#6 Summer 2016

GSB’s first Massive Open Online Course seeks to catalyse social change

RLabs – living labs located in Bridgetown, Athlone

RLabs – living labs located in Bridgetown, Athlone

Bertha Centre and RLabs MOOC is UCT’s sixth free online offering.

The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a specialised unit at the GSB, has teamed up with RLabs and the University of Cape Town (UCT) to launch the free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Becoming a Changemaker: Introduction to Social Innovation. To date, 4500 students from over 70 countries have signed up.

The six-week course sets out to debunk common assumptions around what resources are needed to be a changemaker, as well as to encourage people to begin acting as social innovators. It was co-created by the Bertha Centre and RLabs, a social movement ‘born-and-bred’ in Bridgetown, Cape Town, which is now active in 22 countries. RLabs, which stands for Reconstructed Living Lab, seeks to empower youth through innovative and disruptive technology by teaching them vital skills and providing muchneeded support and a sense of community.

Participants follow the journey of RLabs and other examples of social innovations in Africa and all over the world and are challenged to get out of their comfort zones, to start engaging in and with the diverse spaces, people, challenges and opportunities around them.

MOOCs are free online courses and have no entry requirements. Anyone with an internet connection can take part. In early 2015, UCT became the first African university to offer MOOCs on international MOOC platforms, joining many leading international universities. Through Coursera, the world’s largest MOOC platform, and FutureLearn (a smaller Britishbased platform), UCT is reaching thousands of learners worldwide.

“As RLabs we are really excited to partner with the Bertha Centre, who have been pioneering work and research in social innovation. This collaboration also enables us to fulfil a broader mandate to see more changemakers driving social change globally,” said Marlon Parker, founder of RLabs.

“We are excited about pioneering a new kind of MOOC that will reach deeper into communities. It will also advance access to quality education in order to catalyse social change,” said François Bonnici, director of the Bertha Centre.

Commenting on UCT’s decision to launch MOOCs deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Sandra Klopper explained, “In developing UCT’s MOOC strategy, we have been mindful of the scarcity of contributing universities from the Global South, and from Africa in particular. We believe there is an opportunity to share knowledge generated from our leading academics and researchers, and to showcase the university’s rich array of intellectual and teaching resources.”

The goals of the UCT MOOCs project include making UCT knowledge resources globally accessible; giving exposure to African content and knowledge; supporting students in academic transitions; and developing models and expertise in online learning that could be deployed in mainstream degree programmes. According to Klopper, although MOOCs are often non-credit-bearing courses, they can provide valuable skills to professionals as well as more general interest learners in a host of critical areas. For example, during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Western Africa, MOOCs, that could be accessed via cellphones, were used extensively to educate ordinary citizens about the symptoms of the disease and how to avoid contracting it. Even healthcare professionals used MOOCs to train their staff.

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