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Closing the Job Gap in Tanzania with Online Courses in IT Skills

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, April 16 2013

Coursera MOOC offerings

Coursera and the World Bank have teamed up in Tanzania to use MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) to teach students market-relevant IT skills and reduce the gap between job openings and skilled workers. A World Bank blog explains employers in Tanzania complain too many jobs go unfilled because job seekers lack the specific, necessary skills, especially in IT and ICT. The World Bank thinks Coursera could play an important part in a new and improved education system.

In late February Daphne Koller, Stanford professor and the co-founder of Coursera, spoke at a World Bank event. She opened with the story of thousands of students stampeding to register for a limited number of last minute openings at the University of Johannesburg – killing a mother and injuring 20 other people – and showed a graph illustrating rising costs of education. She wanted to make the point that both demand and costs were rising, and that Coursera’s offerings could be part of the solution.

Even if Coursera does not lead to a degree, it offers certificates to show coursework has been completed, and students have used such certificates in successful bids for jobs.

Carlos Martinez, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of El Salvador and an advocate of MOOCs profiled by Technology Review, thinks free online courses put pressure on universities in poorer nations to improve. He signed up for a class last spring offered by edX (the Cambridge version of Coursera) to study electronic circuits. He thought the class was so good he began traveling around the country encouraging others to sign up and blogging about his experience (he blogs in English – here is a post on edX’s impact on developing countries’ universities).

The debate over massive online courses is alive and well in the US, especially after the recent New York Times article about automated grading. A recent post at edutechdebate.org compared MOOCs to the One Laptop Per Child program, which the author had worked for in the past. He pointed out that the primary targets for MOOCs and automated grading, like OLPC, are currently non-consumers of education.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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