Gioia Magliozzi works for ENAV Ltd, an Italian Air Traffic Control company. She is a mother of two and she lives in Gaeta, a small town by the sea town between Rome and Naples, in Italy. Feeling the need to hone her skills to grow professionally and to serve her employer better, she decided to go back to study. She joined a course at a Malaysian university.

John Chakanga Mupala is an ambitious young man who lives in Zambia. His dream is to bring the semi-precious stones in his country to the world market. He felt the need to attend a course that provides him with the necessary skills to develop a business model enabling him to realise his dream, but living on 2 Dollars a day, attending a conventional course was beyond his means, so he joined a Malaysian University.

Michelle King is a mother of two kids with special needs. She lives in the UK and runs a not-for-profit business to help families with special children. She is concerned about the sustainability of her operation and thought that going back to school may help. She enrolled in a course at a Malaysian university.

The above three individuals are but a few of over a thousand students from 110 different countries registered for the Entrepreneurship course that I run as a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) at Taylor’s University.

Making education both personalised and available to the masses is the Holy Grail that has been, until recently, eluding the educators. Distance Learning and e-Learning definitely improved the availability of education, however, it was not until the technology was ready, in terms of availability of Broadband internet for free or for reasonable cost in many parts of the world, that we had the MOOCs. As the name implies MOOCs are free courses that are offered online to a large number of students. In 2011 an Artificial Intelligence course offered by Stanford witnessed 160,000 students registering. Currently, MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Princeton, UNSW, Melbourne are among the universities offering selected courses as MOOCs. Closer to our region, NUS and NTU in Singapore are also working on offering some MOOCs in the near future.

Data show that there are about 180 million students enrolled in tertiary courses worldwide in around 20,000 institutions. With the number of students expected to grow to 260 million by 2025, it is clear that the brick and mortar universities will not be able to catch up with the demand. When this is viewed against the fact that the cost of provision of traditional tertiary education is ever increasing making it beyond the reach of many, MOOCs seem to be a very exciting alternative. MOOCs also can be a mode of choice for working adults who are interested in developing certain skills with the intention of quickly applying those skills in their jobs. Although the business model, in terms of how the universities will make money of the MOOCs, is yet to be clear, investors and universities alike seem to be going ahead with the development of platforms to deliver MOOCs. edX is the platform developed by Harvard and MIT and general platforms include Coursera and OpenLearning  among others. Google also launched its Course Maker which can be used to deliver MOOCs.

The MOOC I deliver is students’ centered, with both on campus and online students working collaboratively on projects related to the course. This creates a very interesting and challenging environment, as we need to respond to questions and comments from different time zones. On the other hand, this allowed the MOOC to be unique in the sense that it adds real value to my on campus students through allowing them to work with international teams and realise their goals of becoming leaders in the global community. The course introduces entrepreneurship as a thinking framework and uses the latest finding of neuroscience to help the participants “rewire” their brains making them think positively and enabling them to convert challenges into opportunities. This feature attracted much interest and attention including from a student who suffers from Parkinson disease and wanted to explore if this feature can improve her mental health.

“What we have seen with MOOCs is the ability for people who have historically been limited by economics and geography to learn from educators from around the world.” said Adam Brimo, cofounder of OpenLearning, an Australian MOOC platform that we choose to deliver our MOOC. “Many of the MOOCs that have been run so far do little more than distribute videos and assessments efficiently however at OpenLearning we believe that far more is required for students to have a rich and enjoyable learning experience. OpenLearning focuses on building a community around a course to effectively motivate students to help one another and discover how they learn best. Our goal is to make online learning as effective as face-to-face classes,” he added.

MOOCs are considered to be a field leveling force as universities from different parts of the world, regardless of their position on the league tables, can now compete head to head and it is up to the students around the world to decide which offers the best learning experience. This can be a real opportunity in the case of Malaysia as it aspires to become a regional hub for education excellence. If more Malaysian universities work together to offer high quality MOOCs, prospecting students from all over the world can use the MOOCs as a means of assessing the quality of the Malaysian universities they are considering without leaving their home countries. MOOCs can also be attended by pre-University students to help them make up their minds and ensure that they choose the right programme of study.

Those interested in exploring the MOOC I currently run are more than welcome to do so at: