Perspectives from African MOOC takers: understanding transitions in and out of learning and work
(UCT Principal Investigator: A/Prof. Jeff Jawitz)
Core research team: (left to right): Tasneem Jaffer, Sukaina Walji, Janet Small, Andrew Deacon, Jeff Jawitz (PI) and Soraya Lester (research assistant).
The research project involves interviewing people completing the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) created by UCT who live in African countries to deepen understands the value people see in open online learning opportunities. Many people are increasingly seeking to move between work and learning, between different disciplines of knowledge, and between different levels of learning. Understanding and supporting such transition pathways in and out of learning and work is important for universities who are serving increasingly diverse cohorts of students. Specifically understanding how people living in African countries, and particularly South Africans, make use of open online learning opportunities for these transitions is important to inform the development of what types of online education provision universities could offer.
Through the UCT MOOCs Project, we have data related to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from student enrolments from across the world, which includes South African students and potential students. This research will focus on the Africans who have participated in MOOCs offered by UCT because comparatively little is known about this segment of students.
The core research question is ‘how do African MOOC takers, and specifically South African students, use open online courses to support transitioning in and out of learning and work?’
This research project aims to develop CHED staff’s understanding of the value and problems of accessing online support courses for people facing transitions in and out of learning and work, and inform the development of more appropriate online offerings. CHED is being asked to give guidance to the University about the use of technology in support of the key goals of teaching and learning in the context of inequality. This research will enable us to better understand learners’ experiences and uses of online offerings. Our development of MOOCs, and ADP’s applications of online modes and platforms to expanding support services offer a unique opportunity to survey a large number of learners who have already engaged in some way with UCT’s online educational support offerings.
The research project runs from mid-2017 until mid-2020, beginning with a pilot phase in 2017. In the pilot phase, the research team designed and tested both the quantitative online survey instrument and the qualitative research interview questions with a small sample of MOOC takers. Drawing on the experience of the pilot, we sent surveys to start in 2018 to survey all UCT MOOC takers living in Africa to request an interview on their reasons for taking MOOCs and what they have valued from learning online and the challenges they have faced.
In 2018, we interviewed nearly 60 participants from African countries (a majority from South Africa) about MOOCs and making transitions. In 2019, we are interviewing MOOC takers who are current students at UCT. This specific focus on students will allow us to probe how people at universities are making use of MOOCs for transitioning within levels of higher education, crossing disciplines or moving into the workplace.
The interviews help to probe and understand current and potential uses of online courses by people wishing to study further. The outputs of the project include understanding the needs of people looking at universities to study further and offer new insights into the provision of appropriate online support for those making these transitions in and out of learning and work.
Soraya Lester joined the team as a research assistant. She has completed an MPhil in Monitoring and Evaluation and is currently registered for a PhD in Psychology at UCT.
Contemporary Higher Education Conference (HECU9): 15-16 November 2018, Cape Town