Entrepreneur soars after free online learning
Entrepreneurship is an idea that appeals to many. But figuring out how to start a business can sometimes be overwhelming .
That was the situation of Kaimuri Karauki Njeru, Founding and Partnerships Director at Learning Differently Limited in late 2019. She wanted to start her social enterprise, but she did not know how to package it for the end-user.
“I had an idea of what services I wanted to offer, but I didn’t know how to go about it. Then, I didn’t have any business skills. I had even done market research, but I was stuck since I didn’t know where to start,” she says.
Luckily in 2020, she came across an opportunity from Distance Education for Africa (DeAfrica) to undertake design thinking and strategic planning courses, which helped her develop a product that was marketable and user-centric.
“I enrolled for two courses free of charge. The courses opened up my mind to diverse ways of reaching the local market. I hope to take more units , especially in project management and maybe, coding,” she says.
Today, Karauki’s enterprise, Learning Differently Limited, whose aim is to provide affordable and accessible interventions to learning disabilities using the Internet space develops different learning resource centres that provide teaching materials to enable a teacher to apply inclusive learning skills in the classroom. The resources can be used for home support and individual use by learners with learning disabilities.
Karauki is not the only beneficiary of this programme. Since its inception seven years ago, DeAfrica has offered about 37,000 scholarships to African entrepreneurs from 54 African countries. Recipients have free access to online courses in subjects such as business strategy, design thinking, project management, and growth strategies.
The not-for-profit education outreach organisation collaborates with the University of Virginia (UVA) and Coursera, to offer scholarships to students with no business background, who wish to gain business skills, aspiring business professionals as well as business professionals and entrepreneurs across Africa under their African Scholarship Cohort (ASC) programme.
“ASC programme offers online courses for in-demand skills. Its main objectives are to expand access to high-quality education in Africa, provide in-demand skills to modernise Africa, train new generations of African leaders, and conduct research,” says Sidiki Traore, DeAfrica President, and Founder.
The programme, he says, aims to tackle the challenges of poverty, lack of access to quality education, and rampant unemployment in Africa. “We are committed to drastically increasing equitable access to high-quality, demand-driven, flexible, cost-effective, and affordable education and training by skilling, upskilling and reskilling communities in Africa to create lasting gender equity and economic impact through education,” says Sidiki.
And what motivated him to start this programme? He says that he started the programme after realising that there are so many Africans who are interested in entrepreneurship, yet many of them don’t have access to education to build skills in these areas. Apart from that, some are already in business, yet they don’t have the required skills.
“I also realised that many African students cannot afford the cost of online courses or travelling to learn abroad and thus the need for such opportunities,” shares Sidiki.
Since distance and online learning are still relatively new to most Africans, the courses are designed in such a way that they are effective on a range of devices including cell phones, tablets, and laptops. The organisation also has support networks to provide a sense of community for all participants. This support, enables them to access the content, learn new skills, and then share their experiences.
“We have designed this programme in accord with the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework. This framework balances cognitive presence (reading, lectures, and assignments), teaching presence (regional mentors), and social presence (graduation ceremonies and groups),” he adds.
Sidiki reveals that the University of Virginia Darden School of Business creates the courses and Coursera, which is a global technology platform, publishes those courses. After that, DeAfrica provides regional support with localised resources to support participants in online courses.
“Online courses created by Darden are delivered to ASC participants through Coursera. The platform provides accessibility accommodations such as transcripts, which can then be localised,” he says.