Online Education and Training in the Spotlight

Remember your school bag? Being introduced into formal education, with the uniforms and the rules, was a stressful thing to go through. Even more stressful was making sure that you were equipped with everything you might have needed, all stuffed into your school bag. Then, you would have to fit your textbooks in there as well. You would have to lug that heavy bag around wherever you went because it was what enabled you to get that education; it was your own personal toolbox. Education was a chore. Then technology came into the mix. And now? Now all you need is an internet connection, a tablet or computer, and you are ready to be educated. 

Education, and the way it is delivered is rapidly changing. Technology is being so deeply integrated into education that it is beginning to replace many of the past methods of delivery. And, one day, it may replace the very brick and mortar institutions themselves. 

But what about getting a higher education from an institution that is respected and revered?

Surely, I can’t be on the other side of the world and enjoy the higher education that a student at, let’s say, Oxford can get?”  We hear you say. Well, you would be surprised to know, that it is more possible than ever. 

Oxford announces first MOOC

The University of Oxford have announced their very first massive open online course, or rather more affectionately known as the MOOC. Students will be able to enroll for the ‘From Poverty to Prosperity: Understanding Economic Development’ in February 2017. While it is not an engineering course, presumably, if student interest spikes, the possibility of seeing an engineering MOOC from Oxford grows exponentially.  

Partnering up with the edX platform, Oxford will be bringing a taste of their higher education to the world. Oxford has also been making some of the materials available on Apple’s iTunes U service. Their reputation truly precedes them. 

9 million registered students will have the chance to experience Oxford’s material, along with the 900 other courses that are being offered on the edX platform. 

Every time a university from the upper echelons brings their curricula to the interconnected, freely available internet, the case for MOOCs grows stronger. 

Who else is MOOC-ing about?
Another service offering MOOCs for the betterment of skills in society with the curricula of top universities is Coursera. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University lend their material to Coursera. Daphne Koller, CEO of Coursera famously said this year, that within the next five years, full undergraduate degrees may be available online. 

“Will it be fully online? Or will it have some residential components? That remains to be seen. It is the perception we need to break, it is not the technology that has been the barrier,” Koller said. 

But should they be three to four-year undergraduate degrees? The CEO of the popular business social network, LinkedIn, believes that four-year degrees are no longer relevant to modern society. 

In a recent interview CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, said: “Historically, here [the United States of America], there’s been a tremendous amount of weight that’s been given to four-year university degrees and not nearly enough weight, in my opinion, is given to vocational training facilities and vocational training certifications.” 

Weiner says that his country would do better if they removed the four-year degree as a prerequisite for a job. He thinks growing a “broader array of talents and skills” is the best way forward. 

Online Training
Another question that can be posed, on the back of Jeff Weiner’s comments, is: Can we provide vocational training and vocational training certifications on the internet? 

The Engineering Institute of Technology does exactly that. Using interactive online training methods, engineers and technicians are trained to become work ready. E-learning teams with professionals from multiple disciplines of engineering will teach and train higher education level engineering material to you, while you are logged in anywhere around the world, provided you have an internet connection. 

Felisberto Guambe is an Electrical and Instrument Technician at an oil and gas company, Anadarko. He works in Mozambique and does online training through the Engineering Institute of Technology.  He praised the online training, saying: “This training is very comprehensive and interactive. Since you only have to spend at least 10 to 15 hours a week to complete assignments, prepare and attend webinars. It works for anyone, especially for people who are working. The online learning saves time and cost.

Internet connection in Africa
But what about Africa and other impoverished nations? They don’t have access to the revolutionary internet technology that the rest of the world does.” 

Surely we are widening the gap between rich and poor if higher education is delivered to the privileged few who have the internet?” 

This is something that forward-thinkers like Mark Zuckerberg and Google are working on. They are working on projects that would supply the internet to harder-to-reach areas through technological innovations. Africa’s saving grace will be that they are notoriously a continent that leapfrogs in technological expansion. It is a common misconception that they do not own the infrastructure that would enable them to receive online higher education and training. 

I think in many cases Africa will actually ‘leapfrog’ the need to install hardwired cables everywhere, and will be able to use different techniques such as the BRICK modem, the low-earth orbiting satellites or the 3G solution to get connectivity where they need,” says Les Cottrell, manager of networking and telecommunications at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, speaking to IEEE Spectrum. 

Africa has notoriously ‘leapfrogged’ or passed-over the technologies that have become redundant to the modern world, and reaped the benefit of the latest technology. Thus, having the latest in internet infrastructure would ensure that Africans could get the latest in online education.