At a time when online learning is being viewed as an alternative approach to education for students in Africa, the legality and authenticity of an online degree still persists.
One of the interesting things to happen in the world of the internet is the blooming of online courses globally.
Though distance education has existed for a long time, it has not been easy in Africa for lack of internet connectivity over the decades.
Today, the internet provides instant access to online lessons, reading materials, and teachers round the clock.
Take for example the case of Edtech which has changed the way we learn and how elearning can be useful for working professionals, home-bound new mothers, and students who cannot afford the high fees at the mainstream universities.
Education Prospects in Africa
It’s no wonder that online courses are a boom for many African countries.
The number of students from Sub-Saharan Africa who travel to countries such as France, US, and England in the hunger for knowledge is a fact that there is a large amount of talent in the region which remains untapped due to lack of educational facilities, employment opportunities, and other factors such as corruption, anarchy and lack of responsibility, just to name a few of the challenges in the African continent.
Only about 10% of those who complete schooling enter into universities. As aptly depicted in Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's ground-breaking book on race, Nigeria and women leadership, African students can get easily disheartened for the aforementioned reasons.
5 Advantages of online degrees
Below are a few key reasons on the legitimacy of an online degree.
1) Online degrees are accredited
Before enrolling for an online course, a student should ensure that the institution providing the course is accredited to provide education.
To note, an online degree provider acquires accreditation to educate from a relevant education authorities in a particular country.
A concerned employer worried about the legitimacy of an online degree will most likely check the accreditation of a particular course.
2) Online degrees proof your successful mindeset
Studying online can be demanding for you. You need to organize yourself. Every day you have to motivate yourself and to go back to your computer and continue to learn.
Earning your degree is the best proof of work that you have a mindset prepared for success. And employers love this kind of strong mentality.
3) One can transfer online credits
With determination of getting education to all, online education has done remarkably well especially in marginalized communities.
Employers, institutions of higher learning and recruiting services recognize online degrees now more than ever. Recognized universities around the world are not only offering physical classes but have also introduced distance learning in education programs.
Transferring of one’s education credits and distinctions from one format of education to another is possible in any university.
4) Employers embrace online graduates
A students worry been whether an employer will employ one for their online degree, institutions which provide online degrees continue to instill faith on online education especially in Africa.
Luckily, to prove on effectiveness of online degrees, there are measures put in place by education and employment bodies which check on one’s degree or degrees for counterfeit purposes.
5) Online degrees are rigorous
An online degree is rigorous for coverage of necessary content related to each particular course.For instance, a particular online course caters for all types of students. Both a slow learner and a fast learner gain quality education from an online course which is effective for its personalization.
Whom Does an Online Degree Benefit?
One of the options which most African students have to consider is becoming an “online graduate” and having to compete with their much heeded counterparts in prestigious universities. When the less advantaged opt for an online MBA or any other online master program, they then have to compete at the employment level.
In the fight for equality in education across the globe, elearning is an excellent option under the following circumstances:
The following graph by ICEF Monitor provides a good understanding of how the enrolment numbers actually appear in many African countries.
- This opens up fresh opportunities for the youth, and gives them a chance to explore options which might not be traditionally available to them at local universities.
- For students coming from a poorer spectrum of society, online degrees are helpful because they offer a student the choice of working and learning at the same time.
- In countries where women become mothers at a young age, online courses offer them the chance to improve their job creation and employment prospects.
- Students who want to pursue a GRA program, the courses which require a laboratory for research might not be a good option for an online GRA program.
The Rigmaroles of gaining an online degree
Gaining an online degree is one of the most convenient ways of achieving one’s education, especially if one works a 9-5 job or has a busy schedule.
With the world of ICT changing the dynamics of education such as the introduction of ICT policies in the education systems, there are notable improvements in a student’s education.
What does one need to know need to know before pursuing an online degree?
One needs to check the and value of a degree
An online degree becomes effective in an individual’s education and is accepted by an employer in any parts of the world. A particular employer focuses on an education provider and checks on whether the institution or provider has accreditation.
Effectiveness of an individual is what one uses to determine one’s effectiveness in a particular job.
You may think that an online degree effectiveness is less than that of an on-campus degree.
Well, that may seem as some sort of misinformation in one’s education; online degree grades are determined by an individual’s determination in using their education effectively.
Is obtaining an online degree challenging?
Obtaining an online degree requires intensive study just as one in a class set up. The fact is, there is as much vigorous work in an online degree as there is in a regular one. The difference in both education choices is that in online learning, one attends virtual classes while in the other there’s physical classroom.
However, a course work, assignment, test, and exam taken in a regular class is also done in an online degree program.
Therefore, one should not underestimate the requirements of an online degree.
The assumption that online degrees are not ideal for anyone
Common assumption is that one does not need much to earn an online degree.
On the contrary, commitment from an individual pursuing an online degree is what is key in adding value to one’s education. Therefore, before one can pursue an online degree, their level of successfully completing the course relies heavily on an individual’s commitment and focus.
A student pursuing online education must be diligent. One should follow the instructions and guidelines provided by an education provider. Subsequently, a student should be focused and sharp to gain quality education and in choosing a suitable learning schedule.
Questioning the Value of an Online Degree
Most MOOC (Massive Open Online courses) do not have the same value. Some definitely offer more value than others in terms of employment, while others are better at offering a higher standard of teaching through different elearning or Mobile app learning (m-learning) methods. A large number of such courses might not actually make the grade.
With that in mind, what does one look out for when considering an distance education?
- Accreditation – Before enrolling into any MOOC, check the accreditation of the university. This is a clear indicator of academic standard. It is also advisable to ensure that the accredition is recognised by universities, governments, and employers.
- Curriculum Coverage - The curriculum of the course is a good indicator of what the course would be worth. Whether the student would be actually learning anything worthwhile or loafing. It would also be a good idea for the student to compare the curriculum with that of the mainstream degree programs.
- Credits offered - The credits obtained in one course should be valid in another school in case a student decides to switch or refer to another institution. This is one area of research which should be done extensively.
- Support - School support services are essential for elearning. If the student gets stuck, it is important for them to have someone who can help. This is especially important for GRA students or those doing an online MBA. If the university is not very forthcoming about their support services, then it should ring an alarm.
- Medium of instruction - The medium of instruction is an important indicator of whether the programme would be suitable for a person or not. Some courses, especially online master programs, require a higher level of interactivity, while others can be less interactive. Whether the MOOC is conducted through a series of web videos or mobile app (m-learning), or through traditionally written material, it is important for the student to be comfortable with the medium of instruction.
- Financing - Becoming an online graduate should be affordable in the long run. Even if a student takes loans for financing their online course, they should be well aware of what they are doing and learn how the course they are undertaking will assist in repaying the loan, whether through employment or entrepreneurship.
By keeping these few pointers in mind, it becomes easier for students to take up an edtech course without being fleeced or cheated. Online education degrees would just require a slightly more rigorous research approach.
For those in turmoil of which course to undertake, organizations such as the African Virtual University also help students in pinpointing good programs.
Online education and African students
The opportunities for African students to join a online education courses and get a decent education has increased their prospects exponentially.
Many organizations such as eLearning Africa, African Virtual University, OkpaBac, Eneza Education, and MEST are quite active in ensuring that African students are able to use edtech in order to get an education which might otherwise be difficult to obtain.
Challenges being faced by students in Africa
One major hurdle is the dropout rate among students. With a high enrollment rate in elearning courses, unfortunately, a large percentage of students drop out in the middle of the programs. This could be facilitated by a lot of factors among them being socio-economic and lack of motivation.
The best way forward is to pair up with an online education with practical educators and guides.
Another challenge in elearning in Africa is the low penetration rate of the internet. The African continent only accounts for about 10% of the total internet usage of the world. In the following graph, it pinpoints the countries with the highest levels of internet penetration in Africa. In some remote parts of the continent, electricity and mobile network penetration is relatively low.
And, as a third point, there is often the issue of having enough funding to prosecute the studies. See also the extensive article "How Isachamp Helps African Students Get Scholarships".
These are problems which need to be solved before edtech can become a reality for all of Africa.
A generic experience in taking an online degree program
For one pursuing an online degree, despite the lack of physical interactions and physical activities, online learning has substantial interactions between the teacher and a student.
One has to remember that, the course is not taken by 1 person. Therefore, one is able to interact with a student from a different set up, different country, and a different education culture. An amazing education fact is that one can learn about another person culture in education through online interaction.
Similarly, pursuing an online course offers flexibility in studies. For its flexibility, online learning is considered by one as a best choice in one’s early learning years, the working-class, and a student who wants to improve skills in a particular area of expertise.
An online course is generally cheaper than a regular one. This creates a good learning opportunity for more people to achieve their goals in higher education in Africa and in Asia.
A concern in one is the validity of one’s online degree
The answer to the validity of an online degree is determined by the accreditation given to the education provider and an individual’s effectiveness in using their education.
For example, the Online Business School is acknowledged by several educational institutional bodies, see here.
Can one use a degree attained in another country?
With modern technology in education, distance learning has evolved significantly. This enables one to take a preferred higher education course without traveling to the country of the school’s origin. Similarly, a student has a choice to choose from in various online degree programs available at an institution of their choice.
For example, a student in Nigeria or any other country in Africa can take an online degree program from a school in Germany, UK, US, or any other country of choice.
With numerous higher learning institutions offering online degree programs to students across the globe, examples of accredited universities offering online courses include University College London, University of Edinburgh, Johns Hopkins University, University of California, University of Birmingham, and Online Business School which offers online degrees.
However, it's essential to note that before pursuing an online degree, one needs to research the quality of the education on how it will be effective in an individual’s education and the accreditation of the school offering the course.
Having tackled part one, below is part two of the question.
Is an online degree valid for effectiveness in another country by a student?
The answer to this is entirely dependent on the factors mentioned above and in conclusion.
Effectiveness of online degree programs
Technology in education connects the world into one educational village. This means that there are more similarities in one country to another in the designing of a particular course.
With degrees which have similar course-works, one student in UK pursuing an MBA course and another student in Africa pursuing the same MBA course from Online Business School do not share the same effectiveness for the sole reason that each is an individual with different set of skills.
Another reason why one graduate’s education effectiveness is successful is that the job market in the UK has more job opportunities and simple processes as compared to those in Africa.
Is higher learning education effective in all countries?
An essential point to note when selecting an online degree course is that the education provider has accreditation from the relevant education bodies to offer validity in a particular country.
Therefore, one must verify the institution's accreditation before pursuing an online course. Similarly, one should research to determine whether the course from that specific institution is effective in a particular country.
For effectiveness of one’s education to provide a means of living to an individual, a country’s leadership has to provide job opportunities for that particular course.
Is Online Education the Future of Africa?
A person’s intention of pursuing an online degree is with the determination that upon completion of a particular course, one will secure a job after completion of their studies. However, a common insinuation is that an employer might stigmatize one upon learning that what one has is an online degree.
Attending a physical class being the norm for a high percentage of past graduates and students, an online student and graduate may proceed to think that an online degree is the reason for lack of job opportunities in their country.
However, the former reasoning is misguided because research has proved that a student who attends an online class has a high chance of performance and concentration in a particular course than one who attends a physical class.
Affordability been one of the main reason why one opts to pursue an online master’s degree, there are a few other reasons why a student in Africa and elsewhere chooses online education.
A valuable online degree: Conclusion
However, for the students with access to these basic services, the idea of distance education is ideal. There are many good resources for African students for achieving higher education.
Even with all the hurdles, edtech is still an innovative way for students to achieve a quality education, and there are indications which show how enrolment in online courses will increase in the future.
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