OpenU – Kazakhstan’s massive open online courses

ASTANA –WikiBilim public foundation and Kcell, one of the country’s largest mobile network operators, have launched the new online project, Open University (OpenU), a local analogue of Coursera, edX and Udacity. Around 80 percent of the content will be in the Kazakh language.DRM_2316

“As you know, expanding access to high-speed Internet is changing many industries and creating new opportunities for increasing efficiency,” said WikiBilim Foundation Founder and Board of Trustees Chairperson Rauan Kenzhekhanuly. “For example, in higher education online learning technologies are developing based on massive open online courses (MOOC). Millions of listeners around the world, having access to such courses, receive knowledge, improve their qualifications or acquire a new specialty. The task of the OpenU project is to provide everyone with access to the best courses of the leading Kazakh professors. Particularly, students of our regional universities are interested in this. At the same time, the Open University of Kazakhstan does not issue diplomas; it is called upon to help existing universities to improve the quality of their services and students to receive quality knowledge.”

OpenU is currently supported by several universities, such as Kazakh-British Technical University (KBTU), Almaty Management University (AlmaU), Suleyman Demirel University (SDU), Kazakh National Technical University and the Institute of Mathematics and Mathematical Modelling.

“The main directions of the courses are IT, business and telecommunications, because at the first stage the general partner of the project is Kcell, which is interested in the first courses to be in this sphere. In the next stage of the project, we plan to expand the number of directions,” project manager Ainur Satekova told The Astana Times.

The main goal of the project is to provide Kazakh university students and other interested individuals with access to the educational content of professors from the country’s leading universities.

“This is a unique project; there is no so-called ‘culture’ of online education in Kazakhstan yet. We are developing it,” she added.

OpenU’s platform is based on Open edX, which was created by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Certificates might soon be given to listeners, said Satekova.

“But since we work with the universities, we want to approach that matter with experience. They are the ones who will issue certificates. It will be a joint responsibility,” she added.

The first online course is Matrixes and Determinants by physical and mathematical sciences Ph.D., professor and National Science Academy academician Askar Dzhumadildayev.

“Science takes time. For my subject, five weeks for higher education were recorded, although at least 20 courses are required. I believe, for now it is necessary to focus on university subjects, although I do not exclude that. If successful, it will be possible to launch similar portals for schoolchildren and adults. Lectures are specially designed in academic style, since there is a shortage of textbooks in the state language in that direction,” he said.

As of today, 10 courses have already been developed, but only six are presently available online. The average duration of a course is five weeks; the average length of a lecture is 20 minutes. All lectures are also expected to have subtitles in Kazakh, Russian and English.

“We are sure that the Open University will be interesting not only for applicants and students of colleges and universities, but also for those who already work, for example, in the field of IT and telecommunications,” said Kcell communications department head Natalia Yeskova. “In addition, the platform provides access to educational courses for people with disabilities and those who live in remote areas of Kazakhstan. For our country, this is really a unique project and I want to believe that in the future it will be supported by companies from other spheres of the economy who, like us, are interested in the development of education and in the training of highly qualified personnel for their industry.”

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