As more people in the world gain internet access, global online education will continue to increase in scope and importance. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free, easily accessible courses covering an array of topics that are helping advance education for a global audience.

An Educational Revolution?

When early investors in educational technology companies established MOOCS in the late 2000s, they believed they would revolutionize education and displace universities in a few short years. Though these initial predictions were over-enthusiastic, MOOCs have succeeded in departing from the conventional educational model and have made advanced subjects accessible to thousands of people around the world.

Countries and international organizations have also used MOOCs to advance their public policy goals. Though the vast majority of providers are based in the United States, countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East are establishing their own MOOCs. These courses are vehicles through which nations and organizations can promote their cultures and values.

Education for Refugees

MOOCs have been instrumental in providing free education to refugees, many of whom are left out of host countries’ formal education system. The US State Department and MOOC provider Coursera have partnered to launch the MOOCs-for-Refugees program to make courses accessible to displaced people around the world. Another MOOC provider, edX, has partnered with an education organization called Kiron to offer college credit to Syrian migrants.

Challenges and Opportunities

MOOCs must overcome several challenges in the future. Though many courses enroll thousands of students, they can suffer from a lack of student-teacher relationships and some students may not have the prerequisites needed to excel in the course. As a result, student participation rates are lower than traditional university courses. Additionally, many in the world still do not have internet access.

Despite these challenges, MOOCs will continue to adapt and grow to help hasten international development.

Dig Deeper

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About the Author
Lacey Bruske is a graduate from the George Washington University’s MA program in International Affairs. She hails from Portland, Oregon. Prior to attending GWU, she worked at the Department of Justice as an advocate for women who were victims of sex trafficking crimes and a legal assistant on drug trafficking crimes. She graduated from Utrecht University’s University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, The Netherlands with a B.A. in International Law and Foreign Relations. Her travels have taken her throughout Europe, but she hopes to broaden her scope to South America soon. Her academic interests include organized crime and trafficking of weapons, drugs and people.