Dr Nicos Nicolaou, CEO, UNICAF, an organisation dedicated to opening up access to quality higher education in sub-Saharan Africa and transforming the lives of gifted and often underprivileged students, explores the way technology is being harnessed to deliver MBAs to emerging markets…
Over the past decade we have seen the widespread adoption and reduced cost of technology mean that higher education is no longer limited by physical location. Sophisticated technologies and expanding infrastructures across developing nations have allowed MBA providers to place course material online and reach millions of students outside their original market. In recent years we have seen online learning grow at an unprecedented rate with MOOCs, blended learning and distance learning becoming commonplace.
The success of online learning means that this phenomenon is now going further than simply placing existing material online. With specialist MBA providers now adapting their courses to specifically meet the needs of distance learners, these students often see themselves as having an advantage over their campus-based peers.
One initial benefit of completing an MBA online is the possibility for students to be taught by and interact with tutors across the globe. This enables HE institutions and providers to recruit the best talent without requiring tutors to relocate. Students and tutors can then communicate effectively through a variety of methods, such as email, forums and Skype rather than be limited to face-to-face meetings. Similarly, removing the need for students to travel means that the best students across an entire nation, or even continent, can be recruited, driving up overall standards.
Online providers are also able to use technology to cater to the unique needs of the market in which they operate. At UNICAF for example, we are aware that many of our students work in an environment where internet connection may be unreliable or low-quality. To counter this we ensure that all of our content is available over a low-bandwidth – removing the video and image heavy format Western providers often favour. In addition, we make it possible for students to download material onto their own devices, either at home or at one our learning centres, so that they can view it offline.
Online learning also removes issues around the availability of resources. As the latest books may not be obtainable in hard copy across all regions, they can be made available in an e-book format at an affordable price. This has the added benefit of easing issues surrounding distribution and the need for students to buy expensive additional materials – a prohibitive cost for some students in emerging markets.
With the barriers that previously prevented MBAs being offered abroad now effectively removed, the doors are open for providers to reach a phenomenal number of potential students, driving not only recruitment for individual institutions but benefiting these emerging economies as a whole.