Higher Education as Service Trade Exporter In South Africa

Introduction

Whilst it is recognized that South Africa is still in a process of transition regarding higher education to address the imbalances of the past, it should also be emphasized that Institutions of Higher Education in large are still underplaying the importance of higher education as commercialized commodity in the global world. This resulted in a low commercial higher education presence in the global world, a limited capability to attract quality students from foreign countries and a national oriented education approach. Even the school law that will soon be introduced in South Africa to address the imbalances of the past may have a negative effect of institutions of higher education to play a significant role in the commercialized educational world. The proposed new law emphasized adherence to the principles of equitability, rectification and representativeness above competence in the appointment of teachers. This may undermine the quality of education firstly, in schools and later in institutions of higher education in South Africa.

This is in sharp contrast with international trends signaling that the international higher education market is becoming more competitive as education competes as export and import commodity. Figures available indicate that higher education export represents on average around 6.6% of total student enrollments in 2000. This figure can still not be matched b South African Institutions 5 years later. In countries like Switzerland, Australia and Austria these figures were above 11% in 2000 making these countries the highest internationalized higher education countries in the world. Similarly, educational services in Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America respectively represent the third, fourth and fifth largest service export sectors. This clearly provides evidence that these countries realize the significance of higher education to transfer intellectual capital and enhance the economic competitiveness of nations.

Interventions required

It is important that Institutions of Higher Education in South Africa position themselves as nodes in an increasingly seamless knowledge base in the global world, which could have a greater interface with the knowledge-driven global economy. Therefore, Institutions of higher education in South Africa should given even more attention to integrate with influential international institutions that will enable them to internationalize higher education.

Currently, internationalization of higher education in South Africa happens more by incident rather than through thoroughly planned and organized approaches. If institutions of higher education in South Africa intend to consider higher education as a commercial trade commodity, serious emphasis should be place upon:

· Introducing purposeful policies and strategies that clearly indicate the road forward with regard to internationalization intentions and the specific areas that would need priority attention. However, this should not be developed as separate internationalization strategies, but should e seen as a natural element of the overall strategy of the institute.

· Implementing induction and course programmes that will attract quality foreign students to the institutions.

· Supporting academics to participate in conferences as well as in reputable academic journals to publish research results.

· Ensuring that all course offerings meet international accepted criteria as defined by the leading institutions of higher education in the developed world.

· Creating conducive learning environments equipped with the latest learning technologies.

Internationalization requires that institutions of higher education in South Africa should emphasize a somewhat loosening of the relationship with Government to create new transformational bodies to address the imbalances of the past, but also to broaden this mission to play a more active role in regional economic development. This can be achieved by establishing strong horizontal links with other universities research institutions and industry in the Southern African Development Community. If this can be achieved, the activities of institutions of higher education will no longer be isolated from the marketplace and its outputs could become merchandise products as well. Loosening the relationship with government will not only provide for more freedom to autonomously decide what educational and research outputs to create, but will also increase the pressure on institutions of higher education to perform better as they take up the responsibility to raise funds for projects and salaries.

It is imperative that higher education in South Africa can no longer take the disposition that placed research and development in contrast to one another. Rather, it should take the stand that the outputs of institutions should have a strong:

· Social development and application in which the simultaneous promotion and integration of education, scientific research and production occurs;

· Science and Technology Financial Management Support System in place in order to create a safe and secure research environment for academics; and

· Set of ” Key State Laboratories” where research and education of strategic importance to the development and well-being of the country can be carried out.

Conclusion

South Africa institutions of higher education currently rated only among the top 40 of the world’s host countries. An urgent need exist to rethink and reformulate the educational thinking models of institutions of higher education in South Africa. Because of the changing political situation accompanied by a changing global economy, many traditional ways in which institutions of higher education were previously governed will change. Unless institutions of higher education in South Africa succeed to internationalize successfully, huge opportunities to earn foreign currencies using higher education as a trade commodity will be lost.

India’s Education Sector – Back to School

India’s US$40b education market is experiencing a surge in investment. Capital, both local and international, and innovative legal structures are changing the face of this once-staid sector

The liberalization of India’s industrial policy in 1991 was the catalyst for a wave of investment in IT and infrastructure projects. Rapid economic growth followed, sparking a surge in demand for skilled and educated workers. This, combined with the failure of the public system to provide high quality education and the growing willingness of the burgeoning middle class to spend money on schooling, has transformed India’s education sector into an attractive and fast-emerging opportunity for foreign investment.

Despite being fraught with regulatory restrictions, private investors are flocking to play a part in the “education revolution”. A recent report by CLSA (Asia-Pacific Markets) estimated that the private education market is worth around US$40 billion. The K-12 segment alone, which includes students from kindergarten to the age of 17, is thought to be worth more than US$20 billion. The market for private colleges (engineering, medical, business, etc.) is valued at US$7 billion while tutoring accounts for a further US$5 billion.

Other areas such as test preparation, pre-schooling and vocational training are worth US$1-2 billion each. Textbooks and stationery, educational CD-ROMs, multimedia content, child skill enhancement, e-learning, teacher training and finishing schools for the IT and the BPO sectors are some of the other significant sectors for foreign investment in education.

Opportunity beckons

The Indian government allocated about US$8.6 billion to education for the current financial year. But considering the significant divide between the minority of students who graduate with a good education and the vast majority who struggle to receive basic elementary schooling, or are deprived of it altogether, private participation is seen as the only way of narrowing the gap. Indeed, it is estimated that the scope for private participation is almost five times the amount spent on education by the government.

CLSA estimates that the total size of India’s private education market could reach US$70 billion by 2012, with an 11% increase in the volume and penetration of education and training being offered.
The K-12 segment is the most attractive for private investors. Delhi Public School operates approximately 107 schools, DAV has around 667, Amity University runs several more and Educomp Solutions plans to open 150 K-12 institutions over the next four years. Coaching and tutoring K-12 students outside school is also big business with around 40% of urban children in grades 9-12 using external tuition facilities.

Opening the doors

Private initiatives in the education sector started in the mid-90s with public-private partnerships set up to provide information and communications technology (ICT) in schools. Under this scheme, various state governments outsourced the supply, installation and maintenance of IT hardware and software, as well as teacher training and IT education, in government or government-aided schools. The central government has been funding this initiative, which follows the build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) model, under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan and ICT Schools programmes. Private companies such as Educomp Solutions, Everonn Systems, and NIIT were among the first to enter the ICT market, which is expected to be worth around US$1 billion by 2012.

Recently, the central government invited private participation in over 1,000 of its industrial training institutes and offered academic and financial autonomy to private players. Companies such as Tata, Larsen & Toubro, Educomp and Wipro have shown keen interest in participating in this initiative.

Regulatory roadblocks

Education in India is regulated at both central and state government levels. As a result, regulations often differ from state to state. K-12 education is governed by the respective State School Education Act and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Rules and Regulations concerning affiliation and/or the rules of any other affiliating body. Under current regulations, only not-for-profit trusts and societies registered under Societies Registration Act, 1860, and companies registered under section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, qualify to be affiliated with the CBSE and to operate private schools.

While the K-12 segment accounts for the lion’s share of India’s educational market, weaving through the complex regulatory roadmap to qualify for affiliation poses serious difficulties for investors. The CBSE requires privately-funded schools to be non-proprietary entities without any vested control held by an individual or members of a family. In addition, a school seeking affiliation is expected to have a managing committee controlled by a trust, which should approve budgets, tuition fees and annual charges. Any income accrued cannot be transferred to the trust or school management committee and voluntary donations for gaining school admission are not permitted.
Schools and higher education institutions set up by the trust are entitled to exemptions from income tax, subject to compliance with section 11 of the Income Tax Act, 1961. In order to qualify for tax exemptions, the trust needs to ensure that its predominant activity is to serve the charitable purpose of promoting education as opposed to the pursuit of profit.

Alternative paths

Alternative routes do exist for investors seeking to avoid the web of regulatory barriers that constrain their involvement. Sectors such as pre-schools, private coaching and tutoring, teacher training, the development and provision of multimedia content, educational software development, skill enhancement, IT training and e-learning are prime sectors in which investors can allocate their funds. These areas are attractive because while they relate closely to the profitable K-12 segment, they are largely unregulated. As such, they make attractive propositions for private investors interested in taking advantage of the burgeoning demand for quality education. Companies such as Educomp Solutions, Career Launcher, NIIT, Aptech, and Magic Software, are market leaders in these fields. Educomp recently acquired a large number of educational institutes and service providers across India. It has also formed joint ventures with leading higher education groups, including Raffles Education Singapore, for the establishment of higher education institutions and universities in India and China. Furthermore, it has entered into a multi-million dollar collaboration with Ansal Properties and Infrastructure to set up educational institutions and schools across the country and closed an US$8.5 million deal to acquire Eurokids International, a private provider of pre-school educational services in India. Gaja Capital India, an education-centric fund, has completed the funding of three education services companies in India. NIIT and Aptech, meanwhile, are engaged in the IT training business.

Core Projects and Technology is also focusing heavily on India and is likely to bid to takeover, upgrade and run public schools for specified periods on a public-private partnership basis.

Higher hurdles

While state governments are largely responsible for providing K-12 education in India, the central government is accountable for major policy decisions relating to higher education. It provides grants to the University Grants Commission (UGC) and establishes central universities in the country. The UGC coordinates, determines and maintains standards and the release of grants. Upon the UGC’s recommendation, the central government declares the status of an educational institution, which once authorized, is entitled to award degrees.

State governments are responsible for the establishment of state universities and colleges and has the power to approve the establishment of private universities through State Acts. All private universities are expected to conform to the UGC guidelines to ensure that certain minimum standards are maintained.

Amity University in Uttar Pradesh is one of the private universities to open its doors. It was approved by the Uttar Pradesh state legislature on 12 January 2005 under section 2(f) of the University Grants Commission Act.

Not-for-profit and anti-commercialization concepts dominate higher education fee structures. To prevent commercialization and profit-making, institutions are prohibited from claiming returns on investments. This, however, does not pose a hurdle for universities interested in mobilizing resources to replace and upgrade their assets and services. A fixation of fees is required in accordance with the guidelines prescribed by the UGC and other concerned statutory bodies. For this purpose, the UGC may request the relevant information from the private university concerned, as prescribed in the UGC (Returns of Information by Universities) Rules, 1979.

In line with the policy on Fee Fixation in Private Unaided Educational Institutions Imparting Higher and Technical Education, two types of fees are required: tuition fees and development fees. Tuition fees are intended to recover the actual cost of imparting education without becoming a source of profit for the owner of the institution. While earning returns on investment would not be permissible, development fees may provide an element of partial capital cost recovery to the management, serving as a resource for upkeep and replacement.

Legal precedents

In order to be awarded university status by the UGC, institutions must comply with the objectives set forth in the Model Constitution of the Memorandum of Association/Rules, and ensure that no portion of the income accrued is transferred as profit to previous or existing members of the institution. Payments to individuals or service providers in return for any service rendered to the institute are, however, not regulated.

In this context recent court judgments on private universities are relevant. The Supreme Court, in Unnikrishnan JP v State of Andhra Pradesh, introduced a scheme regulating the admission and levy of fees in private unaided educational institutions, particularly those offering professional education. The ruling was later notified in the fee policy.

Subsequently, in the case of Prof Yashpal and Anr v State of Chattisgarh and Ors in 2005, the Supreme Court assailed the Chattisgarh government’s legislation and amendments which had been abused by many private universities. It was contended that the state government, simply by issuing notifications in the Gazette, had been establishing universities in an indiscriminate and mechanical manner without taking into account the availability of any infrastructure, teaching facilities or financial resources. Further, it was found that the legislation (Chhattisgarh Niji Kshetra Vishwavidyalaya (Sthapana Aur Viniyaman) Adhiniyam, 2002) had been enacted in a manner which had completely abolished any kind of UGC control over private universities.

The Supreme Court concluded that parliament was responsible for ensuring the maintenance and uniformity of higher education institutions in order to uphold the UGC’s authority. Following the judgment, only those private universities that satisfied the UGC’s norms were able to continue operating in Chattisgarh.

Professional institutions

Professional and technical education in India is regulated by professional councils such as the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Established under the AICTE Act, 1987, AICTE gives recognition to courses, promotes professional institutions, provides grants to undergraduate programmes, and ensures the coordinated and integrated development of technical education and the maintenance of standards. The AICTE has recently exerted pressure on unrecognized private technical and management institutes to seek its approval or face closure.

A single bench decision of the Delhi High Court in Chartered Financial Analysis Institute and Anr v AICTE illustrates the far-reaching implications this kind of pressure can have on all institutions operating independently of the AICTE. The court found that the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, a US-based organization, was engaged in imparting technical education and that its charter, though not described as a degree or diploma, was nevertheless descriptive of the candidate attaining an academic standard, entitling him to pursue further courses, and achieve better prospects of employment in the investment banking profession. The AICTE argued that the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute fell within the ambit of its regulation and was therefore obliged to submit to the jurisdiction of the regulatory body. The Delhi High Court upheld the AICTE’s view that the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute did qualify as an institution imparting technical education..

This judgment may have emboldened the AICTE to proceed against a number of other establishments that are on its list of unapproved institutions. It holds particular significance since despite not granting degrees and diplomas, the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute was still deemed by the court to be covered under the description of a “technical institute”.

Enthusiasm grows for foreign participation

While regulators such as the AICTE continue to exercise influence in the Indian education system, the sector is expected to witness a surge in foreign investment and perhaps a reduction in the number of regulatory roadblocks as a result of the central government’s enthusiasm for overseas investors. Foreign direct investment in higher education could help reduce government expenditure and there is a general consensus that education as a whole should be opened for domestic and foreign private participation.

The entry of foreign educational institutions into India will be covered by the new Foreign Education Providers (Regulation for Entry and Operation) Bill. The bill seeks to regulate the entry and operation of foreign education providers, as well as limit the commercialization of higher education. Foreign education providers would be given the status of “deemed universities” allowing them to grant admissions and award degrees, diplomas or certificates.

Operationally, the bill proposes to bring foreign education providers under the administrative umbrella of the UGC, which would eventually regulate the admissions process and fee structures. Since these foreign institutions will have to be incorporated under central or state laws, they will also be subject to the government’s policies of reservations. The bill is pending approval from the Indian Parliament but it is unclear if it will be taken by the present government for a vote prior to the general elections in 2009.

Innovative structures unlock profitability

The regulatory restraints on running profitable businesses in the K-12 and higher education sectors have driven Indian lawyers to devise innovative structures that enable private investors to earn returns on their investments. These typically involve the establishment of separate companies to provide a range of services (operations, technology, catering, security, transport, etc.) to the educational institution. The service companies enter into long term contracts with the trust operating the institution. Payments made by the trust to the service companies must be comparative and proportionate to the services rendered by such companies. Furthermore, in order to qualify for tax exemptions, the expenses paid by the trust to the service companies must not exceed what may reasonably be paid for such services under arm’s length relationships.
Despite the regulatory constraints, the Indian education sector is on a path of exponential growth. A growing number of private companies are undertaking creatively structured projects in the education business and the level of investor confidence is demonstrated by the recent spate of M&A activity that has taken place.

With more domestic players emerging, the education sector is likely to witness consolidation, but at the same time, increasing foreign participation will drive competition and raise standards. Liberalization will continue to intensify as the government struggles to remedy its poor public education system and provide quality institutions to educate India’s masses.

Pros And Cons Of Online Education For The World Citizen

More and more young people are choosing non-traditional education to start and advance in their careers while completing and furthering their formal education. “Typical distance learners are those who don’t have access to programs, employees who work during scheduled class hours, homebound individuals, self-motivated individuals who want to take courses for self-knowledge or advancement, or those who are unable or unwilling to attend class” (Charp, 2000, p. 10). Three key elements surround the online learner: technology, curriculum, and instructor (Bedore, Bedore, & Bedore, 1997). These elements must be keenly integrated into one smoothly and operationally functional delivery tool.

While an online method of education can be a highly effective alternative medium of education for the mature, self-disciplined student, it is an inappropriate learning environment for more dependent learners. Online asynchronous education gives students control over their learning experience, and allows for flexibility of study schedules for non traditional students; however, this places a greater responsibility on the student. In order to successfully participate in an online program, student must be well organized, self-motivated, and possess a high degree of time management skills in order to keep up with the pace of the course. For these reasons, online education or e-learning is not appropriate for younger students (i.e. elementary or secondary school age), and other students who are dependent learners and have difficulty
assuming responsibilities required by the online paradigm.

Millions of students use e-learning solutions in over 140 countries: corporations such as Kodak and Toyota and education providers like ExecuTrain, New Horizons, the Enoch Olinga College (ENOCIS), Phoenix University amongst the hundreds of schools and colleges.

Studies have shown student retention to be up to 250% better with online learning than with classroom courses. Several recent ones have helped frame the debate. The Sloan Consortium published a widely distributed report titled “Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States in 2005” that examined the growing prevalence of online education across U.S. institutions.

In addition, a study conducted by the Boston-based consulting firm Eduventures found that, while about half of institutions and more than 60 percent of employers generally accept the high quality of online learning, students’ perceptions differ. Only about 33 percent of prospective online students said that they perceive the quality of online education to be “as good as or better than” face-to-face education. Ironically, 36 percent of prospective students surveyed cited concern about employers’ acceptance of online education as a reason for their reluctance to enroll in online courses.

But what actually drives quality? A March 2006 report released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education identifies six quality indicators: mission, curriculum and instruction, faculty support, student and academic services, planning for sustainability and growth, and evaluation and assessment.

The debate rages on while the Pros and Cons of Online Adult Education for today’s international students are constantly analyzed to determine if this type of education platform can deliver predictable and measurable results.

The Enoch Olinga College (ENOCIS) is one institution which uses this type of delivery system. ENOCIS enhances their learning experience by offering many other “value added”, cost reducing benefits to students. Online pupils can apply for scholarships available to students of excellence and other financial aid programs like the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS), with attractive interest rates. They also provide convenient payment facilities, on line banking, Western Union Quick Collect, bank cards and a student who is granted a loan can start repaying it after two months if they have a corporate guarantor.

Pros of Online Education:

The key advantages of the online education experience are briefly explained below:

1. Cheaper: Online courses may be more affordable than those offered at colleges or trade schools. You may also save on transportation costs like gas, bus passes, and parking permits because you don’t need to commute to school and there are no housing or meals plans to worry about since you do not need to live on or near a college campus. Housing expenses and other costs associated with living expenses are usually the most expensive aspects of a college education, so by taking an online course you could save quite a bit of money.

The best part of online education is the absence of travel and immigration problems. Some students may prefer not to pursue traditional on campus education, as it involves traveling to attend lectures. With online education, an applicant does not need to travel. Courses simply require accessing the internet in order to begin the learning process.

2. More Convenient: By taking courses online, you’re able to decide when you study and for how long. You are also able to schedule your studying around your work or social schedule.

Since you’re not bound to a classroom, you may do your work wherever you have access to a computer and the internet. You’ll be able to set your own pace and decide exactly how fast you want to go over the material.

Take online courses when you need them, not based on some college’s annual or semester schedule. You can learn when you need it (Just-In-Time) A course is as close as a computer with an Internet connection.

3. Flexibility: with no set class times, you decide when to complete your assignments and readings. You set the pace. In some programs, you can even design your own degree plan. The online students can carry out their private or official work, along with the online education. As it provides the convenience of time flexibility, a student can login and logout as per his desire whereas, the traditional education do not provide such flexibility in learning.

Flexibility of online education allows the student control over their studies. They can allot more time in the topics, which they feel comparatively hard and vice versa. The speed of learning depends solely upon the students.

4. Technology: With the help of the scientific technology, students can do their online education at any place. The only mandatory pre-requisite is the availability of computer along with an internet amenity. Side benefits include the learning new technologies and technical skills

5. Availability: distance-learning opportunities have exploded over the past few years, with many accredited and reputable programs.

6. Accessibility: with an online course, you can work on the course just about anywhere you have computer access. Your learning options are not constrained by your geographic location. The new virtual classrooms have created a myriad of learning opportunities for global learning and education center. On line education is a new era experience adapting to the needs of the world citizen.

7. Self-Directed: you set your own pace and schedule, so you control the learning environment.

8. Time Spent in Classroom: now you can take a course on just about any subject without ever having to be in, or travel to, a classroom so you have very little wasted time. Note, however, that some distance-education programs still do have an in-class component and normally to receive a fully accredited US university degree an international student must spend one or two semesters on campus.

9. High Quality Dialog: Within an online asynchronous discussion structure, the learner is able to carefully reflect on each comment from others before responding or moving on to the next item. This structure allows students time to articulate responses with much more depth and forethought than in a traditional face-to-face discussion situation where the participant must analyze the comment of another on the spot and formulate a response or otherwise loose the chance to contribute to the discussion.

10. Student Centered: Within an online discussion, the individual student responds to the course material (lectures and course books, for example) and to comments from other students. Students usually respond to those topics within the broader conversation that most clearly speak to their individual concerns and situations resulting in several smaller conversations taking place simultaneously within the group. While students are expected to read all of their classmates’ contributions, they will become actively engaged only in those parts of the dialog most relevant to their needs. In this way, students take control of their own learning experience and tailor the class discussions to meet their own specific needs. Ideally, students make their own individual contributions to the course while at the same time take away a unique mix of information directly relevant to their needs.

11. Level Playing Field: In the online environment learners retain a considerable level of anonymity. Discriminating factors such as age, dress, physical appearance, disabilities, race and gender are largely absent. Instead, the focus of attention is clearly on the content of the discussion and the individual’s ability to respond and contribute thoughtfully and intelligently to the material at hand.

On line adult education can be more effective and better for certain types of learners (shy, introverted, reflective, language challenged, those that need more time). Distance education courses are often better for people who learn through visual cues and experiential exercises.

12. Synergy: The online format allows for a high level of dynamic interaction between the instructor and students and among the students themselves. Resources and ideas are shared, and continuous synergy will be generated through the learning process as each individual contributes to the course discussions and comments on the work of others. The synergy that exists in the student-centred virtual classroom is one of the unique and vital traits that the online learning format posses..

13. Access to Resources: It is easy to include distinguished guest experts or students from other institutions in an online class as well as allow students to access resources and information anywhere in the world. An instructor can compile a resource section online with links to scholarly articles, institutions, and other materials relevant to the course topic for students to access for research, extension, or in depth analysis of course content material in the global classroom.

14. Creative Teaching: The literature of adult education supports the use of interactive learning environments as contributing to self-direction and critical thinking. Some educators have made great strides in applying these concepts to their on ground teaching. However, many classes still exist which are based on boring lectures and rote memorization of material. The nature of the semi-autonomous and self-directed world of the virtual classroom makes innovative and creative approaches to instruction even more important. In the online environment, the facilitator and student collaborate to create a dynamic learning experience. The occasion of a shift in technology creates the hope that those who move into the new technology will also leave behind bad habits as they adopt this new paradigm of teaching. As educators redesign their course materials to fit the online format, they must reflect on their course objectives and teaching style and find that many of the qualities that make a successful online facilitator are also tremendously effective in the traditional classroom as well.

Cons of Online Education:

Briefly explained are some factors that could negatively affect your success with distance learning courses:

1. The Technology:

a. Equity and Accessibility to Technology: Before any online program can hope to succeed, it must have students who are able to access the online learning environment. Lack of access, whether it be for economical or logistics reasons, will exclude otherwise eligible students from the course. This is a significant issue in rural and lower socioeconomic neighborhoods and educating the underserved peoples of the world. Furthermore, speaking from an administrative point of view, if students cannot afford the technology the institution employs, they are lost as customers. As far as Internet accessibility is concerned, it is not universal, and in some areas of the United States and other countries, Internet access poses a significant cost to the user. Some users pay a fixed monthly rate for their Internet connection, while others are charged for the time they spend online. If the participants’ time online is limited by the amount of Internet access they can afford, then instruction and participation in the online program will not be equitable for all students in the course. This is a limitation of online programs that rely on Internet access. Equity of access to learners of all backgrounds and parts of society

b. Requires New Skills/Technologies: if you’re not computer-savvy or are afraid of change or new technologies, then online education will probably not work for you. The online students are required to learn new skills, such as researching and reviewing the internet. For the online students, they need to learn the techniques of navigation on an online library for necessary information. Technical training and support of learners and instructors

c. Computer Literacy: Both students and facilitators must possess a minimum level of computer knowledge in order to function successfully in an online environment. For example, they must be able to use a variety of search engines and be comfortable navigating on the World Wide Web, as well as be familiar with Newsgroups, FTP procedures and email. If they do not possess these technology tools, they will not succeed in an online program; a student or faculty member who cannot function on the system will drag the entire program down.

d. Limitations of Technology: User friendly and reliable technology is critical to a successful online program. However, even the most sophisticated technology is not 100% reliable. Unfortunately, it is not a question of if the equipment used in an online program will fail, but when. When everything is running smoothly, technology is intended to be low profile and is used as a tool in the learning process. However, breakdowns can occur at any point along the system, for example, the server which hosts the program could crash and cut all participants off from the class; a participant may access the class through a networked computer which could go down; individual PCs can have numerous problems which could limit students’ access; finally, the Internet connection could fail, or the institution hosting the connection could become bogged down with users and either slow down, or fail all together. In situations like these, the technology is neither seamless nor reliable and it can detract from the learning experience.

2. The Institution: Many online education facilities are relatively new with many courses and hence, lack in modern instructors for instructing the new curriculum. Estimates show that there is still a need for an increase of more 50% of qualified instructors for online education.

b. The Administration and Faculty: Some environments are disruptive to the successful implementation of an online program. Administrators and/or faculty members who are uncomfortable with change and working with technology or feel that online programs cannot offer quality education often inhibit the process of implementation. These people represent a considerable weakness in an online program because they can hinder its success.

3. The Facilitator :Lack of Essential Online Qualities: Successful on-ground instruction does not always translate to successful online instruction. If facilitators are not properly trained in online delivery and methodologies, the success of the online program will be compromised. An instructor must be able to communicate well in writing and in the language in which the course is offered. An online program will be weakened if its facilitators are not adequately prepared to function in the virtual classroom.

4. Perceptions/Reputation: while slowly changing as more and more mainstream colleges and universities embrace distance learning, there still is a stigma attached to distance education to the student’s interaction in the online education. Some of the students believe that, there are few opportunities with regards to face-to-face interactions and feedbacks.

5. No Instructor Face Time: If your learning style is one where you like personalized attention from your teachers, then online education will probably not work for you.

6. Little Support: students are expected to find their own resources for completing assignments and exams, which is empowering for some, but daunting for others.

There is little support and limited guidelines provided in online education system. Online students are required to search as per their own imaginations for completing exams and assignments.

7. Lacking Social Interaction: while you often interact with classmates via email, chat rooms, or discussion groups, there are no parties or off line get-togethers.
If you enjoy meeting new people and learn better while you’re interacting with other people, you may want to reconsider online education.

8. No Campus Atmosphere: part of the traditional college experience, of course, is the beauty of the campus, the college spirit, but you have none of that with distance-education courses.

Since you’re not on campus or in classes, you may lack opportunities to meet other students. You will not have many opportunities to interact face-to-face with your professors, so they may not have a real sense of who you are as a person.

9. Making Time: if you are a procrastinator or one of those people who always needs an extra push to complete work, you may have a hard time making time for your online classes. On line learning requires new skills and responsibilities from learners

10. Academic honesty of online students: requires a new mindset to online assessment. Most education experts agree that rote memory testing is not the best measure of learning in any environment and new measurement and evaluation tools are evolving.

11. Types and effectiveness of assessments: The importance of outcomes in online learning cannot be over emphasized. Does the program have measurable results? Are students learning what you say they should be learning? Then there are institutional outputs: course completion rates, job placement rates (if that’s the goal of the institution), graduation rates, student success on third-party tests, and student satisfaction scores.

These factors, both the pros and cons, contribute greatly to making an informed decision about the direction of your career path and how you are going to accomplish your goals: on line, in the classroom or a combination of both.

Institutions and companies that use continuing education to meet their needs also face similar decisions. Institutions that deliver online education are confronted with a series of challenges, including the search for good faculty, use of technology, and provision of adequate student services.

The Sloan Consortium report “Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States in 2005” found that 64 percent of chief academic officers and faculty believe that it takes more discipline for a student to succeed in an online course than it does in a face-to-face course.

More and more major business and industry is turning to on line continuing education as a viable and cost effective resource for training its personnel. Hilton Hotel has 380 hotels worldwide and is represented in 66 countries.

When you weigh the benefits and advantages of on line adult continuing education the cost of study and flexibility of scheduling tip the scales of programs like the Enoch Olinga College, Capella and Phoenix University’s distance learning program on line adult continuing education is becoming a world wide respected form of education.

However, as with any situation, there are both pros and cons with the concept of online education and the benefits of the virtual or global classroom. You may want to evaluate both before you decide on an online education program. By examining the advantages and disadvantages, you will be able to make a more informed decision. But, at the end of the day, online learning is independent learning. A lot of structure has been put into online programs, but it still comes down to a learner sitting in front of a computer by him or herself. The knowledge you receive or the benefits it will generate either in development of self esteem or increasing earning capacity will depend sole upon you the student.

Educational Problem Solving

Abstract

This article introduces the educational solutions module of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site, describing competitive offerings, the customer profile, problem-oriented solutions, target markets, product offerings, and usability features. It concludes that the module is a major contribution to the information superhighway.

Introduction

The aim of this article is to introduce to the world the educational solutions module of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site. The article is addressed to those readers who may have an educational problem bogging them and who may therefore be looking for a way out of their predicament. The reader may be a parent, child, or student.

It is a common fact of life that we all have problems and that we are often frustrated or we tend to lash out because of our inability to find accessible and reliable information about our problems. This specialist site fills this need – as our pragmatic friend for solving our educational problems.

To be of the greatest use to people a problem solving site must combine pragmatic discussions of their personal or professional problem with merchant products that provide more detailed information. Typically, the web site will provide free information in the form of news, articles, and advice, which direct the visitor on what to do to solve her problems. Complementing this, the web site will also provide merchant products which discuss in detail how the visitor can go about resolving her problem. This means that the most effective, visitor-oriented problem-solving site will be an information-packed commercial site – and so is the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site and its specialist sites.

The approach that we have adopted below is to describe competitive offerings, the customer profile, problem-oriented solutions, target markets, product offerings, and usability features.

Competitive Offerings

The following are the top educational sites on the Internet, along with their offerings.

US Department of Education. It defines the US education policy and provides information on financial aid, educational research and statistics, grants and contracts, and teaching and learning resources.

Educational Testing Service. It provides a range of test resources.

FunBrain.com. It provides educational games for K-8 kids.

PrimaryGames.com. It provides fun learning tools and games for kids.

GEM. It provides educational resources such as lesson plans and other teaching and learning resources.

Education World. It provides advice on lesson plans, professional development, and technology integration.

NASA Education Enterprise. It provides educational materials and information relating to space exploration.

Spartacus Educational. It is a British online encyclopedia that focuses on historical topics.

Department for Education and Skills. It is a UK government department site that offers information and advice on various educational and skills topics.

Times Educational Supplement. It offers teaching news, teaching & educational resources, and active forums to help UK teachers.
All these sites are useful in the domains that they cover. Their main limitations are as follows:

1. They tend to cover only a very narrow segment of the educational market.
2. They do not take as their starting point the daily educational needs of the typical family.
3. They lack a problem focus; i.e., they do not formulate the typical learning and educational problems that pupils, students, and parents face on a daily basis.
4. As a result of the preceding point, the solutions offered are not as incisive (i.e. as problem-centred) as they could be.
5. They do not offer merchant products that deepen the visitor’s understanding of her problem and of the consequent solutions.

The educational solutions module of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site addresses these problems by targeting a multiplicity of market segments, adopting a customer profile that fits the typical education-pursuing family, considering the specific needs or problems that this family may face, offering incisive (problem-centred) solutions to the various problems, and offering a range of merchant products that deepen the visitor’s appreciation of her problems and of the solutions that are applicable to them.

Customer Profile

The customer profile or target visitor characteristics of the educational solutions module is the same as for all specialist sites of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site. The site has been designed to meet the needs of visitors who have an educational problem bogging them. It is designed for both males and females, even though it is often convenient to refer to just one sex when writing.

This visitor uses search engines to research information about her personal or professional problem, with the intention of finding solutions to it. The visitor is serious about solving her problem and is therefore willing to buy products that help her to achieve her mission, provided that she can find reliable and honest information about relevant products so that she can make an informed decision about which ones to acquire. This information will help her to apply her finances economically, and hence avoid wasting money.

The visitor will want a money-back guarantee so that if a product does not live up to expectations or if she were misled into buying a product she can get a refund. Such a guarantee absolves her of purchase risks.

The visitor is intelligent (without necessarily being a genius), educated (without necessarily being a PhD), computer literate (without necessarily being a computer guru), and money-minded (without necessarily being a freebie hunter or an unemployed person). This of course does not mean that freebie hunters or unemployed persons cannot gain a thing from the site. To the contrary, there is a great deal of free information on the site. Just that it is hard to see how anyone can gain the full benefits of the site without buying products.

The visitor wants high quality information products (usually in digital form) and wants to pay the cheapest price for these (without paying so much emphasis on price that she compromises quality). The visitor also wants free bonus offers that are attached to the purchased goods.

The visitor is self-reliant and can cope on her own by reading, digesting, and applying advice about her problem until she solves it or discovers that she needs help from a professional, at which point her acquired knowledge will help her to reduce her consulting fees. As a result of the knowledge gained, the visitor will be able to assess consultants in order to avoid incompetent or fraudulent ones.

Problem-Centred Solutions

Our free solutions are organised in the form of pragmatic articles that are written by top experts. Each article addresses a specific daily problem, but does not go into detail. It explains the problem and tells the visitor what she must do to solve her problem. However, it does not tell the visitor how she must solve it – this is too much for an article. To find out about the how, the visitor must buy a product (usually an e-book or e-book set) that goes into greater depth.

The set of educational articles that we have chosen, to provide initial solution to a visitor’s problem are as follows:

Signs of a Gifted Child – Informs parents on how to identify whether or not their children are gifted.

Essential Parenting Lessons for Enriching Your Child’s Education – Teaches parents how to enhance their child’s education.

Using Positive Affirmations to Be a Better Student – Teaches students how to use positive affirmations to improve their performance.

They Are Just Afraid of Writing – Teaches writing skills to students

How Can Parents Encourage Their Children to Read? – Shows parents how they can improve their children’s reading skills.

Test Preparation Tutoring – Discusses the topic of tutoring students to prepare for tests or exams.

Test Taking Strategies – Discusses various strategies for taking and passing tests or exams

Playing and Winning the Scholarship Game – Describes how to win scholarships.

How to Get a Scholarship to a UK University – Describes how to win scholarships to a UK university.

Saving Money for College – Instructs students on how they can save money in preparation for college.

Student Loans: When Your Educational Dreams Can’t Compete with the Cost – Explains to students the benefits of a student loan.

Education Loans Can Fund a Higher Degree to Boost Your Career – Also explains to students the benefits of a student loan.

The Secret to US Department of Education Loans – Teaches students how to get a US DoE loan to finance their higher education.

Student Loan Consolidation – Save Money, Pay Less, Spend More – Explains to graduates how to make use of loan consolidation to reduce their student loan repayments.

Higher Education: Finding the Right College for You – Explains to students how to find the right college or university for their higher education studies.

Mobile Learning – An Alternative Worth Considering – Explains the concept of mobile learning and its place in education.

Online Degrees – Is Online Education Right for You? – Analyses the merits of online learning as compared to traditional learning.

An Online College Education Overview – Reviews the whole concept of online learning.

Finding the Right Quotation for Your Paper or Speech Online – Shows writers and speakers how to find the right quotation to use in their writings or speeches.

Collaboration: An Important Leadership Development Skill – Explores the useful concept of collaboration and its role in leadership development.

At the end of each article is a list of merchant products that supplement the article’s content. A link is also included for accessing the educational product catalogue.

Target Markets and Product Offerings

Now let us turn to the target markets and their associated product offerings. We have positioned the segments to address the various needs of a visitor over a period of time, and at any given time a customer may belong to one or more of the market segments. There are three general classes of products offered: ClickBank products, Google products, and eBay products. Google and eBay products are presented on each page of the site. ClickBank products are grouped into product categories that match the target markets. These categories and their markets are as follows.

Children and Parenting. This consists of visitors who want parenting solutions for improving their children’s upbringing. Their needs are met through the Children and Parenting section of the educational product catalogue.

Difficult Admissions. This consists of visitors who want to learn how to get admission into top universities. Their needs are met through the Difficult Admissions section of the educational product catalogue.

Esoteric Needs. This consists of visitors with unusual needs. Their needs are met through the Esoteric Needs section of the educational product catalogue.

Financial Aid. This consists of visitors looking for scholarships, grants, or loans. Their needs are met through the Financial Aid section of the educational product catalogue.

Leadership Skills. This consists of visitors looking to develop their leadership skills. Their needs are met through the Leadership Skills section of the educational product catalogue.

Learning. This consists of visitors who want to improve their learning ability. Their needs are met through the Learning section of the educational product catalogue.

Mental Speed. This consists of visitors who want to explode their mental speed. Their needs are met through the Mental Speed section of the educational product catalogue.

Positive Affirmations. This consists of visitors who want to transform their negative dispositions into a positive mindset in order to improve their performance. Their needs are met through the Positive Affirmations section of the educational product catalogue.

Speaking. This consists of visitors looking to improve their speaking skills. Their needs are met through the Speaking section of the educational product catalogue.

Tests and Exams. This consists of visitors looking to master exam technique. Their needs are met through the Tests and Exams section of the educational product catalogue.

Writing. This consists of visitors looking to improve their writing skills. Their needs are met through the Writing section of the educational product catalogue.

Usability Considerations

Usability has been enhanced to make it easy for the visitor to find solutions to her problem, by following these steps:

1. The first thing the visitor sees are a set of articles whose titles represent the specific problem area they address. The articles are accessed from the Educational Problem Solving menu of the navigation bar to the left of the screen or from the Educational Problem Solving main page. By scanning these articles the visitor can identify whether or not her problem is covered. If not the visitor can check the educational product catalogue through the Product Catalogues menu of the same navigation bar, to see whether a product exists that answers her query. If she finds nothing she knows that her problem is not addressed. She can proceed to the Related Sites pages, which are accessible from the left navigation bar.