Launched on 18 September, UCT’s new massive open online course (MOOC), ‘Writing Your World: Finding yourself in the academic space’, showcases the university’s approach to teaching academic literacy. As such, it’s a gateway course for anyone considering university studies, wherever they may be in the world.
The free online course runs over four weeks on the Coursera platform and prepares students for the academic demands at university, particularly academic writing in English. As the 10th MOOC in UCT’s homegrown series, it was designed by staff in the Language Development Group (part of the Academic Development Programme) and the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) in the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED).
It targets final-year high-school pupils, those taking a gap year, or professionals moving back into the academic space. The course will also appeal to those interested in debates on identity, culture and mobility in a fast-changing world.
“This is a first for CHED and will be useful to people across a very broad spectrum,” said Associate Professor Ermien van Pletzen.
Transition to university
CHED's Acting Dean, Associate Professor Mbulungeni Madiba, said the launch celebrated two years of innovation and hard work. He sees the MOOC helping students transition from high school to university. “The curriculum states that learners must be able to develop advanced language ability to function. The problem is with the way it is translated.”
The course instructors are Drs Aditi Hunma and Gideon Nomdo. Speaking after the launch, Hunma said, “With this new MOOC, students can draw on their life experiences as they learn to write alongside the international learning community.”
“Students can draw on their life experiences as they learn to write alongside the international learning community.”
The course teaches the practical aspects of academic writing and offers a variety of interactive texts, lecture videos and discussions. During the four weeks, students provide feedback to one another and create their first academic essay.
“By emphasising that writing is a process, we intend to take away the angst of writing a ‘perfect’ essay the first time around,” Hunma added.
Democratise access to higher education
MOOCs provide an opportunity to share knowledge generated by leading academics and researchers on the continent and allow UCT to showcase its array of intellectual and teaching resources. While the physical classroom can reach only 250 to 300 students at a time, MOOCs are freely accessible anywhere, at any time, with the potential to widen and democratise access to higher education.
By drawing on lessons learnt from MOOC teaching, UCT can enrich its face-to-face offerings, said Nomdo.
Speaking at the launch, Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price said that MOOCs were close to his heart and a priority for support from the Vice-Chancellor’s Strategic Fund.
‘Writing Your World’ is an important contribution to the university’s online presence, particularly at this juncture, when students are calling for decolonised, free education.
“It is one of the ways that the university is adjusting to the students, rather than simply expecting them to adjust,” said Price. “We need to think differently about learning modalities to reach out to the new generation of students.”
Social redress boost
The MOOC comes at a historic time when students are calling for free education.
Price envisions that a MOOC from the African continent could promote African scholarship and “reverse colonial education”.
“The reason we’ve been involved is also in response to education that is free. These are resources that are part of promoting social transformation and social justice.”
This view supports CHED’s social redress goals, including widening access to higher education. To this end, the MOOC team will be working in tandem with the School Development Unit to broaden access by reaching out to high-school teachers and students.
The MOOC platform, Coursera, also has its own app, which allows MOOCs to be accessed directly via smart phones. MOOC videos can also be downloaded, to be accessed offline. The CILT team can provide further assistance.
The development comes in the wake of news that three of UCT’s MOOCs are among the world’s top 50, according to the Class Central website.
The course begins on 9 October 2017. Enroll now...
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