Document Details

Title New Era, Old Challenges: sizing up two of yesterday’s MOOCs - University of South Africa and Indira Gandhi National Open University
Author Richard Garrett - Director, OBHE


With all the fuss about MOOCs, anyone would think that universities had never used distance learning at scale before. So-called mega-universities, such as University of South Africa (UNISA), founded in 1873 and distance-only from 1959- when disruptive technology meant the postal service- or India’s Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), founded in 1985 when video was the latest thing, have clocked up millions of students in decades past. Mega-universities were designed to make higher education accessible and affordable, breaking with the convention of student and faculty co-location on a physical campus.

But there is no question that we are living in a different era. Whereas in the past distance learning in any form was largely the province of specialist institutions, today many mainstream universities, particularly in rich countries but also to a growing extent in the likes of India and South Africa, offer online degrees, courses or supplementary materials. Indeed, it was elite universities not distance specialists that led the MOOC charge.

How have these two distance learning pioneers, UNISA and IGNOU, fared in recent years? In a world where many so-called traditional students value the flexibility of distance learning elements, and many universities want to diversify into the adult market or feel pressure to accommodate more under-represented groups, what remains distinctive about the remit and activity of these mega-universities?

Date 11/02/2015
Region(s) Africa, Asia
Countries South Africa, India
Theme(s) Technology
Topic(s) Distance Education

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