By Howard Blight, CEO and Founder, AGRICOLLEGES international
Technology is changing the world. It has changed the way we think, work, learn and play, and will continue to do so into the future. When it comes to education, technology has opened new realms of possibility, providing a modern alternative to traditional bricks-and-mortar education. In a country with high levels of unemployment like South Africa, e-learning offers a more flexible and affordable way for our youth to equip themselves with the skills they need to become more employable. E-learning effectively replaces the concept of distance-learning.
At the same time, access to the internet is exploding across Africa and AGRICOLLEGES international was founded with the intention of giving those who want to further their education in the field of agriculture, the opportunity to do so through an online, blended learning model that offers lower costs and relevant, modern course content.
When it comes to training and agri-education, technology is the perfect catalyst. Just as progress is being made in farming techniques through the growing use of exciting new technologies, so has education made significant advances in driving skills development. To study on the AGRICOLLEGES international platform, all students need is a smart phone or other device with access to the internet. Never before have so many people had access to smart phones, the internet and the ability these provide to continue to earn-as-they-learn.
Online learning is so exciting because it genuinely has so much to offer. It gives students access to information fast and efficiently, at any time and from anywhere, offering endless scalability for large numbers of students to study at once. Technology is paving the way for more adaptive and personalised learning, giving every student, regardless of their background or ability, the tools they need to successfully achieve a higher education.
Beyond this, the AGRICOLLEGES international blended learning approach means that students aren’t learning in isolation – they can collaborate and network with other students, educators and peers, stimulating constructive conversations, gaining greater insights and learning faster than they would on their own.
What about the natural desire to connect with peers and educators? As an integral part of our model, AGRICOLLEGES international is working with agricultural colleges, farmers and other agri-facilities to set up Practicals Destinations around the country. These offer students the ability to take their theoretical learning into the field to connect face-to-face with peers and educators, while gaining valuable practical experience.
As farmers steadily change their methods, this more stimulating and advanced agricultural environment has increased the need to provide training and skills development in the areas where the industry currently has large gaps. It also provides a tech-savvy youth population that wants to be connected and to work in an exciting, modern environment, with access to a wealth of exciting and dynamic careers in agriculture.
As a privately funded business, AGRICOLLEGES international is also building partnerships with investors to develop a sustainable bursary system that can support highly motivated and ambitious students from disadvantaged backgrounds. South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa has made it clear that both agriculture and skills development are among the key areas that government will be focusing on in the coming months and years. Our hope is that this will help support our drive to bring more people into the industry. In Ramaphosa’s words: “Agriculture presents one of the greatest opportunities to significantly grow our economy and create jobs.”
The increasing demands being placed on the agricultural sector require that we step up to help grow the skills pool and drive improved food security in the decades to come. At almost every level there are opportunities to build skills and find exciting, relevant work in agriculture, while also making a difference to the food security concerns that are looming over the next two decades.
The AGRICOLLEGES international e-learning platform removes barriers such as distance, time and accessibility, enabling students and educators to collaborate and connect in a wonderfully exciting environment. This is the way of the future.
Howard Blight is CEO and Founder of AGRICOLLEGES international