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The Rise of Online Education

The Rise of Online Education


Global hype around online education is punctuated with faraway words that portray widespread, worldwide adoption of the practice as a distant reality, located somewhere off in the vicinity of “the way of the future” – wherever that may be.  

The reality? Online learning is an idea dating all the way back to the original invention of personal computers. In fact, the first recorded virtual classroom was launched at the University of Illinois in the 1960s. Today, over 6 million students worldwide are pursuing a degree online, one course at a time. 

How did we get here?
The University of Phoenix (USA) rocked the academic world in the late 1990s making full academic degree programmes available online and, for the first time, working professionals had the option of earning a degree or credit-bearing diploma without attending university lectures. 

Since then, online education has continued to develop, evolving from traditional distance-learning programmes, by leveraging exciting emerging technologies to combine synchronous (simultaneous) and asynchronous activities, and to encourage collaboration, exploration, and application of skills. 

Year of the MOOC
The New York Times declared 2012 the year of the MOOC: the Massive Open Online Course. Organisations like edX and Coursera disrupted the traditional education paradigm by offering world-class courses from respected universities online, and mostly for free – educating thousands at a time. MOOCs offered unprecedented access to excellent academic materials, but due to their large student numbers, could only offer limited learner-support, and no full academic programmes, leading to extremely low completion rates. 

What’s the difference between a MOOC and the latest online course delivery formats?
The primary differentiators between MOOCs and the latest online courses, like those offered by UCT and GetSmarter in South Africa, are:


Disrupting education, not your life 
For working professionals, online education represents a revolution, as online classes and activities allow for a schedule in which they can easily manage their learning tasks while still being able to attend to their other commitments, and course materials are readily available whenever they are needed. 

While online education allows you to master your own, independent learning schedule, it can still offer an enriching student community experience. Collaborative activities, like forums, allow you to network with other working professionals in relevant industries, and grow your professional network as you develop your skills. 

Across Africa: UCT and GetSmarter leading the way in online learning on the continent
In partnership with GetSmarter, UCT has launched Africa’s first two Postgraduate Diplomas to be delivered online. The launch will increase access to these prestigious qualifications presented by Africa’s top university: the UCT Postgraduate Diploma in Management in Marketing, and the UCT Advanced Diploma in Business Project Management signify a new era for education in the country.  

 “It is a privilege to partner with such a forward-thinking university to deliver these esteemed postgraduate diploma programmes to learners across Africa,” reports Sam Paddock, CEO of GetSmarter, “We look forward to opening the doors of opportunity for those seeking to advance their learning through part-time, distance education.”

Are you interested in advancing your career online with the leading university in Africa – while retaining full-time employment? Find out more about UCT’s pioneering online postgraduate programmes

Online Qualifications

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