José Alberto Barrios, a professor of environmental science at Santiago Mariño University Institute in Venezuela, made a discovery. It wasn’t a new species or a previously unknown biome. It was how innovative and useful the world of online courses could be. He decided to enroll in one called “Challenges and Opportunities of the Digital Economy,” designed by the IDB and available for free online.
Barrios is one of hundreds of teachers who have written to us to share stories of how our MOOCs (the commonly used acronym for “massive, open, online courses”) have helped them improve their knowledge and their lessons, and, by extension, their students’ learning.
The Bank began offering the courses in 2014 with the aim of disseminating the knowledge and experiences acquired over more than 50 years as the main source of development financing for Latin America and the Caribbean. A total of 39 courses are now available, on topics ranging from public policy to climate change, education, social services, extractive industries and more. They are offered via the IDBx platform, which is associated with Harvard University’s EDx system.
Over one million people have registered, including over 12 thousand from the Caribbean. Find out how the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are opening up career opportunities for many.https://t.co/l5cIXCOv2Q pic.twitter.com/LWqGYeii33— Inter-American Development Bank (@the_IDB) August 11, 2019
Francisco Herminio, a professor of macroeconomics at the Autonomous University of Yucatán, described the frustration he often felt in trying to teach his subject. Many of his students came in with the belief that macroeconomics was “arid, complicated and full of technicalities,” he says.
However, he found a way to help dispel those prejudices after discovering “Latin American Macroeconomic Reality.” The course allowed him to "observe a much more practical and concrete macroeconomics,” he says. “[It] helped me in my teaching performance and, therefore, improved assimilation of the concepts by my students in a clearer and more enjoyable way.”
While MOOCs are primarily used by individuals who voluntarily register and learn outside of the classroom, some teachers are using the courses in more innovative ways. One use is the “flipped classroom” or the “inverted class,” in which MOOCs become part of classwork. Instructors ask students to review the readings, videos or case studies in online courses while at home, and then discuss their understanding and questions in person during class.
This mixed methodology is more active and motivating than traditional teaching, says Jessica Santos, deputy professor of economics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “The readings improve understanding of what is happening today in the international economy,” she told us.
Joseph Wangija took our course Data for Effective Policy Making and analyzed info from our #opendata portal. With that, he developed a project to boost farming in Guyana. Learn about @the_IDB's #MOOCs and how they are changing lives. #openknowledge https://t.co/ThRxwEkyNJ— Kyle Strand (@KyleStr) August 12, 2019
Digital technology offers new resources and methodologies for teachers to exploit. Santos and others who have employed MOOCs as a tool say that online and face-to-face learning should not be exclusive, but complementary.
The IDB’s role as not just a lending institution, but a repository of applied development knowledge, explains its investment in the courses.
“MOOCs have the potential to provide access to new opportunities related to training and learning in a connected world. We want all universities, large or small, to make the most of our investment in open training to improve the quality of their content, train their professionals and improve students' skills for the labor market,” says IDB project manager Andrea Leonelli.