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Online education takes off

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USB Executive Development (USB-ED), the public executive development company of Stellenbosch University, has launched several new online courses for its 2016 academic year to enhance the research skills of postgraduate students. The various online courses range in length from one hour to four months, all offered in a convenient, learner-centric online format.
In essence, USB-ED can create a completely customised programme for its students that cater for their specific needs. Examples include Project Management for Strategic Advantage, Business Fundamentals, Future Studies, Research Skills, Statistics, a Programme in Teaching Online, etc. This initiative follows the company recently being named the top ranked executive development company in South Africa for the fifth year in a row by Professional Management Review (PMR) Africa.
“USB-ED students benefit from being exposed to the academic rigour of Stellenbosch University while still experiencing the entrepreneurial culture of business,” says Dr Diane Bell, director of academic affairs at USB-ED. “As such, these new online courses are designed to capitalise on the growth of the connected culture in the country and give our students the convenience of accessing high quality, well-designed academic content wherever they are, whenever they want.”
For Dr Bell, the traditional face-to-face way of approaching higher education has become prohibitively expensive for many students. It does not cater for the real-time nature of the digital world and does not fulfil the needs/desires of millennials.
“Whilst this is not to say there is not a place for traditional education, alternative methods need to be embraced that compliment current face-to-face offerings – it is all about rethinking our mental models around teaching and learning. Millennials are already driving change in organisations resulting in the emergence of digital companies. Similarly, universities and business schools need to evolve if they are to stay relevant to this new generation of student,” she says.
Online learning might still be in its infancy in many developing countries, but one cannot dispute the benefits it provides which makes for a compelling argument.
“In a country where access to education is beset by many challenges, online training provides a more flexible, cost-effective, and efficient value proposition as it can be accessed from anywhere and at any time. We are also not limited by the number of seats available at a campus, but can reach an unlimited number of students around the world. Training can be highly customised with programme facilitators having access to real-time tracking of learning activities in order to monitor how students are progressing with coursework, assessments, and group learning.”
According to Dr Bell, there will be significant interest in online learning, particularly in the fields of management and leadership development, in South Africa in the months and years ahead.
“Online learning is a great way of supporting people-centric development. It becomes less about the challenges of traditional higher education and more on having access to world-leading content and process that aids in creating a new generation of digital citizenry capable of affecting change wherever they are,” she concludes.