With 93% of the world excluded from formal tertiary education, the system has to change.
This is the word from Mike Feerick, founder and CEO of Alison, the free online learning platform.
Alison already has 100 000 learners in South Africa, and plans to launch local learning centres and a new mobile app.
Feerick is visiting Nigeria and South Africa to touch base with students and gather feedback to help shape the company’s direction in Africa.
He notes that Alison, offering free education and skills training across a broad range of subjects to over 11 million students around the world, ranks South Africa among its top 10 markets. The Ireland-based firm’s top market is the United States, followed by the UK, with Nigeria and South Africa its top African learner bases.
But the potential for growth in local learner numbers is huge, he says. “Traditional learning is no longer fit for purpose — it is too slow, too shallow, too costly and inaccessible to the majority. Only 6,3% of the world has benefited from formal university or college learning, and the only way we can make education accessible to the other 93% is through free online learning.”
Alison’s revenue model is based on advertising, which covers the cost of delivering expertly-designed courseware to students worldwide. The content includes short certification courses, diploma courses and advanced learning paths, with the most popular courses in South Africa in the areas of workplace safety, project management, touch typing and English.
The free online courses offered by the world’s leading experts include areas such as language, technology, science, health, humanities, business, maths, marketing and lifestyle.
Learners pay a fee if they wish to download their diplomas or have them delivered, or they can secure their certification for free through a new referral scheme.
Feerick notes that not only is free online learning accessible and self-paced; it is also updated constantly to keep it relevant, and a ratings system ensures that the courses live up to learner expectations. Alison.com is constantly growing its curricula, and aims to be adding up to 50 new courses a month within a year’s time, as well as adding free psychometric testing and learner management tools.
Already, 20 learning centres offering reliable connectivity and access to an advisor are currently in pilot phase. The first Alison mobile app is now preparing for launch.
“More than half of Alison’s access from Africa is via a mobile device, so we will be launching our new Android app within the next few weeks,” Feerick says.