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MOOCs can set an online example in educating women

By Lisa L. Martin and Barbara F. Walter
January 30th, 2013

There’s a large implication to MOOCs that U.S. universities so far have missed, the authors write: the ability to export gender equality and powerful female role models to the rest of the world.

The United States is leading a revolution in higher education. With the advent of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, U.S. universities will be increasingly exporting hundreds of college-level classes every year to the rest of the world. The implications of this are huge.

At the least, students in every country with internet service will have access to the best scholars and cutting-edge knowledge in their discipline. Go online (often for free) and top classes in statistics, computer science, economics, physics, and the humanities are at your fingertips. The result will be dramatic increases in skills, training, and knowledge in even remote places.

But there’s a potentially large implication that U.S. universities have missed: the ability to export gender equality, powerful female role models, and more. Studies have shown, for example, that educating women leads to a reduction in poverty, fertility, and violence—and increases in the health outcomes for families. Exporting classes taught by women could profoundly influence how young people around the world think about the roles women play in society.

(Next page: The gender disparity in current MOOC offerings)


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