FGV Looks to Expand Education to Low-Income Regions of Brazil

May 27, 2011

FGV is an open education leader in Brazil, where they were the first institution to offer OpenCourseWare (OCW) in the country's official language. In just a few years their OCW program has grown rapidly, offering full course sequences to millions of people - and a valuable piece of paper to back it up.

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By Megan Driscoll

FGV brazil ocw open education

Opening Education in Brazil

FGV, or the Getulio Vargas Foundation, is a private, nonprofit educational foundation in Brazil. It's made up of eight schools that cover such subjects as economics, business administration, history, law, applied math and social science. And it's also the country's largest non-governmental provider of distance education.

FGV Online, the distance education arm, produces all of its own materials. They use a wide range of tools, from video lectures to Web-based course materials, and they had 98,000 enrolled students in 2010. Many of the FGV Online users are paying students, but in 2008 they began offering OpenCourseWare materials as well.

FGV became the first institution to offer open content in Portuguese and the program has been a huge success. They've grown rapidly, from two courses developed through a partnership with the University of California Irvine (UCI) in 2008 to 24 full, original e-learning courses today. Most are in the areas of business and management and they are offered exclusively in Portuguese. In spite of the language limitation, they are reaching a huge audience - in 2010, four million visitors accessed the FGV Online OCW site.

The development of the OCW materials is supported primarily by the income brought in by FGV Online's paying students. However, the institution is also developing a new business model that will bring in income from the sponsorship of courses.

e-learning ocw open education fgv brazil

Evidence of Learning

One of the most remarkable aspects of the FGV OCW program is their 'declarations of participation.' Early students requested certificates to show that they had completed the courses, but without a method for learning assessment the institution couldn't give real credits or certificates. Instead, FGV started printing the declarations of participation for self-learners who had finished a course sequence and completed a survey on the material. By May, 2011, they had printed over 1.3 million declarations. In fact, the program has become so popular that employers in Brazil are now accepting the declarations as evidence of training equal to a certificate.

Sadly, FGV's OCW offerings haven't yet reached the more impoverished areas of the country. The institution reports that the distribution of their users reflects the distribution of income in Brazil, with most students coming from the more well-off areas. This is due primarily to a lack of access to technology - FGV Online can't reach people who don't have computers or the Internet.

However, the Brazilian government has been promoting initiatives to provide public Internet. As technology slowly begins to penetrate into low-income regions of the country, FGV's OpenCourseWare will hopefully follow. This could go a long way toward increasing access to education and, perhaps, even lead to an increase in the skilled workforce. FGV Online will be able to offer declarations of participation to Brazilian students who can't afford to earn certificates or degrees at traditional universities. Because these declarations are accepted by employers, the program offers an incredible potential for growth.

Stay tuned for's interview with Stavros Xanthopoyl, a professor with FGV Online.

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