New report: TASCHA study on MOOCs in developing countries reveals half of users receive certification


The Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) is pleased to announce the release of a new report, An examination of MOOC usage for professional workforce development outcomes in Colombia, the Philippines, & South Africa (download full report here). The report is a culmination of the research done as part of the Advancing MOOCs for Development Initiative.

Based on surveys of 1,400 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) users and 2,250 non-users aged 18 to 35 in Colombia, the Philippines, and South Africa, the study is the first to include multiple MOOC providers in the developing world. It is also the first to analyze individuals not using MOOCs. Many of the study’s findings are very surprising and contrary to other research done on MOOCs to date. The research shows that the low completion rates and homogeneous demographics found among users in the United States and similar nations do not hold true worldwide. Additionally, many of the findings contradict commonly-held assumptions about MOOCs in less developed contexts. sample-per-country-moocs

Example findings

  • Low- and middle-income populations make up 80% of MOOC users, in contrast to wealthier populations reported elsewhere.
  • Over 80% of MOOC users only have basic or intermediate level ICT skills, challenging the belief that MOOCs are predominantly taken by people with higher level skills.
  • 49% percent of MOOC users received certification in a MOOC, and another 30% completed a course. This is far above the single-digit rates reported elsewhere.
  • Women are more likely than men to complete a MOOC or obtain certification.
  • The main motivations of MOOC users were found to be in gaining specific job skills (61%), preparing for additional education (39%), and obtaining professional certification (37%).
  • Among non-users, lack of time (50%) was by far the largest barrier to MOOC participation. Lack of computer access (4%) or skills (2%) was NOT found to be a barrier.

The research has revealed a number of important insights that bode well for the future of MOOCs for workforce development in developing countries. This in itself is a significant finding as the researchers expected to encounter many more obstacles to advancing MOOC uptake.

The potential for increasing MOOC uptake and improving employment opportunities, especially for more marginalized populations, is clearly there. This is promising, and urges action since the data shows that MOOC users are savvy in using the knowledge they’ve gained from MOOCs to advance their professional aspirations.

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About the Advancing MOOCs for Development Initiative

Online courses have the potential to expand quality education and career training worldwide. Yet few people in developing countries access Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), despite the fact that MOOCs are open to the public and often free. Recognizing this unmet potential, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and CourseTalk, the largest source of MOOC reviews, have partnered to determine how online education can best help young adults across the developing world grow successful careers. The initiative is driven by research on MOOC usage in Colombia, the Philippines, and South Africa conducted by the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington’s Information School with support from IREX, a nonprofit development organization.


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