With the increasing number of challenges facing learners today – including access to resources, geographic and logistic limitations – specialists within the online environment believe taking the virtual route to qualification certainly warrants serious consideration. 
The current reported unemployment figure in South Africa stands at 27% ,and there has been widespread media coverage of skills shortages in several industries, including information and communications Technology (ICT).
It is the immediate and accessible nature of the Net that makes it a powerful education tool, says Richard Rayne, MD of iLearn. He believes using the Net to facilitate distance education and secure qualifications online will emerge as a top socio-economic trend in 2013.
“My view is that there is an abundance of very successful tertiary educational institutions in SA that are producing highly qualified and employable candidates. However, with regards to vocational training, I think there is a huge gap here – learning institutions need to produce far more candidates with more practical and working knowledge and not theory only,” says Rayne.
In his opinion there is no reason, other than connectivity, why online training could not work for the South African market.
“But connectivity is no longer really a barrier to accessing online course products, as Internet speeds are more than sufficient and have become widely available – even at Internet cafes.”
Whereas instructor-led training or distance self-study will remain the only alternative for areas where there is no connectivity, online tuition is a cost-effective and practical option – but does require a basic level of PC literacy says Rayne.
What are the advantages to taking this option? According to Rayne, who runs a successful training and education facility in Johannesburg, says online courses are generally one-third of the cost of instructor-led courses and are more affordable.
It is also a highly interactive user experience based on the combination of wizard/process driven learning using voice, animation and video. To ensure and measure the learner’s ability to apply the content, various exercises and assessments are built into the course.
These courses are targeted at individuals that want to acquire key market-related skills sets, like Microsoft Office, communication or sales skills, and do so quickly. The only key prerequisite is the discipline to attend and complete the course Rayne continues.
Despite a strong argument for the role that Internet has the potential to play in developing the country’s education sector and empowering individuals, executive management at iLearn say general consumer awareness is low and so too considering the medium as a first choice for training.
“In South Africa, I believe the quality of the content provided is without doubt of a high calibre. In terms of the service around the course offered, there will always be those that differentiate more than others. In comparison to the rest of the world, I believe we are measuring equally,” says Rayne.