The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and, an online course review company, are launching a two-year, $1.55 million project to expand quality education and career training globally. The companies have committed cash resources of $1.05 million, plus an additional $500,000 of in-kind services and support.

The two-year initiative, Advancing MOOCs for Development, will be driven by research on online course enrollment in the Philippines, Colombia and South Africa. The Technology & Social Change Group, or TASCHA, at the University of Washington’s Information School will conduct the research with support from IREX, a nonprofit development organization.

"In many developing countries, traditional education systems are failing students,” said Rachel Blum, USAID’s senior advisor for youth workforce development in a release. “Economic constraints, political upheaval, war and natural disaster are all leading causes. But MOOCs have the potential to change this. By answering key questions — who takes MOOCs, why they take them and what inhibits those who don’t — this project will help us better understand MOOCs and their role in offering affordable, quality education to young people worldwide.”

The first year of the initiative will help to close the current data gap on MOOC effectiveness. TASCHA will analyze more than 70,000 course CourseTalk reviews from students to study awareness and usage of MOOCs among 18 to 35 year olds in Colombia, the Philippines and South Africa.

The findings will be used to develop a MOOC-centric training framework. They also will help to create a campaign to increase MOOC enrollment and completion rates in those three countries. 

“The potential for MOOCs to alter the educational landscape is amazing, reaching far beyond Colombia, the Philippines and South Africa,” said IREX’s Scott Andersen, director of the initiative in a release. “MOOCs show great promise as a way to support global youth who are longing for employment, and this initiative focuses on three key countries in the hope that lessons learned will benefit those young adults around the world.”


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