IMF says to extend reach with online economics training

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The International Monetary Fund will make its training sessions on financial policy and debt sustainability available online this year to government officials worldwide, allowing it to reach a bigger audience at lower cost, it said on Wednesday.

IMF financial workshops are meant to help governments address economic dilemmas and are currently held in eight training centers worldwide, meaning officials must travel and remain onsite for weeks, said Sharmini Coorey, director of the IMF's Institute for Capacity Development.

That model is expensive for the IMF and its donor countries - and the classes fill quickly, Coorey said. In 2012, the IMF trained 7,800 officials in 270 workshops held in places like Singapore, Brazil, Kuwait and the African island of Mauritius.

"We have a lot of demand for our training and we don't have the scale to meet that demand," Ms Coorey said.

The online courses will be hosted by edX, a nonprofit consortium founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. So far, the platform has primarily been used to host massive open online courses, or MOOCs, from elite universities.

The classes will be in English, but may carry subtitles in other languages. They will open first to government officials within the next few months. Ms Coorey plans to open them to the broader public in 2014.

"We hope it will enhance public awareness and elevate the debate about economic issues," she said.

The financial arrangements have not been made public, but edX President Anant Agarwal said the IMF courses would bring in revenue for the consortium. If it's a success, Mr Agarwal said he would seek similar deals with other institutions, as well as corporations and nonprofits.