Massive open online courses (known as MOOCs) let anyone with an Internet connection access university courses from around the world. But what if you are one of the 4.4 billion people without a connection? And how can MOOCs provide the interactions of a traditional classroom?

The U.S. Department of State has an answer: MOOC Camp. In January 2013, some U.S. embassies began to make space and computers available to people taking online courses in science, technology, entrepreneurship and other subjects.

But what about those valuable classroom discussions?

“Some of [the embassies] took it above and beyond, and decided to host facilitated discussions with the courses,” Meghann Curtis, the department’s deputy assistant secretary for academic programs, told the New York Times. Embassies observed that students who participated in discussion sessions at the embassy were more likely to complete their courses.

With that discovery, MOOC Camps began to grow.

What is MOOC Camp?

MOOC Camps are learning hubs that provide Internet access for free courses and weekly class discussions. U.S. Embassy staff and alumni of Fulbright and other U.S. government exchange programs lead the discussions.  Each MOOC Camp participant meets with an adviser from EducationUSA, which helps international students go to U.S. colleges.

People in classroom (State Dept.)
MOOC Camp, La Paz, Bolivia. Today’s class: business, from the University of Virginia. (State Dept.)

In the last year, embassies, consulates and partner institutions hosted over 200 courses in more than 60 countries. The most popular subjects were English and business.

In Bolivia, a group of undergraduate business majors took “Foundations of Business” from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. Public diplomacy officer Yuki Kondo-Shah and Bolivian Fulbright alumna Monica Flores used Google Hangouts to conduct video chats with U.S. entrepreneurs, including the founders of Disqus and Fundly.

Some other notable MOOC Camps:

  • U.S. Embassy Moscow hosted a Case Western Reserve University course called “Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies.”
  • In Macedonia, students took a University of California, Berkeley, course in principles of written English.

I want to be a MOOC Camper

More MOOC Camps begin soon. You can also contact your U.S. Embassy or Consulate to learn more about MOOC Camps near you.