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New online marketplace opens for education in Africa

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eLearnAfrica this week launched a new online marketplace for education, making it easier for students to search for and enrol in online courses, online degrees, and professional certifications from some of the best universities in the world. 

As the furore around #feesmustfall and free education continues, one social enterprise has come to the fore with a promising solution.  eLearnAfrica this week launched its new online marketplace for education, making it easier for students throughout Africa to search for and enrol in hundreds of online courses, online degrees, and professional certifications from some of the best universities in the world.

eLearnAfrica is a social enterprise committed to increasing and expanding educational and employment opportunities throughout Africa through an innovative web portal that connects users of all educational levels to trusted third-party and collaboratively created content.  eLearnAfrica’s mission is to make learning opportunities available to everyone through an easy-to-use website and mobile app. In addition, eLearnAfrica is highly intuitive with a content discovery solution that delivers personalized recommendations tailored to each user’s preferences.

eLearnAfrica has partnered with some of the leading online course providers to make available courses from some of the best universities in the world.  These courses use video and other online resources, and students take a short test to progress to the next class.  Most of these courses can be taken for free, and some courses also offer a verified certificate of completion (with a modest administration fee).

eLearnAfrica works with both edX and FutureLearn to offer a huge variety of courses to its primarily African audience. EdX, the nonprofit online learning destination founded by Harvard University and MIT, offers hundreds of courses from the world’s top institutions, such as top-ranked Wharton Business School, the University of California, Berkeley and more.

“We are delighted to collaborate with eLearnAfrica,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT Professor. “We are deeply committed to edX learners on the continent and have a partnership with The University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits), a first of its kind collaboration between a major MOOC provider and an African university. Our work with eLearnAfrica will help further the edX mission to increase access to high-quality education for learners in Africa and around the world.”

FutureLearn, the social learning platform wholly owned by the Open University, offers over 4.5 million learners access to free online courses from world-leading UK and international universities, centres of research excellence and specialist education providers like the British Council, Creative Skillset, and European Space Agency.

Nigel Smith, Head of Content at FutureLearn, commented on the partnership: “We’re very pleased to be one of the launch partners for eLearnAfrica. Although we are UK-based, 70% of our learners are based in countries outside the UK and with our mission to pioneer the best social learning experience for everyone, anywhere, eLearnAfrica is a great partner for us.”

He continued, “With 8% of our current learners based in Africa, there is clearly an existing appetite for free, high quality education from reliable and trustworthy sources but also huge potential for growth. We offer a vast array of professional development courses that can increase employability or help learners to start their own businesses, while our general interest courses provide something for everyone with lifelong learning ambitions. And of course, through our social learning platform, all our courses offer an element of experience of studying abroad with different cultures without the expense of leaving the country. We have no doubt that eLearnAfrica will be both popular and successful and we look forward to working with their team to reach more learners on the African continent.”

To make sure that Africans can take video-based professional certification programs, eLearnAfrica has joined hands with industry leader itSM Mentor, which has over 1400 classes in close to 175 specialized areas.  Students can quickly become certified by mastering Microsoft Office, learn accounting, project management, or information technologies.

Students interested in earning a degree online, can find Associates and Bachelors programmes in Business Administration, Computer Science and Health Science and even a Masters programme in Business Administration from the world’s first non-profit, tuition-free, US-accredited online university, University of the People (UoPeople).

CEO of eLearnAfrica, Brook Negussie, said the portal is set to become Africa’s trusted source for open education.  Negussie, who is known for his work in providing internet access for schoolchildren across Africa, added: “As an educational platform, eLearnAfrica offers opportunities to African students at every stage of higher education and career development, with courses from the world’s best universities, including full degrees, vocational training, and industry-standard professional certifications.  We set out to combine local knowledge with long-term global expertise through partnerships and academic excellence, to bring the best in the world to Africa in one easily accessible marketplace.”

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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