In partnership with the State Department’s “MOOC Camp Initiative,” Coursera, the online education purveyor, is planning to open a number of “learning hubs” in foreign countries, where students can come to take free online courses that would include classroom discussions taught by locally based foreign service officers or Fulbright scholars.The program is designed to overcome one of the most problematic issues facing the spread of MOOCs in the developing world: the lack of internet access. In addition, the local component could help keep retention and completion rates high, as the NYT notes:
“Our mission is education for everyone, and we’ve seen that when we can bring a community of learners together with a facilitator or teacher who can engage the students, it enhances the learning experience and increases the completion rate,” said Lila Ibrahim, the president of Coursera. “It will vary with the location and the organization we’re working with, but we want to bring in some teacher or facilitator who can be the glue for the class.”
The State Department, meanwhile, gets a chance to increase exposure to American education and the influence of American institutions in foreign countries:
For the State Department, Ms. Curtis said, the appeal of the MOOCs is that they can be used to reach students anywhere, exposing them to American universities and college-level discussion, and perhaps spurring a desire to study in the United States.
This program suggests that American MOOCs are making a serious push to gain a foothold in foreign markets and developing countries, where the growth opportunities are highest.