Distance learning is cheaper than contact-based learning, has the potential to reach more students and can “slot” into working adult’s lives and so it is potentially part of the answer to our growing skills crisis. In addition, it provides students with flexibility of subject choices which are not always offered in traditional learning structures Distance and online learning is currently under-utilized for adult skills development in South Africa. Which strategies we use to improve a distance or online learning offering for adults in South Africa?
- Improving the offering of UNISA: UNISA is the largest university in South Africa, but the learner experience at the institution is not always ideal. UNISA should scrap courses which are not useful, take advantage of modern e-learning methodologies and offer more short-term, skills based courses. A degree obtained through a distance learning institution may never be as through as a traditional degree, but there is far less prejudice around skills-based further education.
- Use flipped classroom methodology to decrease the amount of class-room time to teach technical skills. Some things (like plumbing) require practical experience. Nevertheless, a flipped classroom technique can decrease the amount of (expensive) classroom time required.
- Teach some skills online: Ensure that there is broad access to online skills development opportunities. Skills such as coding and web development are easy to learn online. Quantitative skills and language skills could both be taught online.
The popularity of forums such as Code Academy or the Open University in the United Kingdom show us that there is a scope for mass, web-based learning. We need to find a way to leverage these kinds of opportunities for South Africa.