Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are transforming learning by bringing down the typical class-room set up by deploying technology essentially allowing learning without borders. Millions of students have enrolled in these online courses leveraging on open access, online interaction and shared resources. Some MOOCs like Coursera and edX have Ivy League professors as tutors of thousands of students spread across the world.
Africa Management Initiative has taken a unique approach to MOOC, offering more practical learning, local and relevant content and high social media engagement. Rebecca Harrison, AMI CEO & Founder explains how AMI will transform Africa’s businesses by equipping managers.
How does AMI compare/contrast with other MOOCs?
Our courses are also proudly African. AMI was the first organization in Africa to offer a MOOC. The courses are developed by Africans for Africans. We have partnered with Africa’s most prestigious business schools, including Strathmore Business School, here in Kenya, to ensure the quality is world class. We use African teachers, African case studies and examples, to help our users across the continent apply what they learn to their own businesses, teams and jobs. We think this is much more useful for African students and young professionals than talking about how American or British companies do business.
And finally, our courses are designed to be more engaging than an average MOOC. We use animated videos, short interactive quizzes and practical activities. Our videos are shorter and use much less bandwidth than most MOOCs – that means you spend less of your precious data bundle! And they are designed to work seamlessly on a smart phone, so you can learn on the go, anytime, anywhere.We encourage students to join our interactive communities, where they can follow other managers or entrepreneurs, share content, like, post ad comment. It’s like University meets Facebook!
How is the uptake of AMI as a learning platform in Africa?
We have already reached over 10,000 people from across the continent, including a strong following locally here in Kenya, currently our biggest market. As well as offering courses to individuals, we also work with companies to deliver customized learning programmes for their staff. This has been a big success, with organisations like KAPS, Naked Pizza and iHub signing up.
How does the AMI system leverage on peer learning and networking considering the online nature of the learning system?
Social networking is a key part of the AMI experience. We don’t just offer online courses, we offer a whole learning and development experience. Each user has a personal profile, where they can update information about their skills, career and interests. As they complete courses and build new skills, they can showcase their achievements across our pan-African network of managers and employers. Our platform has the look and feel of a social networking site to help people make new connections and expand their business network.
Is AMI specific for just managers and entrepreneurs?
Anyone can enroll. Our courses are designed for managers, entrepreneurs and young professionals, but access is completely open. For example, AMI is a great way for students and people moving into the job market to get the edge, and develop practical business skills they can actually use in the workplace. Our existing users have told us they learned more useful skills from our short course on marketing than in a whole BCom in Marketing!
What are the available tools and resources for the students?
AMI currently offers 8 formal courses and access to over 1,000 practical and searchable tools. We work with top business schools and other content partners and students can also access our exciting iCoach tool, which helps you identify strengths and weaknesses, set your own personal learning journey, and monitor your progress.
How do you ensure learners get practical and relevant information they can use in their line of work?
This is the most important part of what we do. All our courses are designed to help young professionals and managers actually perform their jobs more effectively. Because we also work with businesses, we are able to gain insight into what employers want from young professionals and managers. And we use that knowledge to create our courses. Then, instead of delivering long boring lectures, we keep each online lesson to just 3 minutes, and follow it up by providing a practical tool that can be immediately downloaded and used, and a practical activity that draws on real-life examples and case studies.
There is generally a lower completion rate of online learning platforms. What is AMI doing to ensure learners finish their courses?
Students behave differently online to in the classroom. For example, many of our users dip in and out of courses, just taking the sections that interest them, or that they need for their jobs. We don’t mind this – not everyone sets out to finish a course, so not everyone does! However, we are also working on supporting users to help those that DO want to finish reach their goals. To do this, we have a unique ‘buddy’ scheme, where every user teams up with a ‘buddy’, who helps encourage him or her to keep working through the course to completion. Our social networking features also help drive engagement – people get to know each other in the study groups, post questions, and help each other through the activities.