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Going to Galway – online

| March 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Galway in the west of Ireland is the subject of more than one romantic song. It’s also now the home of the Advanced Learning Interactive Systems Online (Alison) project.

Its numbers – it’s signed up more than two million students for more than 500 online courses and adds another 200 000 students every month, aiming for a billion – may match other massive open online courses (MOOCs) you’ll have heard of. But Alison has already been recognised as something special: it recently garnered a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) award and recognition at the most recent World Innovation Summit for Education in Qatar.

Founder Mike Feerick says the awards are due to Alison’s goal: to provide online learning for vocational and technical courses, as opposed to academic ones. Through Alison, you can improve your English, learn to build a basic website or about food hygiene. Feerick says he heeded the call of international organisations to provide vocational work-based skills to combat growing global unemployment among the youth. Feerick has said of ‘regular’ courses: “Ninety-nine per cent of the people are learning the same 1% of information, again and again.”

Twelve million young people in the Arab world are Alison recruits. Feerick predicts that low-skilled workers and the unemployed from India will soon overtake this number. Other growing markets are Nigeria and the Philippines. Feerick also believes that putting people with skills into practice is more important than the globe’s “fixation with a paper trail of certification”. Alison faces daunting future financial challenges that have felled other MOOCs. But Feerick feels his model – a social mission supported by a wide web of advertisers – will help him achieve his goal of sustaining a reputation as one of the biggest quality MOOCs in the world. 

Category: Autumn 2014, e-Education

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