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MOOCs4D: Potential at the Bottom of the Pyramid 

An International Invitational Conference
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
April 10-11, 2014


The recent rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has generated significant media attention for their potential to disrupt the traditional modes of education through ease of access and free (or low-cost) content delivery. To date, nearly all of the attention has been on how major research universities can create their content for worldwide consumption. The vision of the MOOCs4D Conference is to focus the conversation specifically on the developing world by broadening the discussion to consider: new definitions of MOOCs, new frameworks for the utilizations of MOOCs, and new directions for MOOCs in the developing world.  

The popularity of MOOCs may be seen through an increasing demand for post-secondary enrollment that is predicted to increase from 150 million students in 2009 to 250 million students in 2025. MOOCs have a distinct advantage in that they use technology to scale, and are able to provide learning opportunities to many more individuals than traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. Not only do MOOCs hold out the prospect of greatly expanding capacity to meet growing demand worldwide, but they also offer the potential of enabling access to high quality education to all persons regardless of socioeconomic status, even in the most impoverished and under-served regions of the world.

These developments have generated considerable excitement in higher education worldwide. Current MOOC platforms have students registered in nearly 200 countries, with about two-thirds from US and Western Europe regions, about 6% from Brazil, 5% from India, 4% from China, and the remainder from everywhere else. And these numbers may be changing rapidly. With such a rapid worldwide expansion, there are concerns about the relevance of content offered, languages of instruction, how to meet diverse learning needs, cultural differences in teaching, and accessibility in various regions with poor telecommunications infrastructure.

Questions Addressed:

  • What obstacles prevent access and use of MOOCs among disadvantaged populations at the 'bottom of the pyramid,' especially in developing countries?
  • What resources outside of MOOCs need to be mobilized to enable access to education for all?
  • What opportunities can be provided by MOOCs to address the persistent inequities found worldwide?
  • How may MOOCs be used to promote improved economic, health and social outcomes?
  • Simply put: How can MOOCs be harnessed as a tool for development (MOOCs4D)?

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