MOOCs and online education Exploring the potential for international educational development

By Sarah Pouezevara, Laura Horn

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a relatively recent innovation with potential to provide access to relevant education and workforce training at scale. RTI previously studied MOOCs in the context of the US market, and determined that more efforts are needed to examine the prospect of MOOC use in developing economies. This paper defines MOOCs and contrasts MOOCs with previously established forms of online learning and open educational resources. It concludes that although MOOCs have potential for expanding access to important educational content and resources, currently they favor more privileged and educated individuals. Further evolution of ICT infrastructure, platforms and pedagogical models is needed before common MOOC models can meet the needs of the majority of learners in developing economies.


Pouezevara, S., & Horn, L. (2016). MOOCs and online education: Exploring the potential for international educational development. (RTI Press Publication No. OP-0029-1603). Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI Press.

© 2019 RTI International. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Sarah PouezevaraSarah R. Pouezevara, MA, is an eLearning specialist in the International Development Group at RTI International. She has supported, designed, taught, and participated in online courses (including MOOCs) for universities, the World Bank, and United Nations organizations since 1999 and supports integration of appropriate technologies in international education projects worldwide. Ms. Pouezevara has previously coauthored state-ofthe-art reviews of mobile learning and the use of tablet computers in education in developing countries (see "Mobile Learning and Numeracy: Filling Gaps and Expanding Opportunities for Early Grade Learning" [2012] and "Turkey’s FATIH Project: A Plan to Conquer the Digital Divide or a Technological Leap of Faith?" [2013]).

Laura HornLaura J. Horn, MS, has conducted applied research and written extensively on postsecondary education issues for more than 25 years. She directs the Center for Postsecondary Education in RTI’s Education and Workforce Development division, where she oversees the research and analysis activities focused on postsecondary education in the United States. Under contract to the National Center for Education Statistics, Ms. Horn leads studies designed to inform federal policy on issues of access, completion, and financial aid. Over the last decade, she has built a research agenda focused on community college student success. Ms. Horn also leads RTI’s efforts to understand how personalized learning approaches through MOOCs and competency-based education can be used in postsecondary education to help prepare students for the workforce.

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