Mooc makeover saves refugee course

A shift in method of delivery rescued an interpretation programme for Dadaab camp inhabitants from closure

July 17, 2014

Source: Getty

Camp hope: places on the course will be divided among inhabitants of the Dadaab refugee camp and local residents

A course developed by two universities that was intended to be delivered in a refugee camp in Kenya was nearly shelved because of government concerns that offering higher education to displaced Somalis might make them less likely to return home.

Barbara Moser-Mercer, professor of conference interpreting at the University of Geneva’s Faculty of Translation and Interpreting, worked with academics at Kenyatta University in Nairobi to develop an interpretation course that was to be delivered in Dadaab, a town in eastern Kenya that is home to about 340,000 Somali refugees.

However, although international refugee law states that refugees have a right to primary and post-primary education, it does not extend to higher education, and Professor Moser-Mercer said convincing the Kenyan government to allow delivery of the course was a challenge.

“The Kenyan government felt that if higher education was offered to refugees in the camp, the refugees would want to stay in the camp and not return to Somalia,” she told Times Higher Education.

To ensure that the course, a certificate in community interpreting, which can be used in places such as Dadaab, could proceed, Professor Moser-Mercer altered its method of delivery to make it more like a massive open online course.

Impasse broken

“The fact that courses such as Moocs are all offered at a distance was the argument that ultimately won [the government] over.” She said that because free online courses would be available to the refugees regardless of whether they return home, resettle or remain in the camp, there was no danger that offering access to a web-based course in Dadaab would make any difference to their movement.

“I changed the course from 80 per cent online and 20 per cent on site to 100 per cent online,” she said. “I am just happy that we were able to negotiate ourselves out of an impasse.”

Initially, there will be 25 scholarships available to people in Dadaab, to be divided between inhabitants of the refugee camp and members of the local populace.

“A quarter of the places will go to the community of Dadaab, not those inside the camp. It is an agreement that had to be made because of the argument that the camp residents – the refugees – get better treatment than the locals,” Professor Moser-Mercer explained. “We are now waiting for applications, which will be made through Kenyatta University.”

A learning hub with internet access, which will be administered by refugees, has already been set up in Dadaab, and the universities are working on procedures to allow people who do not live nearby to travel to the site.

Professor Moser-Mercer said that although the initial intake was “quite small”, the plan was to “work out any kinks, and then scale up”.

She was speaking to THE after addressing the Moocs, E-learning and Beyond conference, which was hosted by The Bartlett, University College London’s Faculty of the Built Environment, in London on 1 July.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

PhD Scholar in Medicine

University Of Queensland

Manager, Research Systems and Performance

Auckland University Of Technology

Lecturer in Aboriginal Allied Health

University Of South Australia

Lecturer, School of Nursing & Midwifery

Western Sydney University

College General Manager, SHE

La Trobe University
See all jobs

Most Viewed

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi