Historic Gathering of Global Educators To Discuss MOOCs In Developing Countries

April 3, 2014 – The Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) movement seems well-positioned to bring high-quality education to learners in industrialized countries, but until now, MOOCs haven’t paid sufficient attention to the reality of needs in the developing world. The University of Pennsylvania international conference on MOOCs4D: Potential at the Bottom of the Pyramid seeks to change that.

Hosted by Penn GSE and five other schools, from April 10-11, MOOCs4D brings together leading scholars, administrators, policy makers and technologists from over 25 countries to spark dialogue and stimulate discussion on problems, solutions and action plans that will enable MOOCs to serve learners in resource-poor communities—those at the “bottom of the pyramid.” The MOOCs movement has gained considerable media attention in recent years, and scholars believe that the movement’s enormous potential can be harnessed to provide increased access to quality education and promote improved economic, health and social outcomes.

Penn has convened one of the most diverse groups of educational leaders from across the globe ever for this conference – including presidents of international universities, representatives from the World Bank, IFC, UNESCO, USAID, Google, Microsoft, and Coursera. Penn researchers, who have come out with some of the earliest and most significant studies on MOOCs, including Penn GSE’s Laura Perna, will also be there to discuss their ongoing research.

“MOOCs are a media darling these days, but the focus has been on courses coming out of distinguished research universities, such as MIT, Penn, and Stanford. This conference explores the potential that MOOCs hold for enabling access to high-quality education to all persons regardless of socioeconomic status,” said UNESCO Chair in Learning and Literacy Dr. Dan Wagner, professor of education and director of the International Educational Development Program.

MOOCs4D includes a series of thematic panels, major plenary sessions open to the public, and invitational discussions and workshops. Questions to be addressed include: What are the pros and cons of MOOCs? What obstacles prevent access and use of MOOCs among disadvantaged populations in developing countries? What is the economic basic for MOOCs? Who owns MOOCs, and what are the implications of ownership?
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 at scale, and are able to provide learning opportunities to far more individuals than traditional brick-and-mortar institutions.

For more information, visit the MOOCs4D site, follow @PennGSE on Twitter, or join the discussion at #MOOCs4D.