Education comes in many forms, but here in Namibia we all still aspire to attend some form of tertiary educational institution. Unam and Polytechnic of Namibia of course spring to mind. These institutions are however not the only road to an education. Especially for people that are already working and or for some reason did not have the opportunity, money or time to follow the beaten path to academic education straight out of high school.
This is where academic institutions like Southern Business School Namibia play an important role. Distance learning and e-learning are becoming an integral and vital part of the education landscape with many advantages. People often don’t think and realise that distance learning is a real viable option, providing you choose a properly accredited institution.
As technology has changed, so has the definition of distance learning. Videotaped lectures or audio tapes have been used in tertiary education around the world for many years. These were known as correspondence courses to teach subjects such as foreign language. With the global proliferation of the internet, email and social media, distance learning can occur in real time and has become accessible in remote areas; all you need is an internet connection.
In Africa, and specifically in this case, Namibia, distance learning allows potential students to gain access to tertiary education that they would otherwise maybe not have. The vast distances that need to be travelled to simply to get to a physical institute of higher learning is often a limiting factor. But, now internet, email and other forms of technology ensure access to a wealth of up-to-date information for distance students. Whereas, outdated textbooks and syllabi are often the norm in traditional tertiary institutes.
Distance learning is not learning in isolation, your network of other students, lecturers and tutors are all online. Students still work together; have sounding boards and people to learn from. This is all part of the education process in distance learning. There are even dedicated forums and chat rooms online for the students to interact and share ideas. You don’t have to set meetings, reschedule or commute to meet for assignments.
The evolution of distance learning using technology has completely transformed the prospects of thousands if not millions of students from all walks of life in Africa. They now have the opportunity to study what they want, at an institution of their choosing and when they want. Providing them with the most powerful tool available: Education.
It is essential that as the number of distance learning institutions grows across Africa and right here in Namibia, that these tertiary schools are accredited. Too many colleges offer worthless degrees or certificates. In Namibia the Namibia Qualifications Authority, certifies and accredits the schools if they fulfil the stringent requirements. This is essential if the degree or certificate is to help in furthering your professional or academic career.
Distance learning is a very affordable choice. There are no expensive campuses to maintain and almost everything is done digitally, which allows for significant savings that are passed on to the students. This is one of the reasons why so many students in Africa have now accessed this form of education and Namibia is no exception.
The future of distance learning is bright in Africa, but as always do your homework before registering with an institution. But, do pursue that certificate, diploma or degree that you have been dreaming of, or need for your next promotion.
• Albin Jacobs works for the Southern Business School of Namibia.