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No-pay MBA comes to SA

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MBA carrying professionals earn close to double compared to their peers. However, the option of taking on an MBA seemed only available to those few who can afford it. This may change though through the No-Pay MBA pilot which kicks off next month.

The option of a No-Pay MBA might sound off kilter to many people, but thanks to open source technology it is now a reality. Self-motivated young professionals aiming to pursue a business education, without going into debt, can now access the innovative option through the guidance and tutelage of a South African NGO and one of South Africa’s leading innovators in the field of executive development.

Research shows that MBA carrying professionals earn close to double compared to their peers. However, the option of taking on the MBA seemed only available to those few who can afford it. Co-designer of the renowned UCT’s Graduate School of Business’ pioneering Executive MBA, Tom Ryan believes this is something that can be changed.

“I was inspired by the story of Laurie Pickard. In 2013, Laurie needed a business education to move forward in her career, but after researching the options, she was unconvinced that an investment of her life savings in a traditional MBA would pay off. She thought there might be another way and with the help of free online courses from the world’s top universities she began her self-taught journey. She documented her noble experience on her blog, No-Pay MBA, so that others could learn from her – and the public quest went viral. When I read about her experience I knew it could be replicated and even improved in South Africa,” says Tom.

Tom began conceptualising what a low-cost MBA would look like and soon approached Cape Town based NPO, Salesian Life Choices to partner with him.

Sofia Neves, Salesian Life Choices MD says; “When we heard the concept of the No-Pay MBA we knew we wanted to be part of it. Our mission as an organization is to tackle inequality and this concept excited us. The fact that only a few elite can afford the exorbitant fees required to pursue a MBA in South Africa feels unethical. Business skills are a scarcity, but they are essential to support SA’s economic growth, – something we are in desperate need of.”

The No-Pay MBA uses blended learning that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content – often online – using MOOCs, outside of the classroom. Students watch online lectures, collaborate in online discussions, carry out research at home and then once a week engage in peer-learning in the classroom with the guidance of an expert.

“The program welcomes people from different fields, no background knowledge is required; however preference is given to candidates with some management experience. The course is ideally suited to those desiring to enhance their business acumen, looking to change careers, start a business or just get better in their profession,” says Tom.

As with Pickard’s design, courses offered are based on MOOCs from leading institutions including, but not limited to, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California, University of Pennsylvania and Macquarie University in Australia. The 100 week programme demands 10 hours of commitment per week – seven hours of self-study and three hours in meet-ups and will start in April 2018.

“We have begun our recruitment and anyone can join the open days before the closing date on the 28th of March. The programme will be piloted in Cape Town and the weekly meet-ups will happen after hours at our academy in the Southern Suburbs. The aim is to accommodate working professionals as much as we can. The cost for the two year programme is R38,000 and there are several options of payment.

“Five scholarships will be offered. The aim is to push boundaries and align the programme with how modern education should be – dynamic and equitable,” says Sofia.

Laurie Pickard, the originator of the No-Pay MBA concept and author of the book Don’t Pay For Your MBA says, “The curriculum of Life Choices No-Pay MBA is outstanding, comparable to the education you would get at any major business school. Even more valuable, having the support and guidance of a community of other learners and professionals is something that could have added much value to my own No-Pay MBA journey. There is potential for dedicated learners to get outstanding value out of this program, far beyond what they could get with a traditional MBA program. A comprehensive curriculum, a cohort of peers, and an affordable price. What more could you ask for?”

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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