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Rolling out the first large-scale scholarship programmes for MOOCs

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Two corporate giants – Google and Bertelsmann – have launched a large-scale scholarship programme for MOOC studies
  • The programme will fund 75,000 students from the EU, Egypt, Israel, Russia, and Turkey
  • It builds on a successful 2016 pilot that saw 70,000 students apply for 10,000 funded spaces

The landscape of international student mobility has always been heavily informed by large-scale scholarship programmes. Europe’s Erasmus programme is a prominent illustration of the strong influence that such initiatives can have on regional mobility patterns, as does (albeit on a much smaller scale) the evolving ASEAN International Mobility for Students (AIMS) programme in Southeast Asia.

We also have two prominent, and recent cases, illustrating how a decline in scholarship funding can profoundly and quickly impact outbound mobility: Saudi Arabia’s massive Keeper of the Two Holy Mosques Scholarship Programme (previously the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme, or KASP) and Brazil’s Science Without Borders (Ciência sem Fronteiras, or CsF).

And now this year ushers in as well the first really large-scale scholarship programmes targeted to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Online learning has reached a new level of prominence over the last two years, with total enrolment estimated at 58 million worldwide in 2016. We are also seeing a rapid expansion in both the availability of online degrees from traditional higher education institutions as well as the emergence of alternate credentials from major MOOC platforms, such as edX’s “MicroMasters” or Udacity’s Nanodegree programmes.

These are major trends that can be expected to act on traditional modes of delivery for higher education in the years ahead.

Now add to this the participation of tech and information giants in funding a further expansion of enrolment in online learning. In a joint announcement earlier this month, Google and Bertelsmann launched a scholarship programme that will fund 75,000 students in Udacity programmes this year.

Google will support 60,000 scholarships in Web and Android Development, 40,000 of which will be reserved for those with no programming experience at all and 20,000 for junior developers with one-to-three years of experience. Bertelsmann will fund a further 15,000 places in the field of Data Science.

“Bertelsmann’s businesses are becoming steadily more digital,” says Bertelsmann’s Head of Talent Management Hays Steilberg. “Accordingly, digital skills and IT expertise are becoming increasingly important, especially in data science. We see it as our responsibility to make as many people as possible fit for the demanding, IT-based tasks of tomorrow’s working world.”

This year’s expanded effort builds on a pilot from 2016 which saw 70,000 European students apply for 10,000 funded spots in Udacity programmes. Aside from the greater number of scholarship spaces this year, the programme has expanded its eligibility to include students from Egypt, Israel, Russia, and Turkey.

Both corporations are already heavily invested in training, and in the last few years alone Google has trained more than three million people in the EU. Bertelsmann’s focus has historically been on training its own staff, which already have access to more than 10,000 online courses as well as those offered at Bertelsmann University (one of the first corporate universities in Germany). But both companies are now opening the field even further with this year’s Udacity scholarships.

Udacity CEO Vish Makhijani adds, “We’re excited to be working closely with Google and Bertelsmann to continue training new talent in Europe and beyond. In less than 9 months, 75,000 people in the region will have the needed skills to advance their careers and shape the digital future. The success stories from the first cohort are inspiring and we look forward to welcoming even more students into the scholarship programme next month.”

By enrolment, Udacity is the fifth-largest MOOC platform in the world with an estimated four million registered users in 2016. Class Central reports that 13,000 students were enrolled in Nanodegree programmes with Udacity last year.

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