Rapid advances in technology are transforming the way that students learn, and enrolment in online courses is increasing in South Africa, as well as worldwide.
The World Economic Forum calls online learning “the future of education” in its Global Shapers report, as it helps make education more accessible and assists in achieving “education for all” – especially those with restricted access, such as in South Africa’s rural areas.
As the online learning trend gains traction globally, the market is likely to reach $331 billion by 2025, according to the Global E-Learning Market Analysis and Trends report, and this is driven largely by the growing on-demand market.
What online learning is
Online learning includes anything from short courses to executive learning programmes, where students take classes online at their own convenience rather than in a physical classroom, which allows professionals to upskill their current skill set and abilities to ensure that they are aligned to industry requires.
It is often made up of a collection of webinars, online-collaboration tools, software that supports individually-paced learning, learning-management systems, and instant messaging and social networking.
According to a Brandon-Hall Study, students learn 40% to 60% faster online and at their own pace than they would learn the same material in a traditional classroom setting, and retention rates are increased by 25% to 60%
Online learning also offers flexibility, and students don’t need to commute or attend physical classes, and may even have access to experts across the globe without needing to travel. Students are still able to benefit from the social and cognitive benefits of a traditional classroom, however, through interactive webinars.
Students are able to select from a wide variety of courses across various industries, with institutions such as Damelin Online offering short courses in subjects ranging from Data Analytics, to Bookkeeping, to teaching Grade R.
The fees for online programmes also tend to be lower than traditional courses, and many programmes include the course materials – so students aren’t required to purchase textbooks.
The importance of online learning in South Africa
The online learning options that enable students to access course material, take assignments, and virtually “attend’’ classes offered by higher education institutions in South Africa is growing steadily, according to the Connecting Africa’s Potential report by In On Africa.
“Internet-based learning provides a platform for student-lecturer interface, and is vital for student success. Without it, many students face exclusion from opportunities for learning, research, and employment,” states the report.
Upskilling courses significantly increase the likelihood of employment, according to the most recent Labour Force Survey conducted by Statistics SA, which revealed that local matriculants who never study further face a 36% chance of unemployment.
Furthermore, in South Africa, employers are favouring employees that have had continuous development as professionals.
What to look out for when choosing an online course
Not all online institutions are created equal, however, and it’s important to choose a reputable institution that offers industry-expert-curated courses that have been aligned with current and trending industry skill requirements.
Damelin Online, as an example, offers Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who curate course content to ensure that the course material is industry relevant, and an Academic Advising Centre (AAC) support structure to encourage learning and promote an enjoyable tertiary study experience.
Damelin Online’s courses are also highly flexible, offering courses that allow students to upskill and start regularly throughout the year.
For more information, visit the Damelin Online website.