Kepler, a nonprofit university program designed for the developing world, aims to assist under-resourced college-age adults in the nations of Central Africa to obtain university-level, internationally accredited degrees. Based in Kigali, Rwanda, Kepler is among the forward-thinking organizations offering degrees at a price of only about $1,000 annually. Students work their way through massive open online courses, or MOOCs, then convene on campus for discussion, analysis, and project-based learning in collaboration with instructors and fellow learners.
While MOOCs have only become widely popular in the last few years, they have changed the face of higher education on a global level. Today’s MOOCs offer large numbers of students much more than the previous generation’s videotaped and televised academic lectures. MOOCs can feature multimedia components and allow for real-time interaction among students and teachers. Most are offered free of charge as a means of democratizing higher education worldwide.
Some of the world’s most prestigious universities, including Yale, Harvard, Stanford, the University of California system, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offer MOOCs. A number of organizations outside the structure of the formal educational system also provide MOOCs. Coursera, edX, and Kahn Academy, which operates with the motto “You can learn anything,” are three of the best-known entities that serve as gateways to free courses from top-level schools. Subjects offered through MOOCs include computer programming, mathematics, the arts and sciences, history, and the rest of the full complement of academic study.
Stanford’s MOOC offerings include courses in artificial intelligence and quantum mechanics. Harvard’s online classes include English Literature and computer science. Moreover, MIT’s OpenCourseWare site recently added a diverse group of new courses focusing on topics such as museums, differential equations, and the social problems accompanying China’s rapid urbanization.
Another MOOC platform is Udemy, currently serving some 6 million customers, providing courses on topics ranging from photography and yoga to business skills and standard academic curricula.
Using MOOCs as a core component of its innovative curriculum, Kepler offers a compelling solution for how to educate millions of students around the world who have great potential but lack the means to achieve their dreams.