It was revealed this week that Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand University (Wits), in partnership with MOOC provider Edx, has announced plans to introduce free web courses in South Africa. The courses, which are planned to cover a range of topics from economics to world history, will be available to the 200,000-plus learners who use Edx in Africa. Between 1991 and 2006 the number of university students tripled without an accommodating rise in public investment.Therefore, the aim of this partnership is to neutralise that gulf between funding and student population in South Africa.
A Needed Change
The South African government’s continued lack of investment in the futures of young people is the latest issue in a variety of fields which is perceived by some to be holding back the nation. For example, the South African online gambling industry has gained international prominence in recent years. Websites like Zebra Casino offer authentic slots and roulette games – and you can play them here – which are both attractive to users and lucrative to programmers.
However, South Africa’s continued prohibiting of online gambling means these companies are unable to access their own domestic audiences. If this wasn’t the case, the rise in profits and exposure would lead to higher revenue and therefore more jobs, which would benefit both South African workers and the country’s economy. As a result, independently funded enterprises, like the Edx/Wits partnership, have been needed to make progression where governmental structures have failed.
A Growing Enterprise
Witwatersrand University is only the most recent of more than 60 global universities, colleges and institutions of which Ed X’s academic body consists. EdX is a massive open online course (MOOC) provider of online learning platforms. The aim of this company, which was founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in May 2012, is to host free online university-level courses while offering their own unique but recognised qualification. Unlike other learning platforms EdX is a non-profit organisation. As of 22 October 2014, edX has more than three million users taking more than 300 courses online.
‘A Much-Needed Step Forward’
Professor Adam Habib of Witwatersrand University released a statement regarding the partnership this week. Prof Habib stated that “This is a pioneering, innovative project spearheaded by Wits, which will indeed unlock new opportunities in South Africa and through the rest of the continent. This is in line with the University’s commitment to being locally responsive and internationally competitive.” The principle and Vice-Chancellor concluded the statement: “We look forward to collaborating to increase access to high-quality education for all and especially for learners in South Africa and throughout the continent who are eager for new educational opportunities and to develop new skills.” The introduction of these courses, which will open at the end of 2015, are a much-needed step forward for higher-education in South Africa and hopefully a sign of future progress within the sector.