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Lifelong Learning

In a sluggish economy and a workplace that is transforming at a speed that can make your head spin, how can entrepreneurs ride out the uncertainty and the changes?

Monique Verduyn

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In the Future Work Skills 2020 report, the Apollo Research Institute found that the future workplace will require ongoing education to master new and emerging skills, and gain knowledge of disciplines outside our own area of expertise.

According to the report, longer lifespans will enable us to experience multiple careers over our working lives. That means adults in their middle and later years will become more common faces at business schools and universities. Staying on top of technology and new media is also critical in a technology-driven world. As clearly stated in the Future Work Skills report, the workers of tomorrow will need to be adaptable, lifelong learners.

Short courses

When it comes to short courses at universities and higher-learning organisations, Professor Amanda Dempsey, Faculty of Economic and Financial Sciences Executive Dean at University of Johannesburg, says it’s important to choose an established organisation. “Avoid fly by night institutions which offer questionable courses. Universities are safe and regulated environments where content is proven and up-to-date.”

She notes that economic development is a much needed area of expertise in the country, which makes courses in finance and accounting very popular.

“Short courses are attractive options for people who are in the workplace and either want to beef up their skills or make a small shift in their careers,” Dempsey says. “It’s important to do some homework and ensure that you know the NQF level of the course you are interested in. There is no point doing a course which is at NQF level 4 when you already have a university degree, for instance.”

She also advises prospective students to be aware of the demands of their work environment. “You may have the best of intentions, but if you cannot come to class or complete your assignments on time because of work demands, you will not be successful.”On the whole, she notes, adult learners are far more likely to succeed than first-time students as they tend to be focused in what they want to do and have a more mature approach to their studies.

Going online

Many working adults who cannot afford to ignore their ongoing professional development, can’t just quit their job and complete a full-time course. Nor do they have time for evening classes. That’s where online learning makes sense.

“Online courses offer all of the benefits of a physical classroom, without the rigid limitations of classroom scheduling and travel requirements,” says Rob Paddock, MD of online education company GetSmarter. “The popularity of online education in South Africa is growing exponentially. Most of our students haven’t studied since they finished University, but once they get started, they find the experience of completing an online course and learning new skills deeply satisfying.”

Paddock says there are significant benefits to going the online route: “You can continue your studies without quitting your job. You can engage in a rich and interactive learning experience with access to a subject expert and a community of fellow learners, and you get access to support and motivation to help keep your studies on track.”

He advises people to seek proof from students who have studied with an online learning provider before signing up. “Make sure you speak to a past student who can give you feedback on the institution’s administrative and academic service. Also, ensure that the provider offers courses which are accredited by a reputable institution.

Working with a coach

Professional coaching focuses on using a person’s strengths to enable them to achieve their goals or overcome challenges. An experienced coach uses tools to get straight to the fundamentals of your success or your problems, instead of trying to cure the symptoms.

“A professional coach will help you to identify which skills to develop,” says Axel Rittershaus, president, Cape Town Chapter, International Coaching Federation. “It does not make sense to develop skills for the wrong reason, which often happens with training. If the real goals and needs are identified, your coach will keep you going towards your goal and help you to improve with every interaction.”

Harry Welby-Cook, head of ActionCOACH SA, says coaching is not a quick fix, but it is an excellent choice for people who feel they may have reached a plateau in their personal development and want to move to the next level. “Our clients have often seen their turnover double or triple following their engagement with a coach. One client achieved 600% growth. A lot depends on how invested you are in the process.”

Coaching is not regulated, so make sure you engage with someone who has an education and a verifiable qualification. “The ICF recommends at least 60 hours of coaching training,” says Rittershaus. “Don’t settle for someone with business experience only, as they will not have coaching know-how.”

He also recommends finding a coach who has ‘real world’ experience in business.

You have to be able to trust your coach. It’s essential to meet with them and get an impression of the person to see if he or she is right for you. “Empathy and trust are critical as you will be sharing information about yourself and answering some tough personal questions,” Rittershaus adds.

Top Tips

Never stop learning
Turn knowledge into experience.

Long-term business success relies on continuous personal growth. Achieving that means being better today than you were yesterday, and being better tomorrow than you are today. A common mistake for many entrepreneurs is that they “just don’t have time” to work on the things that will make them better at what they do. They get caught up in the daily operations of their business and can’t see past that. You may have heard the old saying that some things are urgent and some are important, but few things are both. Many business owners spend their time on the urgent things because their lack of planning and long-term perspective continually creates additional urgent things. Self-education is a good example of something that is extremely important but not at all urgent.

What you must do is immerse yourself in data and make it your goal to absorb and understand that information, turn it into knowledge and then use that knowledge to gain experience. This, of course, is a long-term task, and the main reason most people fail to stay with it is because the feedback loop is so long. It often takes months of hard work before you start to see positive changes — you won’t see the changes as they happen, but you’ll look back one day and be amazed at how much your judgement and business skills have grown. You’ll feel yourself start to think more clearly, you’ll understand more of what you see and hear, and your entrepreneurial vision will become clearer.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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“Free” Online Courses Versus Interactive Classroom Courses

The Internet is currently abuzz with advertisements for “free” online language courses and online education.

Wits Language School

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While developments in technology have undoubtedly created opportunities for more people to access education, the question still remains as to whether it is actually possible to learn a language solely with the use of an online platform. Whilst there are numerous advantages to using online platforms, there are equally as many disadvantages.

Benefits of face-to-face language learning

Online platforms are limited in their capacity to support group discussions, as well as the engagement with language facilitators and tutors. Many platforms are also unable to cope with the thousands of students that try to join online discussions. Language learners benefit greatly from human interaction within a classroom. Mark Edmundson (2012), an English professor at the University of Virginia, argued that online education creates a “monologue and not a real dialogue” in the learning environment.

Classroom environments allow learners to express their opinions, participate in debates, and engage in face-to-face interaction with classmates and their instructor.

Related: Ongoing Learning For Leaders

Language facilitators are responsible for explaining material, answering questions and guiding learning based on students’ needs and language levels in real time. From an online perspective, this resource becomes diluted, as often there exists back and forth communication between the student and the facilitator over an extended period of time. Within a classroom environment, learners are immersed in the language and encouraged to speak. Learning takes place in a pro-active way with a balance of learner-facilitator interaction and group work. Language learners receive undivided attention from the facilitator, and the pace and content of the tuition is thus tailored to the learner accordingly.

Two of the benefits of online courses are that they offer flexibility and convenient accessibility; however, they also require a greater amount of self-discipline, reading and time-management skills. Online courses tend to make it easier to procrastinate and they create a sense of isolation. These elements are not conducive to successful language learning. Motivation levels are likely to decrease when using online platforms, as learners have no real external influences to help keep them motivated and inspired.

The quality and accreditation of online language courses is also a concern to most learners, as many online courses lack valid accreditation and certification. It is crucial to enrol in a course that provides legitimate information and that is accredited with a relevant board or organisation. A course that does not provide valid accreditation will serve no purpose or advantage to the learner.

Wits Language School was established in 1997 and forms part of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Over the last 19 years, the school has built a reputation for providing high-quality language services and short learning programmes in a dynamic and international learning environment. Wits Language School endorses interactive teaching styles, uses up-to-date teaching methods, and employs experienced and highly qualified teachers who are mother-tongue speakers to assist all participants in their quest to learn a second language.

Related: Why You Should Keep Learning

Online learning should be considered a supplement and extension, rather than a replacement, to traditional classroom learning.

Moreover,  Wits Plus, the Centre for Part-Time Studies at the University of Witwatersrand, offers selected undergraduate degrees, as well as a wide range of short certificate courses. Evening classes make all qualifications accessible to working people and busy entrepreneurs. Wits Plus also offers a range of online short courses that enable you to study wherever you are. Certificates of Competence are awarded to successful participants for both certificate and online short courses

 

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Successful Adulting: Why Studying Isn’t So Scary

How to cope with studying as an adult.

Monash South Africa

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Balancing the various priorities that fill your day is one of the greatest differences between studying as an adult and studying when you have just finished school. Students who have just finished school often only have their studies to focus on, whereas adults with full-time work commitments and/or a family to take care of have more on their plates.

While this is not to say that all new students having finished school do not have these priorities — more and more do these days — they also seem to have more support from the family unit. Adult students need to start their degrees with clear strategies to succeed.

Here are a few tips.

1. Make a time and a place that you can dedicate to your studies

This should allow you to work without interruption. Having your family understand and respect these boundaries is very important and critical to you doing well. If you have defined time to work, you can spend time freely with them once you are done.

Related: Struggle To Stay On Task At The Office? A New Study Says You’re Not The Only One

2. Find balance between the various aspects of your life

The best way to do this is to not fill too many hours with unnecessary work. Work or studying can easily expand to fill any amount of time you allow, and so you have to manage this so that you have enough time to work, study, relax, and do all the other things that are important to you, all the while remembering that time on task is important to your successful future.

3. If you do not understand, you should ask questions

Don’t be shy! As lecturers, we appreciate questions and enquiring minds. Understanding something now may mean the difference between passing or failing in future, so ask questions sooner rather than later.

4. Form a small study group with others

There is nothing more motivating than being on the same path as others. Everyone has different skill sets and abilities, and members of your study group will help you gain a new perspective on your work.

5. Find a mentor that you can learn good habits from and whose input you value

It takes a lot of courage to find a good mentor, but this relationship will benefit you in years to come. The key is to find someone who is in a place in life that you admire, either from a personal or professional perspective.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

6. Don’t fall behind with your studies and make sure you keep up to date

Take time to check that your notes are updated, in order and make sense. The best way to do this is to use some time after lessons each day to go over that day’s work to be sure you have the work well summarised and in a form that you can use for revision. Another impactful way to check your understanding of a topic is to find a friend in the class who needs help, and help them. You cannot explain the work if you don’t understand it. If you are not brave enough to do this, then draw a face on an orange or an apple and explain the work to the fruit!

Pulling it all together

Starting and completing a degree as an adult student is not as overwhelming as it may appear at first. The key is to break it down into small, manageable steps. By putting positive, constructive habits in place and surrounding yourself with a support system, you will not only obtain your degree, but enjoy the process of learning and growing.

If you’re ready to take the next step and fast forward your career, learn more about Monash South Africa’s MSA Executive education programme at www.msa.ac.za/msaexec/what-we-offer/.

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Enhance Your Entrepreneurial Flair With An Online Postgraduate Diploma From The University Of Pretoria

The Department of Business Management at the University of Pretoria, a leader in business management education, will be offering an Online Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship for the 2018 academic year with some seminars to enrich your action learning experience.

Dr Alex Antonites

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The Department of Business Management at the University of Pretoria, a leader in business management education, will be offering an Online Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship for the 2018 academic year with some seminars to enrich your action learning experience.

The programme content focuses on the start-up processes, creativity and opportunity recognition, business planning and marketing as well as financial management. Furthermore, the programme emphasises entrepreneurial growth and small business policy development with relevance to the enabling environment.

Who should enrol?

The programme is designed for pre-, nascent and start-up entrepreneurs who want to attain an advanced degree in entrepreneurship. It is also intended for individuals who work in an entrepreneurial environment and are involved with small business policy development. Although many students in the programme have academic credentials in entrepreneurship or business management, the programme is also appropriate if your education and/or experience may be in other disciplines (e.g. engineering or medicine).

Admission requirements

A relevant bachelor’s degree.

Related: This Enterprises UP Expert Explains Why Start-Ups Really Fail

Additional programme information

The duration of the course is one year. The language of tuition is English and the course will be presented in two blocks by means of the blended learning method (70% online and 30% contact sessions). Students need continuous access to the internet to complete the course.

Course Contents

Overview of modules for Block A

  • Ideation-to-market: Starting up
  • International Business Venturing
  • Venturing Strategy Building (Part 1)

Overview of modules for Block B

  • Entrepreneurial Marketing
  • Entrepreneurial Supply Chain Management
  • Entrepreneurial Finance
  • Venturing Strategy Building (Part 2)

Click here for more information.

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