New digital initiatives to boost higher education

Morocco recently launched two digital initiatives – a doctoral catalogue system and a platform for massive open online courses or MOOCs – both aimed at promoting scientific research at universities and facilitating access to higher education.

The electronic platform called 'Otrohati' is dedicated to doctoral theses produced at Morocco's universities. It was launched by Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Professional Training Lahcen Daoudi on 20 July as a part of a national plan to reform doctoral studies at Moroccan universities.

Otrohati is part of an integrated information system dedicated to scientific research. It is intended to enhance access to information and facilitate communication between Morocco's researchers within universities and associated research and technological centres.

The new platform contains a database of doctoral studies which includes the names of PhD students, the title and subject of the theses, dates of registration and names of supervisors.

At the time of the launch, the platform included information about more than 26,000 theses from 12 Moroccan universities.

It is anticipated that the information included in the platform will increase efficiency and support the governance of scientific research at local universities with the aim of orienting doctoral studies towards topics related to national priorities and sustainable development.

The MOOC platform – initiated in partnership with France, represents a further bid to boost the profile of Moroccan universities and increase access to university education.

Signed on 16 July in the Moroccan capital of Rabat between the ministry, the French embassy and France Université Numérique (FUN – French Digital University), according to Morocco World News, the agreement will allow the Moroccan universities to use all functions of the FUN platform on an independent platform.

The FUN platform currently hosts over 140 online courses delivered to 560,000 subscribers, according to a recent report entitled What is The Best Strategy for Developing MOOCs? which highlights the success of French MOOCs.

It is envisaged that the Moroccan MOOC platform will allow universities to broadcast their courses on a large scale and enhance their image at the international level, mainly in French-speaking countries, along with helping Moroccan students to pursue training opportunities and boost their knowledge.

The Morocco-France MOOC initiative is in line with a 2016 report entitled MOOCs in Moroccan Higher Education: Rationale, implementation and challenges which highlights "the need to adopt a blended learning approach that combines both online and face-to-face experiences to optimise learning in Moroccan higher education".

The report notes that an “increase in university enrolments, the regrettable rates of dropping out, the demands of the twenty-first century learners, and technological development” have necessitated a “radical shift to new approaches in higher education in Morocco”.

Furthermore, as most universities in Morocco are contact learning institutions, access is largely confined to only those students who live in surrounding areas.