why Do People Migrate: Facts 1, Corporate Digital Learning, Climate Change and Health for Policy Makers, Social Innovation, Building Strong Digital Brands, Power Up English for Energy Transition, Digital and Social Media Marketing, Genius, Talent, Golden Mediocrity, The European Union in Global Governance among others.
With the US Embassy initiative, I now know that more than 71 other providers of free MOOC exist.
It is not as if Nigerians are totally unaware of the MOOC revolution, I have encountered some at Iversity. Nigerians are used to adverts of online programmes from University of Liverpool, Walden University, among others, whose fees for online courses are rather high and sometimes not affordable. So, the free MOOC is just perfect for lovers of knowledge.
Most providers offer opportunities for free audit or paid audit track, where you are awarded statement of participation on completion or certificate detailing your score, the providers, the universities or international organisations (United Nations, European Union), as the case maybe, that are involved for a token fee.
Nigerians are used to name recognition or paper qualification in terms of the name of the institution that awarded the certificate. I have always grappled with the same question. Can such certificates be presented while seeking jobs, career opportunities/progression and other engagements?
Well, most of the providers especially universities, Havard, Yale etc, award certificates for free MOOC courses which are recognised for the purposes of job searches, or institutions that need to make references to such institutions and you can include in your LinkedIn account.
Jima Ngei: The Nigerian Who Studied 250 Courses
While I was beating my chest that I did a few courses, I was told that a Nigerian, Jima Ngei, a Port Harcourt resident, had read and passed 250 courses on the Coursera platform since 2012. He read English Common Law, Chinese History, Data Science, Latin American Culture, Social Epidemology and Life of Thomas Jefferson to name a few.
Nikki Garcia, spokeswoman of Coursera, confirmed that Ngei studied 248 courses, 83 of them with distinction!
The Nigerian Situation
At the US Embassy programme, issues relating to content and how relevant they are to our societies came up during question and answer session. I have also gone through courses where scant mention was made of research works done by Africans while most data analysis and graphic illustrations are low on the so called third world countries or specifically Sub-saharan Africa.
What it comes to is simple. It is important to engage academics from these regions to create what you may call local or relevant course content or creating a synergy in courses offered in developed and underdeveloped societies.
Power supply in Nigeria is still at its lowest ebb with government still finding it difficult to meet its 4000 megawatts projections for many years now in a 177 million population.
Frequent power cuts disrupt internet services and access, forcing citizens, who can afford it, to go for alternative sources of power, most times, generators. Telecommunications companies rely on diesel to power generators, spending in the process, N177 billion ($1.14 billion) annually to fuel generators needed for back up power for the country’s 22,000 base stations.
Internet penetration in Nigeria is still at about 43 per cent, increasing rapidly through mobile phone data and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). Sector Regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says 83 million active mobile internet subscriptions on GSM and CMDA networks as at 2015 (February) while 136 million subscribers are active on the major GSM providers notably MTN, Airtel, Etisalat and Glo.
World Internet Statistics projects Nigeria’s population (2016) at 186, 879,760 with 97, 210,000 internet users as at September 30, 2015 (52.0 percent) with 16 million facebook users as at June 30, 2016 and 11.3 percent penetration rate.
With the above scenario, Nigerian government, development partners, corporate organisations and solar power companies could do more to ensure more Nigerians are educated on the free online courses on offer.
Nigerian universities and other institutions of higher learning depend on government subventions to survive. Some are offering distance learning courses while the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) provides distance learning education with study centers in some parts of the country. Can they offer MOOC? Ponder.
If they cannot, academics could key into the MOOC revolution by partnering with MOOC providers to create our own content or courses relevant to our environment.
You can also search courses on https://springboard.com or go to http://knowledgelover.com/best-mooc-massive-open-online-course-providers-list/
Kingsley Nwezeh publishes The Infrastructure News www.theinfranews.com, Jehovahlive www.jehovahlive.com, Newsy Online and Our Daily Bread.