Despite great improvements and expanding access, the research also identified hurdles that inhibit MOOC use in Colombia, the Philippines and South Africa.

The most significant barrier is awareness, with 79 percent of non-users reporting they had never even heard of a MOOC. Among that group, though, there was not any notable demographic difference between that group and non-users who were familiar with MOOCs.

Among non-users who were familiar, though, the most common reason for not enrolling was by far a lack of time. This was the top answer in all three countries, with half of the respondents reporting this as their reason. Even 49 percent of existing users do not enroll more frequently because of time constraints.

The finding is significant, emphasized the report, because it has been a widely-held assumption that technology is the main hurdle facing MOOC adoption in developing countries. However, technical reasons for non-use were rarely cited, with factors such as high internet cost (6 percent), low computer skills (2 percent) and lack of computer access (4 percent) being some of the least-frequently mentioned.

“In each of the countries studied, awareness was the determining factor in whether people enrolled in MOOCs,” said Scott Andersen, director of the Advancing MOOCs for Development Initiative at IREX. “Governments and businesses can capitalize on this new form of educational outreach by encouraging lifelong learning, supporting the development of contemporary skills, and recognizing certification.”

The survey and study are a central component of the Advancing MOOCs for Development Initiative, which aims to harness the power of MOOCs to help young adults across the developing world obtain successful careers. The initiative was launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development and CourseTalk, and is managed by IREX. For more information on the Advancing MOOCs for Development Initiative, email, and click here for the full report.

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Ronald Bethke

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