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Perspectives from South African MOOC takers: understanding transitions in and out of learning and work

(UCT Principal Investigator: A/Prof. Jeff Jawitz)

Back (left to right): Janet Small, Lucia Thesen, Gideon Nomdo, Tasneem Jaffer. Front (left to right): Jeff Jawitz, Aditi Hunma, Sukaina Walji, Andrew Deacon

Back (left to right): Janet Small, Lucia Thesen, Gideon Nomdo, Tasneem Jaffer. Front (left to right): Jeff Jawitz, Aditi Hunma, Sukaina Walji, Andrew Deacon

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 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 South 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 South African MOOC takers, and specifically students, use open online courses to support transitioning in and out of learning and work?’

This research project will 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 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.

We seek to interview a total of 40 participants from African countries, particularly those from South Africa, about their transitions. Later we will interview MOOC takers who are current students at South African higher education institutions. 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.

Nchangwi  Munung recently joined the team as research assistant. She has completed an MSc in Biochemistry (2007, University of Buea, Cameroon) and an MSc in Medicine (2016, UCT). She is currently registered for a PhD in Medicine at UCT.

Research outputs

Fourth Biennial Conference of the South African Society for Engineering Education, June 2017, Cape Town 

Paper: 

Deacon, A; Jawitz, J; Small, J; Walji, S. (2017) MOOCs and Transitions: Pathways in and out of learning and work

Presentation: 

Proceedings of the Fourth Biennial Conference of the South African Society for Engineering Education, pg 60-69. MOOCs and Transitions: Pathways in and out of learning and work.


Higher Education Learning & Teaching Association of Southern African (HELTASA) conference, November 2017, Durban

Presentations:

Jawitz, J; Deacon, A; Small, J; Walji, S. (2017) Producing MOOCs: Evaluating Institutional Gains.
 
Deacon, A; Jaffer, T; Jawitz, J; Small, J; Walji, S. (2017) Wrapped MOOCs: What is being valued and reused?