All posts by Aamirah Sonday

UCT MOOCs ranked highly on Class Central

In 2016 the University of Cape Town (UCT) was ranked as the second best institution creating MOOCs according to a report published by MOOC aggregator website Class Central. The UCT MOOC team would like to thank all our participants for their constructive reviews.


In terms of the methodology for the ranking it appears that by using the course ratings of a course to represent its university, Class Central took the Bayesian average of each to compile its list. Universities with fewer than five courses or fewer than 50 ratings were excluded.

Not only was UCT ranked as the second best institution, but our course Becoming a changemaker: Introduction to Social Innovation was ranked in Class Central’s top 10 best online courses of 2016. Again, over 8000 reviews were analysed and the Bayesian average of their ratings were used to compile the top-rated free online courses for 2016.

Becoming a changemaker is designed to encourage people to begin acting as social innovators and changemakers, debunking common assumptions around what resources are needed to get started.

“I have just finished the course and cannot express enough how energizing and motivating it was to be taken on a journey of out the box thinking and new vision towards social problems with examples of down to earth achievable solutions.”

“For anyone who is concerned about social problems and wants to make a difference, this course will give you a foundation and spark your thinking. I wish everyone could be exposed to this thinking because I know we can solve these problems, however wicked they may be..”

The course is offered in conjunction with the UCT GSB Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship and RLabs – RLabs empowers youth through innovative and disruptive technology by teaching them vital skills and providing much needed support and a sense of community.

Becoming a changemaker is one of seven free online courses currently available from UCT, and several of them have been highly rated by participating students. Earlier in 2016, UCT’s first two MOOCs, What is a Mind, led by Professor Mark Solms and Medicine and the Arts: Humanising healthcare, hosted by Professors Steve Reid and Susan Levine were ranked in Class Central’s top 50 online courses of all time.

With over 80 reviews on Class Central, Prof Solms’ What is a Mind  received the highest praise from learners:

“A very thought provoking and insightful course. Mark Solms is hugely engaging and paces his lectures well. His explanations are careful, very lucid but never boring. The best MOOC I have taken.”

The interdisciplinary, Medicine and the Arts: Humanising healthcare featured 17 academics and healthcare practitioners sharing their perspectives:

“This is an absolutely brilliant course! Each week you look at a topic within the healthcare system through a different perspective related to the arts, i.e. literature, sociology, anthropology, artistic performance. This broad overview really allows you to generate different perspectives and viewpoints. You will be challenged, you will change your views when you do this course.” – Medicine and the Arts

Our other courses, Education for All: Disability, Diversity and Inclusion, Julia Scientific Programming, and Understanding Clinical Research have all garnered positive reviews as well:

“Very enjoyable and thought provoking course. Challenges your views and provides the practical and solution orientated strategies you need to improve this sector in education as a parent / educator/ community member / policy maker / volunteer” – Educational for All

“Finished this course from Coursera and I really enjoyed this one. They provided an interesting analytical programming language that I believed most people haven’t heard nor used it. I really recommended everyone to give it a try, because Julia provided a unique environment for analyze data. And this course provides us a fundamental knowledge of Julia. – Julia Scientific Programming

“This is an excellent course for anyone looking to develop an understanding of the “why” behind statistical analysis! The instructor does a wonderful job of explaining tricky concepts. I now feel better able to understand – and not be afraid of – methods and results sections in medical journal articles. Thanks, Dr. Klopper!” – Understanding Clinical Research

More courses are in production for 2017 – including the soon-to-be launched Extinctions: Past and Present, with renowned palaeobiologist, Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan. We hope the new courses will be as well received as our current courses.

To learn more about our free online courses and to sign up visit:

New RLabs cafe brings the Social Innovation MOOC to the community

This past month Rlabs, partners in the UCT MOOC Becoming a changemaker: Introduction to Social Innovation, have launched their first in a series of cafes meant to support people to access the MOOC materials offline aimed at the communities which need it most.

rlabs-cafeBecoming a changemaker is a free six week online course that takes participants on a journey of exploring the complex problems that surround us and how to start thinking about solutions. As with most MOOCs it is presented fully online but the new cafe in Strandfontein, Cape Town, creates an in-person facilitation component which is also free. Here students can go for information and get help with assignments or – for those who don’t have easy access to wifi – to access all the content on the internet.

The course was co-created by the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship and RLabs, a social movement ‘born-and-bred’ in Bridgetown, Cape Town that is now active in 22 countries; with assistance from the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching at UCT, responsible for producing the university’s MOOCs.

RLabs is a movement empowering youth through innovative and disruptive technology by teaching them vital skills and providing much needed support and a sense of community. In the words of Marlon Parker, founder of Rlabs and educator on the MOOC, “when you are immersed in the challenge, you are best suited to become a social innovator to tackle it.”

Director of the Bertha Centre Dr François Bonnici says that this format of running the MOOC lessens the barrier of access to the internet and data costs as the content will be available offline to the participants and they can use the cafe’s computers to access the course. Local facilitators also assist participants to complete the assignments and stimulate discussions about the specific context of their local community.

“The Strandfontein venue is really a place where people can come to connect, to brainstorm ideas and do the course online,” says Parker. “There will be someone to help facilitate the course content offline, to explain concepts and provide further assistance.” He says more of these cafés/campuses are planned – which forms part of their RLabsU initiative – from Atlantis to Hanover Park, as well as other venues across the Cape Flats.

For more information on the course or to sign up please go to:  

(Compiled from the Bertha Centre press release)


Learners share how the Understanding Clinical Research MOOC has helped them

StatsMed_courseImg_2_1920x1080Rafaella Gaetano is a young clinical research fellow working in the field of rare diseases at a hospital in Italy. She took the MOOC, Understanding Clinical Research: Behind the Statistics in order to get to grips with statistics in medical research and found the course extremely useful – simple and easy to follow, with appropriate material for her context.  

Rafaella’s story is very gratifying for Dr Juan Klopper who created the course in response to the ongoing problems his postgraduate medical students were having when starting out on their research.

As Rafaella explained, the course really helps to bridge the gap between the researcher and the statistical consultant. Frustrations are common when an inexperienced researcher approaches a statistical consultant for help – there is no common language or understanding on which to base the discussion. That is also why the UCT Clinical Research Centre is promoting the free online course enthusiastically – there is a shortage of taught support courses for clinical research, and an online offering allows for a great deal of flexibility of when you can take it.

Raphaella also found the flexibility very appealing as it allowed her to fit the course in around her work and other commitments rather than the other way around as is the case with face-to-face taught courses. Dr Klopper structured the course for those without a statistics background and to enable people, who had been previously very intimidated by statistics, to follow the material easily. The course promotes itself by specifically offering help:

If you’ve ever skipped over`the results section of a medical paper because terms like “confidence interval” or “p-value” go over your head, then you’re in the right place. You may be a clinical practitioner reading research articles to keep up-to-date with developments in your field or a medical student wondering how to approach your own research. Greater confidence in understanding statistical analysis and the results can benefit both working professionals and those undertaking research themselves. If you are simply interested in properly understanding the published literature or if you are embarking on conducting your own research, this course is your first step. It offers an easy entry into interpreting common statistical concepts without getting into nitty-gritty mathematical formulae. To be able to interpret and understand these concepts is the best way to start your journey into the world of clinical literature. That’s where this course comes in – so let’s get started! The course is free to enroll and take. (from the course enrolment page)

After launching in December 2015, now almost one year later, over 20 000 people have signed up for the course – which offers a new cohort every six weeks.

Reviews left on the course site and on class central have been very positive and it has received a 5-star rating on Class Central, a public MOOC aggregator site.

“What a great course! I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in clinical research and wants to understand how statistics is used in clinical research. I loved all aspects of the course. The lecture videos were short and crisp. Dr. Klopper is very engaging and explained even the hardest concepts really well.”

“It was an excellent course; comprehensive and very well-explained, indeed without needing to apply much mathematics. Therefore, the course is perfect for most researchers, doctors or allied personnel wanting to learn or enhance their understanding on the statistics behind research, beginners or semi-advanced. I would only recommend the teacher to include an extra week on survival analysis, a very important and frequently misunderstood topic. Thank you for the nice course.”

“These course gave me exactly what I needed as a med student in my clinical years- a practical guide to interpret and evaluate the results of clinical studies presented in articles. The lectures are clear and well organized. The lecture notes are priceless, and will serve me well in the future. Thank you Dr. Klopper for making this high value course and helping with my medical education:)”

“I would like to thank Juan and the organisers of this course. I would recommend this course to everyone who needs to know about stats. This is the first course on stat that I have completed and understood in great depth. This course helps you to develop deep and thorough understanding of choices of stats tests and justification for the choice. I can’t thank Juan enough. You’ve made difficulties in understanding stats in articles decrease to a great extent. I like that fact that you pull all the learnings together with a case study on how to link it all together. Thank thank you so much. I already recommended to a colleague. I will spread the news.”

Each time the course runs, there are over 1 000 people registered from across the world. Learners from 91 countries have taken the course and found it helpful – including people from India, Egypt, Canada, Mexico, Nigeria, the US, South Africa and let’s not forget, Italy! The course has proven its ability to cater for a need in many healthcare professionals who do not feel confident in reading and understanding clinical research statistical results. About 40% of those enrolled are postgraduate students – the primary target audience, but 60% are working professionals whom Dr Klopper knew needed support in interpreting and evaluating current medical literature, an essential basis of modern medical practice.