#feescanfall – from a technology entrepreneur’s view

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Eugene Beetge

The time has come for all parties involved in the #feesmustfall debacle to take a step back, take a deep breath and consider the fact that the answer is staring them right in the face!

I’m not saying that they haven’t considered the role technology-assisted distance education can play in making tertiary education more affordable, but I’ve heard no mention of it in recent reporting on the situation. The focus is clearly on how government is expected to subsidise tertiary education and how universities are going to make a subsidised budget work with no or little tuition income being generated.

I’ve been a technology entrepreneur for many years, with a major focus on technology-supported education, and as a spectator to the #feesmustfall situation, I believe it’s time for like-minded individuals and entrepreneurs to say #feescanfall by shifting the focus from traditional brick-and-mortar institutions to virtual classrooms, libraries and student-lecturer interactions.

TUIT has been working with various universities, students, lecturers and entrepreneurial suppliers to the education sector for a few years, and we have developed, implemented and tested a solution that can play a major role in the reduction of the cost of tertiary education in South Africa.

One of the biggest hurdles I face on a daily basis is convincing the relevant role players that their biggest assets are not buildings, sports facilities or residences. Their biggest assets are knowledge, content, lecturers and most importantly their brand!

Through capitalising on the opportunity that is technology-supported education, tertiary institutions can significantly increase their teaching capacity, which increases revenue. It will also reduce overheads linked to running and maintaining physical campuses. The equation is simple and the reduction in tuition costs substantial.

So why has this model not been rolled out on a much larger scale? Mainly due to the natural resistance of an older generation to embrace technology. Thinking out of the box or being open to the disruptive practices of technology is just too far out of their comfort zone.

Having spent most of 2016 engaging with various universities, colleges and lecturers, as well as presenting many workshops on technology-assisted learning, I have found that the overwhelming obstacle remains the traditional doctrine that lecture rooms are the only way to educate.

TUIT has demonstrated that existing educational content can be repurposed and that students can be engaged in an interactive enrolment journey without the dependence on a physical campus. And this is where technology-supported education would have enabled students who are desperate to complete their academic year to prepare for their final exams without the threat that #feesmustfall is posing.

This is not a “let’s shut down campuses and put all our courses online” solution either. Universities will still need to maintain their brand and reputation through the quality of the content and the lecturers that present it. Student interaction and support will remain key to the success of any model, and campuses will probably continue to operate in a traditional manner on some level for many more years. But physical campuses are limited in their capacity and are expensive to run.

The concept of disintermediation is a subject very close to my heart, and is reflected in every aspect of our business and the solutions we provide. In short, it addresses the role of the middleman between the supplier and the consumer. It is not the replacement of the middleman in the supply chain, but rather the upgrading of the middleman to shorten the supply chain, leading to a more streamlined process and an improved end-user experience.

If universities and even government can envisage the impact of disintermediation brought about by technology, then creating a roadmap to affordable tertiary education should not be such a challenge. Through digitisation, business automation, location independence and the real-world application of disintermediation, online learning content can be available worldwide, creating student enrolment journeys, lecturer involvement and significant savings for students.

University brand recognition will be key in the future, not geographical placement or infrastructure. Who will be the first to take real steps towards embracing innovation, not just testing the waters with a few short courses, but really putting technology-supported education front and centre in their strategy for the future?

If there are a few trailblazers among the powers that be that are willing to challenge the status quo, #feescanfall!

Eugene Beetge

 


Hierdie artikel is deel van LitNet Akademies (Opvoedkunde) se universiteitseminaar. Klik op die “University Seminar 2016”-banier hierbo om alle essays wat deel vorm van die gesprek, te lees.

This article forms part of the ongoing university seminar, with new essays continually being added. Please click on the “University Seminar 2016” banner above to follow the ongoing conversation and to read more essays on education, access, transformation, language and the Constitution.

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Kommentaar

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    André Badenhorst

    Nice heads-up, but there's too much of a simplification in terms of the lecturers. I've been into tech for the past 20 odd years, but as an (over)qualified educator been in the thinking space for longer than that. I know you didn't mean it like that, but the new role of the lecturer (and the use of this word immediately indicates a wrong mindset) is a bit understated. We should perhaps exchange thoughts and breath life into my brain child EdTech Western Cape on the MeetUp platform.

  • And on today's most tone-deaf response to FMF...

    I was involved in eLearning for close to a decade, including working closely with government. It's 99% hot air and snake oil and to suggest that digital learning can replace brick and mortar institutions is to totally miss out on the pedagogical value of real peer interaction, real-world collaborative practice, etc.

    But hey, perhaps if the kids pay their fees in Bitcoin ...

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    hannes scheepers

    I totally disagree. cost might be lower or limited, but quality education is not possible in distant training. who does the work piece, the candidate or his friend. i have seen people who were trained with distant training and people with contact training. the quality differanse is unbelievable.

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    Gogo de Bruin

    Natuurlik kan dit werk veral as dit sinvol gekombineer word met beperkte kontak en intelligent ingefaseer word want dis geensins die antwoord vir studente met 'n swak skoolervaring nie. Dirk de Vos het in die week sinvol daaroor geskryf op Daily Maverick. Ek is ook nie seker dat die #FMF-brigade hiervoor sal val nie: ek vermoed baie van hulle wil nie eintlik studeer nie - hulle wil net studente wees

    • Avatar
      Chris Marnewick SC

      Gogo, dit is juis die studente wat uit swak skole uit kom wat die meeste baat by die internet/afstand model wat ek in my ander pos verduidelik. Toe die druipsyfer by die Balie se eksamens 40% was, was 90% van die druipelinge juis diegene wat uit swak skole en universiteite gekom het. Die internet/afstand model verwag ook van die lektor om spesifieke aandag aan die individuele student te gee.

      In 'n klaskamer opset gaan die lektor voort teen die pas van die gemiddelde wanneer dit juis die agterstand van die minder gegoedes is wat aangespreek moet word. En hulle is te skaam om 'n hand op te steek en 'n vraag voor almal te vra.

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    Chris Marnewick SC

    In 2004 was ek as een van die eerste 4 lektore/instrukteurs betrokke by die opstel van die College of Law se arm in Nieu-Seeland. Die model werk so: Studiemateriaal word op die internet verskaf en die studente se leerprogram bestaan uit 'n siklus wat so loop: 1. Bestudeer die studiemateriaal (ook in die voorgeskrewe werke) 2. Doen die voorgeskrewe oefeninge en werkopdragte en lewer dit in 3. Bestudeer die lektor/instrukteur se terugvoering (wat op individuele en klas-basis verskaf word). 4. Herhaal die oefening soos nodig met addisionele werkopdragte. 5. Doen 'n "trial-examination." 6. Identifiseer tekortkominge en doen remediële studies en opleiding.

    Hierdie proses is by the Balie ingevoer vir die pupil-advokate se opleiding in 2004 met 'n studieprogram wat ek geskryf het. Die 40% druipsyfer voor 2004 staan sedertdien op tussen 10% in 'n slegte jaar en 5% in 'n goeie jaar.

    In beide die College of Law en die Balie se programme word die aanlyn/afstand leerprogram aangevul met "face-to-face"-sessies wat so kort as 3 dae en so lank as twee weke kan duur. Daar is geen "brick and mortar" kampus nie en geboue word vir die "face-to-face"-sessies gehuur soos nodig.

    Fluks studente kans selfs voltyds werk en hulle studies saans en oor naweke afhandel.

    Die wêrels is vinnig aan die verander en uinversiteits- en ander opleidingsprogramme en metodiek sal moet aanpas.

  • There is no doubt that Eugene's proposal is a solution. However, far and away the largest stumbling blocks are ignorance and the accursed RC factor:
    Tradition (brick & morter), the fear factor (lecturers and academia), politics (too pervasive to list), and access need to be addressed.
    What is needed is a coordinated, sustained drive to convincingly demonstrate to stakeholders the virtues of "everywhere-Learning" better known as e-Learning.
    Sadly the toxic influence of extremists, apologists and fencesitters on the SA education landscape might be our undoing.

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