Disrupting and democratising higher education provision or entrenching academic elitism: towards a model of MOOCs adoption at African universities

  • Patient RambeEmail author
  • Mamello Moeti
Development Article


Challenges of broadening access, escalating cost, maintaining desirable quality and enhancing meaningful learning experiences in African higher education (HE) have spurred debates on how to restructure higher education delivery to meet the diverse needs of heterogeneous learners and adapt pedagogical models to the educational realities of low-income African countries. In view of these complexities, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been advanced by Western Consortia, universities and online platform providers as panaceas for disrupting/transforming existing education models African universities. MOOCs have been touted as disruptive innovations with the potential to create new niche markets for HE courses, disrupt traditional models of instruction and content delivery and create new revenue streams for higher education. Yet academic elitism which manifests in the exclusive selection of top American universities to develop, host and deliver MOOCs, MOOC providers’ use of university brand and reputation as benchmarks for charging recruitment fees on headhunters recruiting MOOC graduates and their complex business models involving the sale of students’ big data (e.g. learning analytics) for profit seem to be inconsistent with claims about philanthropic and egalitarian drive of MOOCs. Drawing on disruptive innovation theory and a review of mainstream literature on MOOCs adoption in American and African tertiary sectors, this study argues that behind the MOOC rhetoric of disrupting and democratizing higher education lies the projection of top academic brands on the marketing pedestal, financial piggybacking on the hype and politics of academic exclusion.


MOOCs Disruptive innovation theory Democratisation Academic elitism 


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Business Support StudiesFaculty of Management SciencesBloemfonteinSouth Africa

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