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THE MAJOR CHALLENGES, AND THE URGENT NEED OF RUNNING ONLINE SCHOOLS IN AFRICA

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Why it is so essential in plugging the skills gap in the marketplace

Having identified three of the main challenges people encounter in bringing their goals to fruition and having seen how these debilitating limitations can hamper the progress of individuals, I decided to write about it, and to also proffer solutions on how to cure, or bring to the barest minimum these subtle success-inhibiting factors. In my personal life, I know what being in comfort zone, laziness and procrastination have done to me – I know how much they’ve impeded my progress in the past, and I also know how I got myself out of their manacles. My initial goal was to publish a little paperback title and an electronic version of it, but after looking into it, I realised that those the book is meant for, will not read it, because they may be too lazy to, or may keep saying they will, but never. I also understand that people in this category love to watch videos, so I decided to shoot a six-part one-hour video on it. At first, I wanted the videos on YouTube, but was advised by my digital consultant to upload them on Udemy. I have heard of Udemy, and probably visited it a few times, but never took the time to understand fully, what it was really meant for, but when different people began comparing my video blogs to those on Udemy, I had to find out what was in it.

Udemy is an online learning and teaching marketplace with currently over 80000 courses and 24M students – they are similar to Lynda. Most courses on Udemy are on sale, but in spite of that, I decided to put mine for free, as a starter instructor, and in less than seven days, I had more than two thousand students from over one hundred and twenty countries, with India and United States providing the highest statistical percentages. This experience reinforced my belief on the need for Africa to restructure her educational curricula, and how it is run, so as to catch up with the global dynamics within that sector. Everything has gone online – the internet currently determines how our lives are run, and if we only stick to the traditional method of delivering knowledge, we will be the end-loser. There is the need to look into increasing and supporting the number of online schools we have in Africa for the number of reasons I have given below, and beyond.

It is convenient

In the comfort of your room, you can log on to a training site, and learn topics, acquire skills, and get the information you need, to become almost anything you want to become. At anytime of the day, when no one can attend the traditional schools, you can actually attend school, without going through all the rigours of going to school. This is what technology has afforded us, and the earlier we take advantage of it, the better for the African continent.

It’s cheaper

 The total cost of running traditional method of education is high. There are certain knowledge acquisitions that do not require classroom scenarios, but because our online schools are scantily available or in some cases, not available at all, everything goes to the classroom, and for that, we pay a high cost, both for individuals involved and the government. If we embrace online schools, where we should, and let the traditional method do its own job, we’ll arrive at a win-win destination.

Visual illustrations

In our traditional method of delivering education, we haven’t done well, in terms of using hands-on-tools and visible evidences of the subjects, courses and topics taught – most often, information have been delivered based on pedagogy alone – the use of theoretical concepts without recourse to practical illustrations is diabolical, and therefore, unacceptable, especially where there’s a need for it. Online schools have the most visual implements used to deliver knowledge. The emergence of all the fantastic software and applications have made things better – the emergence of digital technology, high definitions, 3D, and smart screens have made it even easier than we thought. Currently, students and trainees can see visual illustrations of what they’re learning – they can watch it like movies, and to top it all, it’s cheaper and far more convenient.

Not limited by time, space and distance

In the traditional methods of delivering education, I’ve never heard or seen any institution that operates in the odd hours of the day, but in online education, you can wake up in the dead of night and decide that that’s when you want to go to school because you aren’t limited by time. Again, a million people can decide to be in class at the same time, because space isn’t a problem, but where will you put them if they were all to be in the literal classroom? To make online school far more appreciated, it isn’t limited by distance. A student in South Africa can be in class, same time with a student in Egypt. In the current course I’m running on Udemy, most of my students are from India and United States, followed by United Kingdom, Pakistan and Egypt. Imagine students wide apart, learning from the same platform without bumping into each other.

Opportunity for reinforcement of knowledge

When I was running a postgraduate programme, my statistics lecturer talked about how repetition helps reinforce knowledge. He emphasised that no one is unintelligent, but the issue is that everyone has a level at which information becomes revealed or perceived – at the point of perception or inner recognition, knowledge becomes apocalyptic.

Because of the opportunity to access online courses repeatedly at any time of the day, the privilege to reinforce knowledge becomes available. A student can log in over and over again to ingest, digest and absorb information until it becomes internalised. At the stage of internalisation, skills and innovation are born. Online schools provide the needed privilege for repetitive learning, unlike in traditional method where a lecturer, trainer or teacher delivers the topic once and disappear.

Instant assessment and results obtained

In United Kingdom National Health Service, especially in Imperial College NHS Trust, there is a three yearly online course that every staff must take – it expires every three years and must be taken as part of the personal development review. In those courses, after going through the theoretical explanations, there are usually assessments, and the results are instantly obtained and certificates issued. This is one advantage of online schools and courses – you’re instantly assessed, and your performance immediately stares you in the face. Unlike in traditional approach, the teacher, lecturer or trainer will take some time to mark it before you’re able to know your performance.

External support networks

The advent of the internet has created loads of external support networks for online schools. For instance, YouTube, Vimeo and a countless number of bloggers are there to aid any online student in providing additional explanations or information on topics or subjects of interest. I learnt how to design websites through YouTube and some blogs that are focused on web designs. Today, I do not design my sites, but I know what to expect, and I also know the questions to ask my designers – that makes the job easier for both parties.

Easy to update, unlike paper books

As an author of a number of books, I know the stress it takes to do a revised edition of any book – don’t even think about it. But also, as a blogger, I know how far easier it is to update a post, compared to doing the same thing on a book. When I spot any error in my blog article, I simply log on to the dashboard, and on that particular post, make the correction, click update – job done. But you can’t easily do that on a book. This is another angle of advantage of online schools – information can be easily updated, to the advantage of the students.

Online Communities

Most online schools encourage the formation of students’ online community groups. With this, students from different geographical locations can network and interact with themselves, and discuss their challenges, and also proffer solutions to those different impediments.

Computer Literacy

When I wrote my first book, it was done the traditional way – I put pen on paper, and asked someone to type for me, because my typing skills were slothful. The second one was done the same way, but on this occasion, the typist was too busy, and it kept dragging on and on. I calculated the number of days the manuscript should have been typed and concluded that if I had started it, by then, I should have finished. I took the manuscript back and did it myself – the repetitive punches of the keyboard buttons improved my typing skills – a continuous use of the computer improves your computer literacy. That’s what online school does to a student.

I can’t conclude without mentioning the major challenges confronting, or that will confront the success of online schools in Africa. Among these obstacles are poor power supplies and internet connectivity. It’s needless overemphasising the setbacks stimulated by poor power supply in the continent, as they are obvious to everyone, but what is becoming exasperating is poor internet connectivity, because this controls the modern-day system. I can’t understand why telecommunication companies in Africa make huge profits, but still provide displeasing services – this is a rip-off, and the governments must do something about it. In addition, something must be done to upgrade internet security. There are mad people out there, whose only job is to hack company websites to steal people’s details, which they in turn, sell to fraudsters like them, or use them like kidnappers, to demand ransoms. If big organisations with state of the art internet securities are still vulnerable, careful attention must be paid on this everyday challenge. In spite of these challenges, the need for online schools is quintessential.

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Ken is a leadership Motivation, Strategy and Personal Development Writer, Blogger and Speaker. He writes for a number of magazines and blogs. He is also a mentor and published author of several books.

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