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Forward-thinking solutions to financial compliance woes

According to a recent international survey conducted by Longitude Research, the race for compliance brought about by new and rapid regulatory changes is distracting senior financial executives from their core activities and causing stress levels to rise. It appears that the pressure of the global regulatory reform won’t be lifting anytime soon, with more changes in the pipeline.


Financial institutions all over the world, including South Africa, have to align themselves with these compliance standards if they want to be taken seriously by international trading partners and counterparts alike. Many have had to increase spend on consultants and compliance staffing; all of this is affecting the bottom line, executives’ performance and general employee productivity. Financial institutions could greatly benefit from implementing e-learning across their workforce. The practice is relatively new in South Africa, but has already been used with tremendous success by many corporates, as well as a number of banks.


In recent years, looking critically at the learning outcomes of training and adapting those outcomes accordingly, has become extremely vital. Organisations no longer require an endless accumulation of general knowledge, but the focus is now rather on skills that help them to save money, decrease downtime and increase effectiveness. Ever-changing compliance regulations means that organisations need to invest continuously in on-going training and find ways to cut costs within a tough economic climate without sacrificing on quality. Immersive, well-designed e-learning courses are able to provide quality training at a fraction of the cost and they are often available off the shelf.

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Published in Financial Reporting
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 14:14

E-learning: Creative content is king

E-learning: Creative content is king

Over the past 13 years, the global e-learning market has grown immensely, and recent studies have projected that by 2019, half of all classes taught, will be delivered online. According to a recent Gartner research report, corporate training is a $200 billion industry, while electronic learning represents just over a quarter of this amount. E-learning provides a consistent, standardised method of delivering training throughout an organisation. By incorporating different learning methods into the e-learning material that we produce, we are able to emphasise content from multiple angles, allowing for greater retention of information.

Published in Skills Development
Tuesday, 11 June 2013 16:21

Beyond the Kindle

Beyond the Kindle

The story of e-books, for the most part, is the story of Amazon’s Kindle.

The Kindle single-handedly overcame the increasingly high cost of print book production and distribution by digitising the value chain.

But for various reasons the Kindle is not the answer in an academic context.

Mobile leads e-learning revolution in Africa

Mobile is flourishing in Africa and local e-learning developers are increasingly focusing on apps as the most effective way to deliver learning content. According to UNICEF, next to Nigeria and Egypt, South Africa houses the third-largest number of mobile subscribers on the continent, with around 20% of the population owning a smartphone. Smartphone growth in Africa has increased by 43% every year since 2000, and experts predict that 69% of mobiles in Africa will have internet access by 2014.


E-learning is an excellent solution for the African market because it is cost-effective, flexible, and accessible. The main aim of mobile e-learning, delivered via specially designed apps, is to increase productivity by making learning available anytime, anywhere, allowing learners to absorb information more effectively, and to study at their own pace. The always-available nature of mobile e-learning empowers learners to take their own initiative and plan learning activities according to their personal goals and needs.


Effective e-learning can’t simply be transplanted from abroad, however, and must be adapted to be effective in a local context. An app designed to work on a powerful tablet device will be very different to an app designed to work on the kinds of entry-level smartphone increasingly prevalent in Africa.


E-learning app developers in Africa need to develop learning content that takes into account not only the capabilities of the devices they are building apps for, but also infrastructure. For one, bandwidth usage in Africa can be costly and broadband speeds slow. Therefore applications need to be simple and quick to load, while still delivering content to the learners in a consistent manner.


While companies may design apps to be visually appealing, there’s a danger that the relevance of their content could easily be neglected. It’s important that great care is taken to ensure that mobile tools are relevant and serve the purpose that they were intended for. Learning should always be the key objective, and education, rather than technology, should drive the decision-making process when it comes to designing e-learning apps. It’s vital that teams of expert e-learning designers and app developers be involved every step of the way and that content is always learner-centred.


As mobile capabilities continue to grow, new forms of learning will keep evolving and productivity within communities and economies will escalate. The magnitude of the impact of mobile learning is boundless in its ripple effect on society. There is no limit to what the African continent can achieve through the mobile e-learning revolution.

Published in Skills Development
Tuesday, 26 February 2013 16:40

Shared knowledge is the future

Shared knowledge is the future

Shared, open knowledge is increasingly being made available worldwide through e-learning. This is something that could make a great impact on the accessibility of tertiary education in South Africa if implemented by our schools and universities. The increased use of techniques like “lecture capture” and the possibility of degrees that don’t require students to attend a single class have the potential to make tertiary education available to more people than ever before.


“Lecture capture” simply means capturing video footage of live lectures and broadcasting them free over the internet. Anybody can attend these lectures virtually over the internet via a number of universities’ websites. Harvard University was one of the pioneers of this type of free access to world class learning and has been offering free broadcasts of lectures for five years which, in the online world, is a very long time.


Harvard is now one of the “edX” universities, which include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Toronto and the University of California, Berkeley. EdX, a non-profit enterprise founded by MIT and Harvard, offers a number of free online courses to students across the globe. At the same time, it uses its online platform to research how people learn and how technology is transforming – and can transform – campuses around the world. All you need to take an edX course is a computer and an internet connection. MIT’s first edX course, Circuits and Electronics, had an enrolment of over 150,000 people from 160 countries.


Students who complete this course and others like it receive “certificates of mastery” but don’t qualify for full degrees or diplomas. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get a full degree online. The American University of Wisconsin now offers a recognised degree that doesn’t require any class time unless practical components must be completed for the degree to be awarded. The University of Wisconsin is the first university to organise “massive open online classes”, or MOOCs, into a bachelor’s degree.


Introducing initiatives like this into the South African learning landscape could open up higher learning to a far wider audience. Open knowledge is the space to watch in the digital realm right now.

Published in Skills Development
Monday, 28 January 2013 15:29

E-learning trends: What to expect in 2013

E-learning trends: What to expect in 2013

By 2015 e-learning will have a global value of $107 billion according to market researcher Global Industry Analysts. It’s predicted that in 2013 digital learning is going to be increasingly mobile, opening it up to a wider local audience. In South Africa, 2.4 million people only access the internet via their cellphones, and e-learning developers are increasingly cognisant of this fact. Just as technology is shaping and changing the way we work, shop, and even meet our partners, it is going to increasingly change the way we learn, too.


“Gamification” is the current buzzword in the business world, and its roots lie in e-learning. It was first mentioned in relation to learning at the 2010 TED (Technology, Education and Design) conference by British technology theorist Tom Chatfield in a presentation headed “Seven Ways Gaming Rewards the Brain”. Put very simply, he discovered that harnessing what keeps people coming back to video games would make e-learning more compelling and successful.


In 2011 US gamers spent $17bn on video games and it’s estimated that the average American gamer spends up to 10 hours a week gaming. These kinds of figures make a compelling argument for using the principles of gamification in e-learning design and it’s likely to be the biggest trend in e-learning in 2013.


The fact that failure isn’t possible is one of the most compelling things about video games. If you don’t succeed, you just keep trying until you do – because you know that, ultimately, you will win. This kind of attitude, when applied to studying, boosts confidence and helps people persevere because grasping difficult new knowledge becomes more of a challenge and less of a chore. Expect to see more experience bars in e-learning courseware, which make learners’ progress “concrete” and reinforces it.


Expect to see more e-learning developers to realise the importance of interactivity, too, with built-in games, animations, sound clips and other multimedia making the material more immersive. The learning of the future is going to resemble a video game more than a textbook. Some argue that “generation Y”, having grown up in a “screenified” culture, will demand this kind of learning material as they will no longer relate to the type of teaching their parents experienced.


In my next piece I look at how social learning and learning on the go will influence learning in 2013.

Published in Skills Development
Thursday, 06 December 2012 16:04

E-learning: game on!

E-learning: game on!

Good e-learning and video games have a lot in common. They’re both designed to be fun. Both platforms are immersive, allow players to track their progress easily and reward them when they do well.


“Gamification” is a bit of a buzzword in the digital sphere and in the business world, too, right now. Essentially, it means using the principles behind gaming in non-gaming contexts to make them more fun.


E-learning’s biggest development since its inception in the 90s is that it has become an immersive experience. Where it used to be known for boring “click-through” screens, it’s now a dynamic, immersive, multimedia platform. Gamification can take e-learning to the next level and make it an even more interactive experience.


In a groundbreaking presentation at TED 2010, British technology theorist Tom Chatfield discussed the “Seven Ways Gaming Rewards the Brain”. Among them were the top three elements from the gaming world that apply to the e-learning sphere: experience bars, multiple long- and short-term aims and rewards for effort.


Experience bars in games track a gamer’s progress steadily, with every positive action on their part levelling up steadily. In e-learning students monitor their own progress and when they can actually see it grow in the shape of a bar their accomplishment takes on a more concrete shape – literally.


In terms of long- and short-term aims, Chatfield writes: “You break something down into many parallel tasks. You don’t just to say to someone, do 5,000 sums, or 100, or even 50: you create a whole spectrum of larger and smaller objectives that help people take ownership of their progress, and keep them feeling they are progressing and succeeding – as well as targeting particular sets of skills.”


One of the most useful gaming principles one can transfer to e-learning is that of reward for effort, says Chadwick. Many students have the negative experience of being punished for failure in their school career. As in a game, good e-learning material should rather reward and reinforce. Learners don’t fail. As Chatfield puts it, they simply “haven’t succeeded yet”.


That’s exactly the philosophy behind good e-learning. Everyone succeeds.

Published in Skills Development
Monday, 03 December 2012 14:14

Riding the Mobile Wave

Riding the Mobile Wave

“The mobile wave is going to sweep through and obliterate billions of jobs and millions of small businesses and that’s going to be viewed with trepidation by politicians, unions and businessmen, all three, because they’re going to see their world disrupted. But at the same time, it opens up the possibility for three or four billion people in the underclass to get a Ph.D.”


So says Michael Saylor, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of MicroStrategy and author of “The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence will Change Everything,” published earlier this year by Vanguard Press.


Saylor sees the agricultural revolution as a model for the changes the mobile wave will bring about. In 1850, 67 percent of Americans worked on farms. Thanks to vast improvements in farm technology which led to massive and rapid increases in productivity, today less than 2 percent of the US population is employed in agriculture. This allowed 65 percent of the population to shift away from farming learn new skills and contribute to the economy in other ways.


“For the civilisation to move forward we need to generate millions of new skills,” Saylor says. “The secret is education. Right now, we spend $2 trillion a year on education, and we spend it poorly. We teach people the same way we have for 100 years.”


But mobile can change all that. By moving education online, the best professors and teachers can expand the number of students able to learn from them. When textbooks move online and become software, they become “magical.” Students can inexpensively perform experiments online, simulating not only simple things, like boiling water, but things that are impossible now, like playing with a pendulum on Mars.


Even better, the incremental cost per student drops dramatically when learning goes mobile. Saylor predicts that a Ph.D., which can cost $100,000 to attain today, could be only $10,000 in the future. These newly minted minds will have the information and time they need to tackle civilisation’s most pressing problems, things like super strains of viruses which have become immune to present day antibiotics. Saylor has launched the Saylor Foundation (www.Saylor.org) to make his vision a reality. Based in Georgetown, it currently offers 13 areas of online college-level study, including biology, economics and mechanical engineering, at no cost to students.


But education is just one area being impacted for the better by the mobile wave.


New technologies will make our identities mobile, and “100 times easier to prove and 100 times more secure,” Saylor says, than current employee badges, credit cards, personal signatures and other credentials, which can be forged. Our mobile identities will have unique identifiers which change every few minutes, but which anyone on a mobile device can use to confirm that you are who you say you are.


Mobile identity technology will make it easier to control access to sensitive areas like schools, where we only want students, parents, teachers and other authorised personnel to enter. It will also make it possible to verify quickly your identity to someone thousands of miles away. This is the direction that MicroStrategy is moving with Usher, its free app which allows users to manage events with Facebook but which will become a virtual wallet for credentials. Saylor predicts that mobile identity technology will be widely used within the next five years.


Speaking of Facebook, Saylor says, “If you don’t use Facebook, my advice to anybody would be to become a Facebook user. It’s time to get on the bandwagon. You can’t really live outside of that stream.”


What’s the next big thing? “The most powerful idea in the world in the year 2012 is the software application network,” said Saylor. YouTube, Facebook and Wikipedia are examples of networks that allow people to share information and photos. “So what about a teaching network, a safety network, a payment network? All these things are living in the domain of plastic cards and pencils and pens now. They will become networks. I can’t say which one will commercialise first, but we’re already investing in intelligence networks (MicroStrategy’s Wisdom app) and identity networks (the future of MicroStrategy’s Usher app).”


In Saylor’s book, mobile Internet is the fifth wave of computing, following the mainframe, the mini-computer, the desktop computer and the Internet PC. So what’s the sixth wave? “The point that we cross the man-machine interface and we’re able to receive information and give an instruction without our hands or our voice – a direct neural link,” Saylor says. “At this point, the entire world becomes merged with cyberspace, like the holodeck on Star Trek.”

Published in Mobile
Monday, 19 November 2012 15:59

Five management training myths busted

Five management training myths busted

It’s too expensive. I’ll lose valuable time. My staff aren’t really interested. In almost two decades developing people I’ve seen many reasons for skimping on staff training, especially management training. In the current economic climate, businesses are more likely than ever to sacrifice training for the sake of the bottom line. Most of the reasons I hear for not training new managers are based on myth, not fact. There are five myths in particular that I come across most often.

Myth #1: I can’t afford to train my management staff

You can’t afford not to. Good management training has a trickle-down effect, and well-trained management will be better equipped to train the teams they lead. Well-trained teams have been found to be more motivated, more productive and more valuable to a business, and investing in training is one of the best ways to increase your bottom line.

Myth #2: Mentorship isn’t practical

One-on-one mentorship in the traditional sense of the word certainly isn’t practical in today’s business world. Group mentorship, though, is a very useful way of giving a team of trainees in a large company regular contact with a member of senior management. This contact gives mentees the benefit of learning from their mentor as well as from other mentees’ experience, and eliminates the expense of a trainer.

Myth #3: E-learning is only for distance learners

E-learning is a well-known affordable training method, but it’s often thought that it’s designed for distance learning only. This isn’t the case. Digital training is a cost-effective solution for many types of businesses, and it’s an especially good idea in the case of businesses with a high staff turnover where repeated training can become a very big expense that could be avoided. It’s also very versatile – it can be delivered via the web, audio or DVD – and trainees can learn in their own time.

Myth #4: Weekend workshops work

They don’t. There is only so much the human brain can absorb in a set amount of time. In fact, educational psychologists say that if you want to remember what you study it’s better to study for one hour over a few days than to study for a few hours in one day. Weekend workshops, where employees often spend hours at a time trying to absorb and retain reams of new information, simply aren’t very effective.

Myth #5: I’ll lose time

No matter how you decide to train your staff, any time lost will be worth it as you’ll profit in the long run. If you really don’t want to lose time, consider group mentorship, where meetings are held only a few times a week, or e-learning, where employees study in their own time. Even if you choose classroom training, remember: every hour you invest in management training is an hour invested in a well-managed business.

Published in Skills Development
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