Blended learning, or a model of education characterised by a combination of self-paced learning with shorter face-to-face instruction, is set to grow significantly in 2013 and influence the development of the country’s education sector.
Experts in the field of online/ digital education suggest that this year the model will begin to infiltrate school level learning and tertiary institutions.
One of the main drivers behind this industry is the advancement of technology to provide learners with access to resources in order to overcome logistic issues such as travel and cost.
“As the need continues to grow for learning in your own time and space, so will the choice of online self-paced learning evolve and become the preferred learning method,” explains Richard Rayne, MD of iLearn.
iLearn is a national specialist provider of ONSITE instructor-led and ONLINE e-learning training methodologies.
Rayne 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,” he says.
In his opinion there is no reason, other than connectivity, as to why online training could not work for the South African market.
“But this (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.”
The projected growth of the blended learning model could not take place at a more opportune time – given the challenges facing education within the country Rayne continues.
Current statistics put the South African unemployment rate at over 27% and experts in education suggest there is still a huge lack of general administrative skills in lower levels of employees, especially within government, as well as motivation and attitude to advancing their careers.
“The overall challenge for all training service providers is ensuring the quality of training experience and more importantly subsequent impact to the delegates. Despite these, we forecast a huge increase in demand for more innovative learning solutions that challenge the traditional methodologies,” he adds.
Executive management at iLearn believes that corporate South Africa has a key role to play. According to Rayne sending people on training and hoping they will return with the skills is a waste of time and money.
Business leaders should ensure the application of learning content in the workplace he continues. “It is the employers responsibility to ensure follow through of the learning impact.”
At the same time Rayne believes government can also incentivise stakeholders to encourage and promote learning and thereby increase interventions.