where’s the stuff for us that’s by us, that we’ve created?'"Kepler, an experimental nonprofit education program in Rwanda, is a blend of WesternMOOCs and on-the-ground teaching. Starting with 50 students in 2013, it currently serves 150, andCEO Chris Hedrick says the organization is recruiting another 160 for the next class. Students areplaced in dorms with electricity and Internet connections, where they’ll have access to both MOOCcourse materials and support from Rwandan instructors. "I don’t want to have any Americansinvolved at the local level three years from now," says Hedrick.Students earn credit through a partnership with the College for America, a flexible degreeprogram founded in 2012 (with a grant from the Gates Foundation), and Hedrick works with localbusinesses to help prepare graduates for jobs. In addition to math, science, or business MOOCs,students are trained in typing and basic software applications like Excel.
SUCCESS IS THAT ACCESS HAS DRAMATICALLY INCREASED, ANDRELEVANCE AND QUALITY OF EDUCATION HAS INCREASED."I think it would be very difficult for many of our students to be successful"without this blendedlearning model, says Hedrick, who claims that they’re all currently on track to earn a two-yearassociate arts degree. "And what we do is tie it into the skills that they need in the workplace and theskills that they need to master for their degrees."Looking at the work that’s gone into Kepler, it’stempting to wonder how much MOOCs are actually contributing to its success. Couldn’t the real keybe a small, intensive program that give students easy access to employers, technology, and face-to-face instruction?But to Hedrick, online classes are what make the rest possible. At the most basic level, there’sthe cache that comes from having a degree from an American program. And with the course materialprovided for free, Kepler can spend its resources on hiring local facilitators and building relationshipswith older institutions. "What we’re trying to develop here, and what I hope will develop all over Africaas we grow, is a really good interchange with the existing traditional universities,"he says. "Wherethey can leverage the things that we’ve learned and incorporate them into what they’re doing.""For me, success isn’t that Kepler has a million students 10 years from now,"says Hedrick."Success is that access has dramatically increased, and relevance and quality of education hasincreased. Some of that will be because of what we’re doing directly, but probably more of it — ifwe’re successful — is because we’ve influenced others."MOOCs were once looked to as a centralsolution to a global problem. But increasingly, they resemble building blocks — less a classroom, andmore of a massive open library for students and teachers across the world.
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- Spring '11
- E-learning, MOOCs