WideWorldEd Aims to be First Canadian MOOC Provider

Canada may soon have a homegrown provider of massive open online courses.

WideWorldEd announced on June 11 that it plans to begin offering courses this fall. While the project has drawn the support of number of academics, from universities across the country, who sit on its advisory board, it’s still a work in progress.

Speaking at the project’s official launch, executive director Jenni Hayman, who is also lead of e-learning initiatives at Ryerson University, said that the project is still “consulting with learners and partners to ensure it’s what Canadians want.”

Though WideWorldEd has yet to announce any partner institutions, Hayman says that, “indications are strong about partnerships, indications are strong about funding.”

“I really believe strongly that Canada needs its own platform because Canadians are an amazing, diverse people, we have a diverse education system, province by province and territory by territory,” Hayman says.

Hayman says that WideWorldEd will not only be a way for Canadians to learn but will also help to promote “Canadian values,” like “peacekeeping” and “social justice,” internationally.

According to Hayman, WideWorldEd will not only help break down barriers that prevent people from accessing higher education but will also allow people to try classes from a university before they decide to formally enroll. She says that WideWorldEd, which will be run as a non-profit, is looking to grants, academic partners and user donations to provide funding.

While the project is developing partnerships with universities and colleges, Hayman says that they’re also looking to provide course from “non-traditional” educators and intend to provide “life-long learning” courses along with university-style classes.

Hayman says including courses from French-speaking and First Nations educators is a high priority for WideWorldEd. While the world’s first MOOC took place at the University of Manitoba in 2008, Canadian universities have been slow to join the trend, according to the professor who taught the class, George Siemens.

In April, Siemens, who is now at Athabasca University, said that Canada risks falling behind without its own MOOC provider.

In addition to the well-known American MOOC platforms, like Coursera, Udacity and edX, several projects to develop MOOC platforms—both in the public and private sector—are currently underway in Europe. Among those projects is a pan-European provider, that has support from 11 universities and a national project in the United Kingdom, called Futurelearn, which has 12 British universities on-board.

So far, all of the Canadian MOOCs have been run through American providers or by individual professors.

But interest does appear to be growing. The University of Alberta recently announced that it plans to be the first Canadian university to offer credit through a MOOC platform. The course, on dinosaurs, will be offered this fall, in partnership with Udacity.