What role can MOOCs play in the development agenda? 5 key questions

How can MOOCs accommodate those who are learning disabled and who need significant individualized attention?

udacity-moocsWith the Millennium Development Goals nearing their deadline, the development sector has been rife with speculation about what the post-2015 development agenda will look like and what role, if any, higher education should play in this future outlook.

So it is only appropriate that the United Nations is asking whether Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)—with their focus on offering tertiary-level courses for mass consumption—are a panacea for increasing access to tertiary education in the developing world, or whether they will instead widen the gap between those with access to higher education and those without.

At a recent discussion jointly organized by SUNY’s Nelson Rockefeller Institute of Government and the UN Academic Impact and facilitated by Ben Wildavsky, this topic was passionately debated by a wide-ranging panel of experts—Anant Agarwal, the CEO of edX, one of the largest MOOC platforms; Barbara Kuhn of the Wharton School of Business who teaches a popular MOOC course; Phil Altbach, higher education expert and vocal critic of MOOCs; and Professor S. Sitaraman, Senior Vice President of Amity University.

Since Matt Krupnik’s recent article in University World News provides a detailed overview of the discussion itself, I’ll focus instead on five key questions that we should ask ourselves as we consider the potential role of MOOCs for leveling the playing field between developed and developing countries.

(Next page: Questions 1-5)