I have bored audiences for years now, repeating that scaling management or any other kind of higher education in low-income regions would only be achieved via mobile phones. That is because relatively few people in Africa, India and other parts of the developing world have computers, but virtually everyone has access to mobile phones. What was missing until now was a sustainable business model for mobile education in low-income environments.
I am thrilled that Silicon Valley’s One University Network (OUN) and Nairobi’s Strathmore University are pioneering a partnership to offer degree courses on phones, a worldwide first. OUN offers a platform for competency-based education, allowing students to move at their own pace. OUN provides coaches who mentor individual students and collect fees from students, which are shared with partnering universities and telecom companies. Strathmore Business School (SBS), a member of GBSN’s Executive Board, produces content, provides faculty advisers, and takes charge of exams and awarding degrees. SBS’s program will be launched in June.
Students begin each class with a diagnostic assessment, which helps OUN determine what knowledge and skills they possess and where they should focus their studies. Students also complete a study plan, which is updated as they progress. Once they meet SBS admission criteria, students can take degree courses from any location. Materials include lectures, case materials, video clips, animations, etc.
OUN plans to grow a network of partnerships with leading universities, each offering locally relevant content, so that a student can choose from offerings by several African and other universities. OUN will also partner with telecommunication companies and cover payments. The companies will see their data sales increase without the cost of collecting from individual students.
In five years, tens of thousands of students across Africa and other developing regions may be able to earn graduate degrees from respected universities, using their mobile phones.
In 1792, after witnessing the battle of Valmy, the first time conscripts defeated a professional army, Goethe exclaimed: “I was there”. I feel the same way.
Guy Pfeffermann is the Founder & CEO of the Global Business School Network