Study now, pay later
Business education needs affordable innovations, says Regenesys Business School dean Penny Law
FM: What new projects are under way at Regenesys?
Law: Our major focus this year has been on developing Digital Regenesys, the education technology [edtech] company we launched last year to deliver automated video-based and facilitator-led courses to future-proof participants for the new digital age. Digital Regenesys offers introductory and advanced courses such as artificial intelligence, robotics, data science, cybersecurity, blockchain and digital marketing. We also offer courses to develop management skills.
We have recruited a team of India-based academics to facilitate our programmes. India’s edtech market is highly advanced, with some of the world’s largest edtech companies
The second major initiative is Education for All – a technology initiative that provides affordable higher education. It entails studying now and paying later. Students can register for a BBA, an MBA, postgraduate diploma or higher certificate programme by paying a nominal fee, from as little as R500 per month, then pay their course fees fully once they get a job or promotion, through a 20% deduction from their salaries. This income is reinvested to subsidise more students.
FM: Is all your executive education conducted online?
Law: Most is delivered online, but some clients, such as Samsung, prefer a blended approach, with part of the programme delivered face-to-face and the remainder online, both live and recorded. Some clients prefer to use Regenesys’s campus, as we have all the equipment to record the class and livestream the sessions to participants who cannot attend the contact session. Some of our clients, such as Coca-Cola in Nigeria, prefer a purely online programme.
FM: What form do you think executive education will take in the long term?
Law: Before the pandemic, many employers were dubious about online education as an effective mode of delivery. The pandemic has made many realise it is possible to deliver high-quality education. Employers have also been swayed by the benefits, such as the reduced cost of travel, accommodation and meals. Participants also benefit from being exposed to prominent international speakers, or executives of leading organisations.
Clients prefer online education because it can be better integrated into employees’ schedules. Instead of taking employees out of the workplace for two or three days, online programmes are presented in two-hour sessions over several weeks. This helps employees internalise the learning, as the facilitators and coaches can regularly review the application of knowledge, skills and behaviours.
Online learning can be more demanding for participants, as it requires them to take more responsibility for their learning by preparing before class and applying their learning afterwards.
FM: How has Regenesys met this changing demand?
Law: We have invested more in online learning capabilities to automate more processes and improve accessibility. We have invested in more advanced technology for our recording studio so we can produce more professional videos. We are also employing more instructional technologists and videographers.
In 2020, Regenesys applied a neuroscience approach to help corporate education participants learn, unlearn and relearn information. We adapted this approach during the pandemic to assist participants in an online environment.
FM: To what extent do you want to operate beyond SA?
Law: Regenesys has had a global footprint for some years because of our distance education accreditation. We have campuses in Nigeria and India. In the pandemic, employers in Nigeria and India asked for corporate education to be delivered online, and we expect more countries in Africa will want the same. Connectivity is still a challenge. Data is very expensive in Africa but inexpensive in India. Online education will become more mainstream once internet connections improve and data is cheaper. At the moment, we have students from more than 190 countries.
FM: What thought leadership can SA business schools offer the rest of the world? Are they trying hard enough to do so?
Law: Business schools should provide more thought leadership on the type of workforce, leaders and skills needed for the fourth industrial revolution. They should also provide it on innovative strategies to stimulate economic development. New thinking is needed to address socioeconomic problems, such as unemployment, the fiscal deficit, corruption and lack of service delivery. Attempts by the government to address these issues have failed. Business schools, in collaboration with the government and the private sector, can generate alternative solutions.
Current attempts to introduce thought leadership reside in an intellectual realm with little applicable relevance. Thought leadership will be more impactful when business schools develop emotionally intelligent and purpose-driven leaders who can make a tangible, positive difference in society. This is where the African concept of ubuntu could play a major role in providing thought leadership to the world in the areas of emotional and spiritual intelligence.
SA business schools and scholars have failed to popularise this ubuntu theory because most countries view leadership and management from a Western perspective.
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