Learning on a Mass Scale

Learning on a Mass Scale

Our top four reasons why Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offer impactful solutions to problems faced during the pandemic


It’s 8:30AM on Monday morning. What used to be a dreary commute or a sleepy start to the school day are no longer. Routines are uprooted, time feels irrelevant, and normalcy seems foreign. While essential workers and medical staff find themselves on the global frontlines of this unprecedented time, others are also grappling to find a new normal.

Suddenly finding yourself with extra time on your hands? Scrambling to put together online classes? Overwhelmed with job searching?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) might just be the answer you’re looking for. While the New York Times coined 2012 as “the year of the MOOC,” it was just foreshadowing the impending MOOC golden era: 2020.

Here at the ITCILO, we’ve long believed in MOOCs’ potential. Wondering how this platform might be your newfound passion? Here are our four key takeaways:

1. Explore new skills

This new rhythm has left many bored, uninspired, or unemployed. MOOCs range from all subjects and disciplines, allowing learners to unskill, skill, and reskill. Take this time to invest in yourself and dive into a useful or intriguing course. Ever wonder how bees contribute to vital ecosystem services? Always wanted to dive into graphic design? There is a MOOC for that.

Now is the time to get into an entrepreneurial mindset.

2. Reach a global learning audience

MOOCs' accessibility (all online) and affordability (usually free) make them an inclusive solution to international education. All you need is an internet connection, some free time, and a desire to learn.

Jeanne Schmitt, Senior Programme Officer in the ITCILO’s Employers’ Programme, shared that the 2016 Roles and Responsibilities of Board Members in Business Organizations MOOC “had a good balance of participant provenance with the majority coming from Africa.” In addition, Rute Mendes from the ITCILO’s Promoting Better Labour Market Outcomes for Youth MOOC explained that the original English MOOC was relaunched in Portuguese, “highlighting case studies, examples, and experiences of this specific community.”

When it comes to MOOCs, learning has no boundary.

3. Contribute to sustainable development

The 2030 Agenda has become a pillar for the development world, however also for schools, businesses, and governmental institutions. Curious on how to build more resilient cities? Or wish to promote gender equity in the workplace? MOOCs also offer a space to gain practical tools for fostering a positive impact in your community.

A participant from the ITCILO’s 2016 Crowdfunding for the Caribbean MOOC highlighted:

I have learnt more than I could ever imagine. I now have the necessary tools to do my crowdfunding campaign.

The possibilities are endless, the outcomes everlasting. 

4. Keep those near and far engaged

Classrooms and meeting rooms have now gone virtual. Trying to stay on task or keeping your team active comes with an added challenge at a distance. MOOCs offer a space for connection, discussion, and debate regardless of time or location. Participants can learn at their own pace, while also engaging with their colleagues and the facilitators.

The 2019 Promoting Better Labour Market Outcomes for Youth MOOC made a conscious decision to foster engagement. The Programme Officer for Youth Employment, Ruth Mendes, shares: 

The discussions in the MOOCs’ forum were rather interesting, engaging, and stimulating for the participants as they were able to share experiences with people from all over the world.

A forum: a form of expression, a form of interaction. With MOOCs, an intellectual debate is just a click away.

Interested in diving into the world of MOOCs? Download MOOCs: Promoting decent work at a scale to learn more about an alternative path to skills development and professionalization.