|Pictured: Professor Murray during a Tea Time Chat|
Every week we tackled a new challenging aspect of women’s health starting from before birth and working our way through to death. The course was intellectually stimulating and emotionally challenging. The weekly courses brought purpose to my life and completing the assignments gave me confidence that I could succeed in a full-time master’s program. The materials were reflexive but from a distinctively western viewpoint. On this point let me echo that UNESCO’s Open Education Resources (OER) movement is a form of ‘intellectual neocolonialism’, offering a second-class education without credit or accreditation (1). A disclaimer for the course states (2):
PLEASE NOTE: The content of this course is intended to promote contemplation and discussion of global health issues. Certain issues may be controversial in some cultures and/or disturbing to some people. As such, participants must be aware that some content may be objectionable or uncomfortable to view/read/access. If you feel you might be offended by the content of this course, you should not continue. You access this material at your own risk and are solely responsible for compliance with the laws applicable to your country of residence.Like out of date textbooks and electronic waste and surplus feed corn, it may be useful to someone and an alternative to throwing something away, but it isn’t the best way to meet the needs of the developing world. It brings to mind the scientific tracts and correspondence courses available to women, excluded from Universities and professional careers, as a way to improve their minds and drive out superstitious beliefs. My own path to the course was through the Federation of American Women’s’ Clubs Overseas, with it’s own agenda for western ideas about “improv(ing) the lives of women and girls worldwide, especially in the areas of education, the environment, health and human rights.” Classmates from developing countries included activists against female genital cutting, the course was literally bringing western ideas into traditional communities. The course was a resource, a source of empowerment, and an activist network for change. A neocolonial force meant to embed itself within traditional cultures and modify ways of living.
Although my experience of the course was positive, there were drawbacks. I received no feedback on any of the assignments and was able to trick the system assessing completion of all the tasks. I received no credit that could be applied to an academic program or count towards job requirements. The print-at-home certificate is clear that Stanford has in no way endorsed or accepted my abilities as a student, a reminder that I applied to and was rejected from Stanford as an undergraduate student. In short, all the benefits were personal. In this way, it had a similar impact as participating in a weekly bible study, with all the normative directives that go with it. Advocating this type of education as a solution to education access problems only increases the divide between those with accredited degrees and those without. At the same time we learned in the course that any kind of education is a form of empowerment that can transform women’s lives. If elite universities like Stanford stop being afraid to give credit, they can really start to make a difference that doesn’t simply reinforce gendered neocolonial systems.
This Blog response is in reference to the text below as part of the Course 201-210: Open Science: The Better Science? taken at the University of Vienna as part of the Master's Program on Science, Technology and Society in 2017.
Daniel, J. (2012). Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2012(3), Art. 18. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/2012-18
Picture Source: http://www.internationalwomenshealth.org/uploads/2/3/3/5/23354588/9847148_orig.png