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[Column] Jens Ischebeck: Why should I pay for my education?

E-learning: invest now and reap the benefits later
Online education is big business. With a plethora of different e-learning courses and qualifications available, it can be difficult to choose between education apps, online portals, MOOCs and old-fashioned courses in brick and mortar institutions. Similarly, providers offering free online courses have begun to flood the web so why should people pay for the right to engage in distance education? And how do we select the right one?
The website lists the major e-learning providers and compares them, with a special look on the African market and needs.

Relevance of e-learning
The world is changing rapidly. Twenty-first century workers are no longer happy to stay in the same job for most of their salaried lives but are more likely to undertake a range of different employments in a variety of different contexts. Consequently, education is having to transform at an equally rapid rate in order to keep up with employers’ demands for new and further advanced skills. Learners of all ages including those already in employment are now looking to improve their skills and the range of different online courses with education apps means there is something for everyone with a desire to improve themselves and increase their earnings. Young people today are preparing for jobs that may not have even been created yet and the gap between skills and requirements is ever-widening. E-learning, educational apps and distance education are fast becoming essential tools enabling learners of all ages to prepare for a better range of jobs and keep ahead of the game.

In a fast-paced society, traditional routes of education quickly become dated and obsolete. Take computers, for example: by the time a text book can be written and published consumers will be purchasing the next generation. In all fields of academia, new research and findings are produced all the time. Previously, only students at the best institutions with access to the most dynamic tutors would be able to keep up; now distance education can make experts of us all.

So why pay when some providers are offering courses for free?
It has become so simple for anyone to post material on-line that it is almost impossible to know which online courses to trust. Free e-learning often comes with a hidden price-tag attached and that secret agenda might compromise the quality and suitability of the material provided. Remember: “If you’re not paying for the product, you ARE the product.” (Andrew Lewis) Paid distant education providers do not need to look elsewhere for their funding bringing freedom to focus entirely on the relevance of their materials. Students become customers, a higher profile in the eyes of providers. Regular income allows for continual improvement in education technology keeping the content as thorough and recent as possible. Furthermore, research suggests that students who pay tuition fees are far more likely to complete the course. And with a marketplace like Udemy to match open courses with individual needs it is easy to find the right online courses to set you on track for your future.

Flexibility of e-learning
Digital advancements have already transformed the face of education technology, making distance education far more flexible and accessible for anyone across the world. In addition, the phenomenal pace of advancements in education apps for smartphones, edtech and better network connectivity across Africa means almost everyone can access better e-learning opportunities in a way that suits their needs. Any time. Anywhere. Have a family? Want to study in England but live in Africa? No problem: educational apps allow you to work off-line so you choose when and how you wish to study. E-learning gives us flexibility to put ourselves first without putting anything else last. Finally, we can have it all.

Gone the need to travel to a fixed location by a fixed time to join a lesson. Online courses offer freedom; e-learning comes to you whenever and wherever you choose. There are currently an enormous number of young people in Africa who need to develop their skills; all that remains is to match each individual with the vast array of available open courses through

An Alternative to University?
Indeed, distance education does not replace those much-loved institutions as all of the best universities are taking advantage of advancements in education technology to offer a vast range of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) themselves. Consequently, educators are able to accommodate many more students at a time and edtech allows better interaction with tutors and access to all the latest resources without library waiting lists or opening hours. In contrast, Udemy does not intend to compete with established universities but adds an extra dimension by offering e-learning to professionals and those who might not consider college.

Efficiency of e-learning
With less overheads, elearning is certainly more cost effective for both student and tutor as there are no extra living costs or buildings to maintain. As described, the range of open courses available is vast. At university, students rely on name and tradition to feel confident they are buying into a trusted institution. How can independent online providers compete? Some trust non-profit providers such as Khan Academy or EdX as they are not driven by financial reward. However, it is becoming clearer that commercial providers can offer far better materials and a wider range of educational apps making the whole elearning experience more relevant, enjoyable and affordable.

Commercial e-learning providers with available app:

Coursera is an online platform offering a range of MOOCs through partnership with universities throughout the world. Most courses are “accessible for free” with the choice of paying for enhanced services including verified certificates. Assessments include peer marking or exams instantly marked on-line to reduce costs. Over 1,000 business, technology and personal development courses are available using edtech such as lively video clips. Education apps are available and the platform is presented in 8 different languages offering sub-titles in a further 26. No academic credit is given for any courses at present.

Unlike the long-term commitment required by most MOOCs, Coursmos offers “bite-sized learning” (TechCrunch) in the form of micro-learning with most lessons based on videos no more than three minutes long. It offers over 36,000 open courses in 12 different languages from university and commercial partners on every topic imaginable including stress management, music and cookery. It uses videos and YouTube and also has education apps with links to Facebook and other social media sites. Some online courses are free but most are charged for through monthly payments with prices determined by instructors.

An online e-learning community offering practical interactive elearning with no access criteria, Skillshare’s courses are self-paced but no accreditation is available. Payment for over 6,000 online courses in the premium service is through monthly subscription though around 600 classes are free and cover a range of subjects from technology and the creative industry. Lessons are focused video clips and there are apps although offline access is only accessible through the premium service. Most partners are not universities but relevant companies and brands: Skillshare is primarily English speaking.

Offering technology, business and creative skills in up to 5,000 online courses, Lynda is another industrial oriented platform based on video tutorials. Payment is monthly and a range of educational apps are available. Now owned by LinkedIn, instruction is available in five languages and while there is no accreditation teachers are industrial experts.

As leading online course marketplace Udemy offers e-learning for all kind of topics, starting from academic courses but also small entities around every day life questions. The courses are relatively short (1 hour – 5 hours average), so they can be easily integrated in the day. No Udemy courses are currently credentialed for college credit; students take courses largely as a means of improving job-related skills. Some courses generate credit toward technical certification. Udemy has made a special effort to attract corporate trainers seeking to create coursework for employees of their company

E-learning is one of the relatively new applications which use the new internet and mobile phone based technologies to improve the access to some basic needs or skills, such as mhealth, app based language learning or cheap online money transfers.

By the way, there is a rising amount of local and regional companies which provide products and materials for online courses and exam preparations, the classical fields of m-learning. This African providers guide illustrates a list of edtech startups in several countries.

Jens Ischebeck is an mLearning, eLearning and Online Courses specialist.

For more information about this important and exciting educational market, visit my Alternatively, if you wish, contact me directly today. Whether you are a student or teaching professional, we specialize in mobile education within Africa and will be pleased to help you with your enquiry.

By the way: If you are interested in online money transfers, the leading providers and how it works, just check my remittance site.


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