Addressing Injustices through MOOCs: A study among peri-urban, marginalised, South African youth

Resource type
Addressing Injustices through MOOCs: A study among peri-urban, marginalised, South African youth
The legacies of colonial rule continue to impact everyday life, particularly in education. These structural inequalities are often reinforced and amplified in online ‘global’ education through a form of digital neocolonialism, which is where hegemonic powers indirectly control or influence marginalised groups through the internet or information technology. In striving for justice-oriented online education models, this study analyses to what extent Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), produced both internationally and locally, support (or could support) the needs, preferences, and aspirations of marginalised South African youth and address the material, cultural-epistemic, political, and geopolitical injustices they face. To evaluate what South African peri-urban youth desire in their education and futures, as well as the challenges they experience, a seven-part survey was conducted with 250 youth from five townships in South Africa. Responses showed that whilst participants strongly value and aspire to further their education, financial difficulties, infrastructural barriers, family problems, and lack of emotional support and life mentorship limit them from achieving this. Participants reflected on how colonial and apartheid legacies have affected their educational experiences and identities through inferior quality of education, forced languages, forgotten histories and incongruent values, cultural norms and practices. In parallel, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 35 MOOC designers, from South Africa and the USA, to investigate the ways in which efforts, if any, were being made to reach students most in need of quality education. Interviews covered themes of openness, accessibility, and justice. It was found that, depending on the MOOC designer’s understanding of social justice and decolonial thought, they placed varying emphasis on addressing different forms of injustice. Some focused on resource, access and infrastructural barriers, while others focused on issues of content relevance and knowledge production. Furthermore, MOOC designers’ attempts to address injustices strongly related to their own identities and lived experiences, highlighting the importance of plurality of thought and epistemic diversity in the producers of MOOCs. Drawing on the historical injustices and lived experiences of the youth, and the attempts to address injustices by the MOOC designers, it was ascertained that there is no one size-fits-all formula to creating equitable MOOCs. Rather, depending on the purpose and target audience of the MOOC, nuanced approaches to addressing injustices are suggested. These approaches are shaped by various leverage points that influence the types of, and the extent to which, participatory methods, accessibility measures, knowledge sources, assessment and critical pedagogy are implemented. Additionally, the importance of these leverage points varies over the MOOC’s lifecycle, from inception and design, to implementation and assessment. Bearing in mind the broad-ranging injustices that youth participants raised, these approaches are presented with great caution that educational technologies and open education are not panaceas but if designed and used appropriately and justly, can be tools for liberation.
University of Cambridge
Short Title
Addressing Injustices through MOOCs
Library Catalog
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International
Accepted: 2020-08-24T08:23:28Z DOI: 10.17863/CAM.56608 shortDOI: 10/ghgk6k
Adam, T. (2020). Addressing Injustices through MOOCs: A study among peri-urban, marginalised, South African youth [Thesis, University of Cambridge].