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Secondary School Teachers’ Professional Development Using MOOCs in Bangladesh
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have been gaining popularity among the learners worldwide. Many researchers think that MOOC is appropriate for developed world only, however, recent studies show that it is an effective learning approach in developing country perspective as well. Besides, a large number of MOOCs’ learners participate from developing countries and their course completion rate is high. It is even more fruitful when targeted to certain professional groups. This paper explores whether MOOCs are suitable for Bangladeshi secondary school teachers’ professional development.
Although all MOOC platforms are based on developed countries (like Coursera, edX are based on the U.S.) and they offer courses targeted learners from developed countries, like the language of instruction in most of the cases is English. In addition to that there are some intrinsic features necessary for MOOC like the availability of high speed internet connection, ownership of digital devices like tabs or computers, and experience of operating the digital devices that are commonly found among developed country people whereas people are in relatively disadvantageous position in terms of those prerequisites in developing countries. In spite of such language and technological barriers, a study by Garrido and others (2016) find that a significant number of participants’ of the MOOCs come from developing countries, perhaps because of the courses are flexible and cost-effective, or sometimes found free of cost. Moreover, receiving training from the world-class institutions work as additional reinforcement for the learners. Taking the barriers of MOOCs applicability in account some research pilots have been done to find its effectiveness in developing countries.
To make the MOOCs appropriate for the developing country, some MOOC projects in developing countries adjusted by using the native language for instruction, providing more text based material instead of videos, creating well organized discussion forum, targeting relatively highly-educated cohorts and so forth that were effective. The customized strategies for the targeted learner groups brought high completion rate in the MOOC projects in developing countries (Murugesan et al. 2017). Other studies also identified some important aspects of MOOCs that increases its completion rate.
In a study by University of Pennsylvania showed that learners of MOOCs have diverse motivation, but the highest incentive they find when they take MOOCs for their career advancement (Christensen et al. 2013). Another feature for participating professional development is that participants engage themselves more in group discussion forum; and, when similar nature professionals start discussing then it often leads to higher order learning (Dumitrescu 2015). Many professionals also expressed that some MOOCs are alternative to attending professional conferences. Considering these aspects of MOOCs, teachers training is being done through MOOCs in some developed countries since teachers are a professional group who has recurring training needs.
Moreover, offering training courses through MOOCs could be much faster than traditional methods. Sometimes school curriculum gets changed which requires quick dissemination through trainings that takes a long time whereas MOOCs can do it faster. Trainings can be made more effective if several onsite meetings took place beside online meetings. Blending of MOOC with face-to-face interaction will help to eliminate various troubles faced by the online communication by the participants.
While economically advanced countries can offer various trainings easily for the school teachers, it is tough for the developing countries because of budget constraints. The World Bank’s latest Human Development Report of 2018 stated that developing countries are spending a large share of their education budget on teachers’ salaries and other regular needs, so they cannot spend much on to improve educational quality at their schools.
Bangladesh, a developing country, falls in the category which needs to improve its educational quality. While the country has progressed relatively well in primary education, secondary education is a huge concern. Training for the secondary school teachers could be one of the major interventions for improving quality of education, but the training facilities for secondary school teachers in Bangladesh is poor. On the other hand, traditional method of teacher training is costly because teachers receive transportation allowance, accommodation, and honorarium for attending those trainings. Other barrier includes the long distance of the training centers from their home. In addition to that school authority rarely allows secondary school teachers for in-service trainings because of existing teacher shortage. All these barriers could be managed by introducing teacher training through MOOCs since it minimizes the opportunity cost at a significant level. Teachers’ training trough MOOCs could be a viable solution because it is cost effective.
However, teachers’ training through MOOCs in Bangladesh is a new concept. There are some MOOC like short courses for secondary school teachers in Bangladesh, as “Muktopaath,” which is an online platform managed by a project under the prime minister’s office in Bangladesh. The brief internet search help me find a training program in Bangladesh for Bangladesh Information Commission officials conducted by a non-governmental organization (NGO) through MOOCs funded by the World Bank, but the program’s success is yet to be analyzed.
Bangladesh has a relatively good internet infrastructure throughout the country. Besides, secondary school teachers have been receiving computer technology trainings for several years. Almost every secondary school has a computer lab and internet connection. So, they can use the facility to receive MOOC training in groups or individually. Moreover, many teachers own laptop and internet connection at their home. To make MOOCs more effective government can put it into their training policy, also distributing incentives by redirecting some of the training budgets can make it more attractive. Therefore, implementing MOOCs seems possible in Bangladesh if the government takes such initiative.
In short, when educators are concerned about the education quality of developing countries of developing and low income countries’, teachers’ professional development through MOOCs can be a good alternative. Though it is accepted that MOOCs are appropriate for developed countries, but MOOCs can be adjusted to fulfill the needs of developing countries. MOOCs for school teachers’ professional development could be a sustainable solution for developing countries like Bangladesh.