Massive uptake in MOOC participation

29 April 2020 | Story Staff writer. Photo Pexels. Read time 2 min.
MOOC enrolments increased by roughly 35 000 participants since the beginning of March in the wake of global lockdowns.
MOOC enrolments increased by roughly 35 000 participants since the beginning of March in the wake of global lockdowns.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has seen a sharp increase in massive open online course (MOOC) participation since the start of global lockdowns.

Janet Small, course development manager at the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT), said MOOC enrolments increased by roughly 35 000 participants since the beginning of March.

“We have not seen anything [like this] since the university launched its first MOOCs in 2015,” Small said.

MOOCs are free online courses with no entry requirements that are designed for mass participation via the web. Some notable features include interactive online forums that involve hundreds of students for peer-to-peer discussions, as well as access to video and audio lectures and course material.

Understanding Clinical Research, a course that helps people brush up on their medical statistics knowledge, has seen a dramatic surge in participants – roughly 10 000 people enrolled in the programme, in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Small added.

She said the MOOC Becoming a Changemaker by UCT’s Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Graduate School of Business, has been one of 75 short courses highlighted by Coursera as “especially gratifying” during the global lockdown and has also attracted a large audience.


“[CILT] has received such good feedback from people who are keen to learn while under lockdown.”

“[CILT] has received such good feedback from people who are keen to learn while under lockdown. Independent learning has also become very popular for those not able to study or those wanting to further develop their skills during economic uncertainty.”

To date, UCT has created 23 MOOCs, which are hosted on international platforms. Small said the “self-pacing, flexible and low-cost” formats of MOOCs are suitable to acquire new skills or supplement formal learning; however, MOOCs are not “low tech” and do require good connectivity and data to access international platforms.

Participants can also download course content to watch offline, and all videos contain text transcripts to increase accessibility.

The course material of all UCT MOOCs is released under Creative Commons licences, which makes it free to share. As part of a special COVID-19 offering, UCT also joined the Coursera Initiative to allow participants to earn a certificate for free.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Coronavirus Disease 2019 updates

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global pandemic that caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March and implement a national lockdown from 26 March. The intention of these drastic measures is to “flatten the curve” and contain the spread of the coronavirus to enable healthcare workers to more effectively treat those affected. Although South Africa has recently reached a peak of COVID-19 infections, the country is expecting a surge in positive cases in August.

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UCT confirms second COVID-19 case 09:15, 19 March 2020
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Getting credible, evidence-based, accessible information and recommendations relating to COVID-19

The Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital, are producing educational video material for use on digital platforms and in multiple languages. The information contained in these videos is authenticated and endorsed by the team of experts based in the Department of Medicine. Many of the recommendations are based on current best evidence and are aligned to provincial, national and international guidelines. For more information on UCT’s Department of Medicine, please visit the website.

To watch more videos like these, visit the Department of Medicine’s YouTube channel.

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Statements from Government


In an email to the UCT community, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“COVID-19, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is a rapidly changing epidemic. [...] Information [...] will be updated as and when new information becomes available.”


We are continuing to monitor the situation and we will be updating the UCT community regularly – as and when there are further updates. If you are concerned or need more information, students can contact the Student Wellness Service on 021 650 5620 or 021 650 1271 (after hours), while staff can contact 021 650 5685.