Exploring linguistic diversity of MOOCS: Implications for international development

Caroline Stratton, Rob Grace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Recent practical initiatives and academic research have signaled optimism for the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as an alternative model for education in the developing world. At the same time, anecdotal evidence and observation have pointed to a lack of courses offered in languages other than English as one potential challenge for global use of MOOCs. We present a first empirical attempt to characterize the linguistic diversity of MOOCs and understand the resulting implications for the use of MOOCs in international development. We find significant differences in quantities and types of MOOCs available in English and non-English languages. This finding indicates that MOOCs do not yet provide a broad array of educational opportunities for people without adequate English-language proficiency and therefore, MOOCs may have limited potential for use in international development outside English-speaking populations at present. In recognition of efforts to increase linguistic diversity of MOOC offerings, we review and describe two types of initiatives, those to translate existing MOOCs and those to create new MOOCs in non-English languages, initiatives we identify as scaling-up or scaling-down MOOCs respectively. To situate our findings in development discourse, we turn to Sen's capability approach () to consider implications for the use of MOOCs in socioeconomic development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • ICT4D
  • MOOCs
  • Massive open online courses
  • information and communications technologies for development


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