Thursday, 23 July 2015

Barriers to Educational Technology Adoptions in Developing Economies

Technology can play a hugely positive role in education – from connected devices in classrooms to distance learning over vast geographical distances. It can improve student levels of achievement, increase motivation and provide supporting resources that otherwise might not be available. However, in developing economies there are often several hurdles that need to be overcome in order to implement and use these technologies.


Electrical power

It goes without saying that electrical power is required to run technology, and this can provide quite a challenge in a developing economy that does not have the necessary electrical infrastructure. In South Africa there is also the issue of loadshedding, which renders electrical power supply erratic and intermittent. Until power is widely available, reliable and affordable for many in Africa and elsewhere, educational technology uptake will be slow. At the same time there are a number of ways to address this problem. The best way is to expand the electricity grid to include as many areas and people as possible. This should be a priority. There are also solar power solutions where panels are installed to power the technology and devices. A third option is that of a generator or inverter, which will supply electrical power to the necessary devices in order to make technology in education a reality.


Internet connectivity

The next common technological requirement that can assist in education – and that makes distance education possible – is Internet connectivity. A reliable and fast enough connection is required to access the resources that are available, and this needs to be implemented in a cost-effective way. Broadband costs need to be kept as low as possible to allow people in developing countries to access the Internet. Increased Internet accessibility and increased bandwidth are unlikely to occur without commitment by governments and the involvement of private enterprise, such as the mobile phone service providers and operators. Fortunately in many countries these entities are coming onboard and rolling out connectivity as fast as possible. Easily accessible and affordable broadband would allow both teachers and students to access educational resources easily and cost-effectively. It would also allow resources and teaching aids to be used, for example video tutorials, podcasts and interactive study aids. These could be used in or outside the classroom. Students would be able to access these resources at home, to further bolster their studies and allow them to effectively receive extra lessons outside of the classroom.


Training and professional development

Teachers who have been brought up in a world with limited technology can find it difficult to use technology and support learners. This needs to be addressed by implementing technology training programmes for teachers. The training does not have to be intensive as most of the technology is user-friendly and intuitive once the basic knowledge is there.


The value placed on teachers

Teachers are the cornerstones of society, as upon them rests the responsibility of educating future generations. They therefore need to be properly valued. Here technology can play a role as well. It can help them to elevate their skills and aid their professional development, leading to them being more knowledgeable and adept, which in turn would lead to them being more highly valued in society as highly skilled resources. Remuneration needs to be sufficient to allow them to focus solely on their teaching careers – people cannot focus on teaching if they must hold several part-time jobs in order to support themselves and their families. In countries like South Africa there is also a shortage of skilled, qualified teachers, which needs to be addressed at the tertiary education level. More people need to be encouraged to take up teaching as a profession, and be given access to the right kind of teacher education.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Entrepreneurial Role Models & Entrepreneurial Intention

There’s no doubt that role models play an important role in the lives of many people, especially young people. So it stands to reason that those who are exposed to entrepreneurial role models at a young age – and even later on in their lives – might be more encouraged to start businesses. Let’s have a look at this idea in a bit more detail.


The influence of role models

A role model can be broadly defined as an individual who sets an example that can be copied by others and who stimulates or inspires others to make certain decisions. The decisions that people make to engage in certain behaviours or to adopt certain ideas are often influenced by the behaviour and opinions of others and the examples that they present themselves. For this reason, role models in the media have a significant influence on the thinking and ideas of people. They are also increasingly being recognised as influencing young people’s career decisions.

Many successful entrepreneurs the world over say that their decision to start their businesses was due to the influence of role models. These role models have often been entrepreneurs themselves, ranging from the likes of famous entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs to role models that are closer to home, like friends, colleagues and family.

The first role models we encounter in life are our parents – and indeed, we see that there is a definite link between a parent having been an entrepreneur and their children taking the same course in life. Afterwards, networks and peer groups provide role models, in addition to the media – for example, documentaries on famous entrepreneurs.


Role models influencing entrepreneurial intention

In a previous article we looked at the role that entrepreneurial education plays in encouraging entrepreneurial intent among students. What we now find is that, while this does make a difference, what is an even more important factor in determining whether a person will go out and start a business is his or her exposure to entrepreneurial role models[1]. Studies have found that the role models that budding entrepreneurs mentioned as having the most influence on their decision to start businesses were parents and peers, followed by famous people and teachers. The main function of these role models is that they provide the ability to learn by example. It is also interesting to note that female students were more influenced by role models, but male students were generally more likely to start businesses and reported higher entrepreneurial intention.

Several conclusions have come through from these studies[2].

These include:
1) Role models make a difference when it comes to choosing an entrepreneurial career.
2) Role models are seen by start-up entrepreneurs as being influential people.
3) Role models can compensate for a lack of entrepreneurial experience.
4) Role models that “match” the student’s characteristics (e.g. gender, nationality) have a higher level of influence.
5) Closer role models (family, colleagues, acquaintances) have a higher impact than famous personalities.

So it seems that the influence of a role model is a very important factor in a person’s decision to become an entrepreneur. For this reason it is necessary for educational institutions to include appearances or talks by role models as part of their curricula. We often see this use of “icons” in other areas, like healthy lifestyle achievement, sports and the arts. What is necessary is that students be exposed to entrepreneurial role models in the same way. This can have a strong effect on the entrepreneurial intentions of the students.

Notes: 1. Hongyi Sun, Impact of role models on the entrepreneurial intentions of engineering students, City Univ. of Hong Kong 2. Niels Bosma, Jolanda Hessels, Veronique Schutjens, Mirjam van Praag, Ingrid Verheul, Entrepreneurship and Role Models, 2011

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Entrepreneurship Education and Entrepreneurship Intention

Entrepreneurship plays a very important role in a developing economy such as South Africa’s. It helps to create wealth, create jobs, increase economic efficiency and encourage technological innovation. Therefore it is highly desirable that education fosters an entrepreneurial intention among students. We can simplify this intention as the desire to start a business.

The importance of entrepreneurship education

If we look at the main traits of entrepreneurial intention we find that these are the appetite for risk taking, the person’s self sufficiency, their effectiveness, having been exposed to entrepreneurial activity and their gender[1]. Entrepreneurship education is an important precursor to entrepreneurial activity and there is a clear link between the two.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) identifies entrepreneurial education as one of the key entrepreneurship factors that enhance new business creation. The latest GEM Global Report of 2014 finds that education is a key factor in building an entrepreneurial culture, particularly the education of young people at primary and secondary levels. It stresses that entrepreneurial education at an early age is a key element in fostering an entrepreneurial attitude in later life. This is so because it enhances entrepreneurial qualities like proactiveness, innovativeness and taking responsibility for one’s own choices.

The importance of entrepreneurship in South Africa

Because South Africa is a developing economy with a high rate of unemployment, entrepreneurship is one of the main ways that people are able to earn an income and – importantly – create income earning opportunities for others. In short, entrepreneurship creates jobs. In a country with an unemployment rate that varies between 25% and 40% depending on the source of the statistics, this is vitally important.

For this reason entrepreneurship education and a higher level of entrepreneurship intention can play a major role in addressing the country’s economic challenges. Higher levels of entrepreneurship intention will see more people starting businesses, which hopefully succeed and provide increasingly more people with jobs. The ripple effect of higher levels of entrepreneurship intention is that there will be an increased number of new business ventures, leading to more job creation, which in turn leads to higher levels of economic activity, especially amongst the youth. The result is a more robust economy and a more productive society, which can ultimately reduce crime levels as well.

Entrepreneurship and education in South Africa

There are some specific skills that running a business requires, such as managerial, financial and operational skills. These are the type of skills that education needs to provide young people with, so that they are equipped to go out and start successful businesses once they have completed their educations.

While we’ve identified that entrepreneurial education has to start at a primary level, there is a need for it at a tertiary level as well. In fact the mere transition from secondary to tertiary education brings with it a whole cluster of personal characteristics that need to be developed, which are also important for entrepreneurship. Students need to be transitioned from the hand-holding and spoon-feeding that so many schools provide, to a more independent way of learning that is required at a university. With all its freedoms, students to take more responsibility for their own educational success.

Tertiary entrepreneurial education also plays a major role in entrepreneurship in the sense that a more highly educated person is more likely to start a sustainable business. This has placed further emphasis on the need for South Africa to develop entrepreneurship training programmes among the youth. The way that entrepreneurship is often expressed in South African is through people starting informal businesses. This highlights the need for entrepreneurial education, given the importance of informal businesses in the South African economy, which are estimated to contribute 20% to national GDP.

1. Zhang, Duysters & Cloodt, The role of entrepreneurship education as a predictor of university students’ entrepreneurial intention Springer Science Business Media 2013

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Role of Motivation in Learning

It’s pretty clear that motivation plays a large role in learning. In fact, student motivation is one of the most important factors in the successful transfer and attainment of knowledge.

What is motivation?

Motivation is something that energises, directs and sustains behaviour. When this behaviour is learning a subject, the energy that motivation provides gives the necessary impetus to approach the learning tasks. It gets students going on the learning tasks and helps to keep them going. This assumes that there is a certain inertia that needs to be overcome, otherwise known as resistance. Because learning involves effort, no matter how much the student may enjoy the subject, there is always a certain amount of resistance that needs to be overcome. It may be resistance because there is something more relaxing that the student wants to do, or resistance to a particularly difficult task, or resistance that arises out of physical or mental tiredness. Whatever the resistance, it needs to be overcome in order for the student to begin the task. Motivation provides the impetus and energy to overcome this resistance.

Motivation also directs the energy and impetus in the right direction, helping to identify which tasks to tackle. And once the student has begun the task, motivation helps to sustain the effort, often in the face of distractions or a lack of will to carry on. So the role of motivation is a central one.

Extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation

We can identify two types of motivation: extrinsic (external) and intrinsic (internal). As an example, let’s look at two students studying the same course. Student A is taking the course because it will help her to gain a scholarship at the university of her choice. There is an external motivator that gives her direction and impetus. This is extrinsic motivation.

Student B has a deep interest in the subject and wants to learn as much about it as she can. She wants to develop her skills in the subject and is enjoying learning these. These are motivations that originate within her self, making them intrinsic.

Both types of motivations can be equally powerful, so one is not necessarily better than the other. However, in general it has been found that intrinsic motivation is more likely to produce beneficial effects and to sustain effort. There is a more willingness and eagerness to learn and achieve at a high level. Whereas those who are extrinsically motivated often need more enticement and prodding to continue with the task, and often process information more superficially, doing the minimum to meet requirements[1].

How motivation affects learning

We can identify several effects that motivation has on learning…

Increased energy and effort
Motivation directly influences the amount of energy that is expended towards achieving tasks and goals. A motivated person typically displays more energy and puts in more effort.

Increased persistence
Motivation allows a person to persevere at a task. Students are more likely to tackle a task if they are motivated – if they really want to do it. They are also more likely to persist with the task in the face of difficulties.

Directed behaviour
Individuals who are motivated set goals themselves and direct their actions towards those goals. The need to achieve these goals then becomes further motivation to drive behaviour in that direction.

Enhanced performance
Motivated individuals often display higher levels of performance. Motivation generally leads to improved performance. Due to the increased energy, persistence and directed behaviour we spoke about above, students who are motivated tend to perform at the highest levels in the classroom.

Improved concentration
Motivation increases a student’s willingness and ability to concentrate on the material that needs to be mastered. Motivated students pay more attention and make more effort to understand the material and to learn it in a meaningful way, rather than merely rote learning it, for instance.

Increased reinforcement and reward
When students are motivated they are more likely to experience successful task completion as a rewarding experience and it is more likely that this sense of reward will further reinforce their motivation. A motivated individual is more likely to be proud of an achievement and disappointed at a failure than an individual who doesn’t have the same motivation.

1. (A. E. Gottfried, Fleming, & Gottfried, 2001; Reeve, 2006; Schiefele, 1991; Tobias, 1994).