Using MOOC to upgrade Education in Rural Areas

online courses MOOCUNISA has made distance learning a common practise in South Africa. It’s position is entrenched more so after the 2004 merger with Technikon RSA. The next evolution in distance learning beyond e-learning or computer-based training is Massive Open Online Courses or MOOC. This is made possible with the pervasiveness of broadband Internet. MOOC is a virtual delivery model that allows participation in learning activities at convenient places and times,rather than forcing students into set time frames; blended learning, which can facilitate widespread, often global collaboration with other students and teams of specialized instructors (Bujak,K,R, et al, 2012).

Recently we enrolled for three modules on after listing to Daphne Koller’s TED Talk. The initial appeal to using this platform was the flexible time schedules and immediate access via the Internet. We’ve already opted out of one and there was no real downside because there was no financial commitment in contrast to traditional universities.

Benefits for Teaching

E-learning has been around since the earliest stages of the Internet. It is well know the origins of this global inter-connected network began in the military and expanded quickly into academic research facilities in the US before becoming available to the general public in the 1990s. Expanding access to and the availability of e-learning programmes for students, teachers and government is an important step in furthering continental development and growth (Rupp, 2012).

Even though Rupp (2012) points out the availability of e-learning technologies provides expanded opportunities for countries in Africa to make education available to their whole population. Clearly these same information and communication technologies (ICTs) allow students from the rural or remote areas to access opportunities for scholarships to academic institutions they may not otherwise have identified.

Benefits for Learning

MOOC introduces students to a new type of experience called “Blended Learning” by Bujak,K,R, et al. (2012). It combines face-to-face interactions with communication enabled by ICTs. A key consideration is that ICTs compliment not replace traditional pedagogy. Whereas e-learning was online only experience, more blending the online and offline experience takes shape in self organised groups meeting similar to traditional self organised groups of students who attend the same campus, except this takes place even easier in the virtual world. Initial research suggests that students are not only accepting blended learning approaches, but also they are improving learning outcomes.


Two challenges reduce the adoption of MOOC. Firstly they do not lead to a widely recognized credentials and workable revenue models are not available at present (King, J.W. & Nanfito, M. 2012). Until both are addressed by institutions and investors in the platforms, MOOC, may be a blip on the radar and future of online learning solutions.

Even though MOOC have caused well established institutions from UCT in South Africa and MIT in United States to invest resources, clear impact in Africa continent remain limited. One segment that stands the most to gain, are people who do not gain entry to traditional universities for reasons financial or otherwise. Internet literacy will delay the adoption further among the rest of the population in Africa irrespective of the availability of broadband Internet. As with all technological innovations MOOC will take a number a few years before we know whether it is viable platform or not.


Bujak,K,R, Baker, P., & DeMillo, R. (2012) The University: Disruptive Change and Institutional Innovation Centre for 21st Century Universities. Paper number 22012. Available online: [03 December 2012]

Rupp, S. (2012) Technology, e-learning and education in Africa. In Consultancy Africa Intelligence. Available online [04 December 2012]

King, J.W. & Nanfito, M. (2012) To MOOC or Not to MOOC? Available online: [05 December 2012]

Koutropoulos, A. & Hogue, R.J. (2012). How to Succeed in a MOOC. Available online: [05 December 2012]


Cyber bullying among Children in Gauteng

Cyberbullying cellphones statistics gautengIn 2012 Cyberbullying is no longer a joke.  UNISA released a study questioning children’s increasing use o cell phones as a learning tools. Research by Prof Deon Tustin, head of the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) indicates that 24.2 % of children in high schools use phones to improve mathematics and 23% use them to research homework.

According to this study, mobile phones can be used to educate children, access to the Internet and provides a foundation for bullying. In the survey among high school children in Gauteng, 34% of the learners reported that they have been bullied in the past two years. The highest number (42 %) was grade 8 children. They also reported being bullied more by their peers than any other group, with 60.4 % saying they by other young people. Another 23.3 % of respondents admitted to bullying someone. Cyberbullying takes place mostly through SMS and social media, the researchers found.

Some 37 % of South African teenagers were victims of online abuse, of these, 40.3 % did not report it, while almost 52 % did and 8.9 % were uncertain. Factors include retaliation, peer pressure, anger, recognition or entertainment. These factors could actually drive a victim to being physically ill or even suicidal.

Almost 80 % of high school children admitted having consumed alcohol, while 66.6 % admitted to having been drunk and 44.8 % to binge drinking. The research by Antoinette Basson of the Youth Research Unit was done among 4346 learners in randomly selected schools in Gauteng. Almost 60 % said they did it to fit in, 45.6 % said they wanted to get away from their worries and another 34 % said it builds their self-confidence.

Parents are the primary role models and play a significant role in the lives of children. My seminars help reduce the gap between children and parents and their understanding of the issues, both positive and negative. Online abuse is more widespread because  smartphone usage has increased exponentially with BlackBerry and iPhone usage. Children and adults easily develop a dependency to the always-on lifestyle, the constant connection that must be satisfied no matter what the cost to personal relationships. This is destroying their ability to feel or express empathy, which is not easy through a screen.


  1. What is cyber bullying? The use of online and mobile technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour towards another person. You can be both the perpetrator and the victim of cyberbullying attacks using sms or social media. Among adults it’s referred to as cyber harassment.
  2. How prevalent is it amongst in South Africa? A UNISA study found > 60% of teens interviewed have been bullied, > 20% admitted to bullying someone else. As people continue to upgrade to Smartphones there will be a correlating increasing in Smartphone abuse both by children and adults.
  3. What are the reasons – is it a variation on school bullying?Yes, it is a variation on bullying, which in itself is a variation on harassment, which in turn is derived from low self image and lack of empathy.
  4. One answer may be to ban cell phones – but they are used as an educational tool? Although the argument is made for cellphones in school, especially higher families and neighbourhoods, the downside is worse. So when the disadvantages of a technology outweighs the advantages, serious consideration must be paid to clear boundaries or limitations.
  5. What is the psychological impact of such bullying?Because of the victims tend to be grade 8 children from the UNISA study, the impact is severe. This is bound to cause a strongly negative association with the group experience of compulsory schooling.
  6. How should we be educating our children about this? Children must learn from their parents and teachers how to manage conflict. Conflict resolution must become a core part of Life Orientation subjects. The Centre for Teaching Peace in Washington DC provides a curriculum for 9 steps to conflict resolution, which have been successfully taught to primary school children. The increase in cyber-bullying is simply a reaction or a defence to the attacks. This fosters a cycle of abuse which spirals out of control in isolated cases.
  7. What signs do parents/teachers need to be looking out for regarding cyber bullying? Signs of Awareness is the key as always. So cultivating the sharing of stories of bullying through essay writing or group discussions. Children, whether victims or perpetrators of online bullying, must feel safe before they can completely open up about experiences or motivations.
  8. What should parents teachers do if children are being subject to cyber bullying? Step one is to remove their access, and limit the damage already caused. Help them diagnose the situation by showing them how to take proactive steps to protect themselves. When children try to defend themselves, online, the abuse increases. After you “unplug” from the situation it becomes easier to go to the next step, blocking or banning the person from your mobile phone or social network. Third and final step is to report them to the service provider i.e. Facebook, BlackBerry or your ISP (MWeb, Telkom Internet, etc).