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Regenesys Business School’s Chairman, DR MARKO SARAVANJA believes the answer to the question of learning and self-enrichment in Africa lies in free education.

With over 650 million mobile subscribers in Africa, research indicates that Africans have more access to handsets than they do to bank accounts. Furthermore, it is estimated that over the past decade the total mobile user base on the continent has increased fortyfold from 16.5 million. The proliferation of smartphones has made access to information easier and more affordable.

We have partnered with telecommunications provider MTN, First Bank of Nigeria and Pearson Nigeria to offer open access to tertiary education via our ‚’Freemium’ model a model which exists in South Africa and India. The model essentially provides anyone full access to Regenesys’ intellectual property at no cost. Should the student decide to obtain an accredited qualification, options exist within the model for students to submit assignments, write examinations or attend classes, which is a paid for service.

The programme not only encourages education in vital technical and financial skills (serving the recruitment needs of the partners), but has also ensured that the learning material available is sensitive to Nigeria’s cultural nuances thereby making the comprehension process all the more fluid.

An effort of this nature has the capacity to make a significant mark on the local education landscape in a country with 110 million active subscribers.

Although there are marked differences between Nigeria and South Africa’s knowledge landscape, the effective deployment of teachers in rural areas and equipping students with study materials are common challenges. Access to free education online could quickly and effectively resolve these issues.

Using online facilities such as free learning material, tutoring videos, study guides, eBooks, webinars, academic articles and e-learning technical support, Regenesys, MTN and First Bank of Nigeria are enabling open access to tertiary education in remote and impoverished areas.

Furthermore, the programmes have the capacity to give students access to the best lecturers, teachers and study material in environments lacking basic facilities or trained staff.

It is in this environment where great opportunities exist for government, learning institutions and corporates alike to begin offering education and study course material to users at no cost via e-learning platforms.

With access to free education, impoverished individuals are afforded an equal opportunity to better themselves. Although institutions of learning may continue to charge a fee to award recognised qualifications, it would be in the best interests of the very establishments that continue to champion costly education to simply share knowledge free of charge, which will assist with skills transfer and human development.

Despite the obvious benefits, there are still several obstacles hindering the progress of free online education and one such stumbling block is the emergence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs have left a sour taste in the mouths of many who have tried to gain personal enrichment from free education. These offerings, primarily facilitated by recognised tertiary institutions, allow users access to only a portion of the course material in the hopes that they will formally register and pay significant tutelage fees.

To achieve access for all, we recently took the decision to offer all coursework at no cost. A close partnership with Pearson Books has enabled Regenesys Business School to equip all students with the necessary learning material to truly gain personal enrichment and understanding. Although a charge is set for the awarding of formal qualifications, anyone may access the full breadth of the programmes.

In doing so, Regenesys has pioneered free online education globally. As the e-learning environment continues to evolve, we truly believe that those who choose not to embrace a new approach will be left behind.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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