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MOOCs without borders. Investigating the dynamics of a contextualised approach to scalable online learning, inclusion of displaced populations and conditions of poverty.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Mariam Aman Shah
Publication date2021
Number of pages256
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses. This form of scalable education has gained a reputation for providing anytime, anywhere access to knowledge across the globe. Through the ubiquitous presence of the internet as the mechanism by which to deliver courses, MOOCs are primed to break down barriers of access to education between nations and population segments. However, is the ecosystem of MOOCs really developed for anyone, anywhere? With wars, national conflicts and natural disasters setting a record for the largest number of refugees and displaced populations ever recorded along with millions of people around the globe who continue to live in conditions of poverty, are indeed “MOOCs without borders” and can they provide much needed educational opportunities to transform the lives of these less privileged populations?

This research investigates the plight for these populations by reflecting on the concept it has termed as “MOOCs without borders”. It examines the contexts of such populations and their nations which are heavily tasked to minimise gaps in the attainment of knowledge, through providing inclusive, adaptable and therefore contextualised education at scale. Reflecting on this, this thesis investigates the dynamics of contextualised education through the lens of MOOCs for such marginalised populations, and uses Knowledge Gap Theory as its theoretical framework whilst implementing Grounded Theory as its methodological approach.

The findings gathered identifies 5 key factors which can contribute to the contextualisation of MOOCs for nations faced with poverty and the influx of displaced populations. In the identification of these 5 key factors, this thesis presents the generation of theory in the form of the “Contextualised MOOCs Model”. This model provides a how to framework for MOOCs to provide accessible educational opportunities, as it illustrates the interconnections and the impact which the 5 contextualised factors have upon each other, and thus upon the development and implementation of MOOCs for underprivileged and displaced populations.