UW News

March 13, 2015

iSchool’s Technology & Social Change Group to study online education in developing countries

UW News

Online education has great potential to improve lives, but few people in developing countries have access to such classes. The UW Information School’s Technology & Social Change Group will conduct research as part of a $1.55 million multiagency initiative to study and address this need.

The project will include research on online course enrollment in Colombia, the Philippines and South Africa, and is being conducted by the U.S. Agency for International Development together with Coursetalk.com, the largest source of online course reviews. It’s called Advancing MOOCS for Development; MOOC stands for massive open online course. Assisting with the research will be IREX, a nonprofit development organization.

This public-private partnership aims to use online education to help young adults across the developing world be successful in work, potentially leading to stronger economies. The online classes are open to anyone, with no enrollment caps, and are often free.

The Technology & Social Change Group, called TASCHA for short, will use surveys, interviews and analysis of more than 70,000 course reviews posted at CourseTalk by students globally to study awareness of online classes among 18- to 35-year-olds in these nations. The findings will be used to develop a framework for online training of young workforces, and form the basis of a campaign to increase enrollment and completion rates in these countries.

“The potential for MOOCs to alter the educational landscape is amazing, reaching far beyond Colombia, the Philippines and South Africa,” said Scott Andersen of IREX. He said such classes “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.”

USAID and CourseTalk have committed $1.05 million to the initiative, plus an additional $500,000 of in-kind services and support.

For more information on the Technology & Social Change Group and its work, contact Melody Clark, communications specialist, at 206-303-7910 or melclark@uw.edu.