How Can Cloud Computing Impact Higher Education Positively in Africa?

One could define cloud computing as an internet based computing where by shared resources, software and information are provided for computers and devices on demand. A lot of people have talked about cloud computing. Their ideas have summed up the basic task of cloud computing. Steve Jobs, late chairman of Apple (1997) said “I don’t need a hard disk in my computer if I can get to the server faster… carrying around these non-connected computers is byzantine by comparison.”

Currently, cloud computing has become a significant and major trend both big and small businesses, governments, individuals use cloud computing to make everyday life less complicated. One aspect of society which is strongly influenced by the concept of cloud computing is Education. Nelson Mandela once said that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ Education is one essential tool which every individual is entitled to.

Before the introduction of cloud computing, the process of gaining Higher education was tedious and stressful one. Students and faculty were both faced with all sorts of dreary tasks like… ‘I WONT DO ALL THE WORK FOR YOU. Go look for said tasks’.

This is where the benefits of cloud computing comes in to make education less stressful on both to students and teachers. Since this paper is targeting higher education in Africa, let us discuss the roots of education in Africa. Africa is a continent that is in the process of figuring out its path in education in relation to advanced technology.

Cloud computing has the potential to change the face of Education in Africa while ensuring that everyone gets access to said education. Africa is made up of a lot of countries, some being much developed than others in terms of technology in education. But the baseline is ‘how can cloud computing effectively benefit and impact higher education in Africa?’

• It allows students to have access to learning materials from any location
• It facilitates the day to day operations of institutions that provide this service
• It helps teachers easily keep track of student progress
• Allows for easy identification and authentication meaning only those supposed to have access to materials and other stuff will as opposed to books and paper records where anyone can have access

With the integration of cloud computing services into higher education in Africa, the use of textbooks, hard copy papers on journals and handwritten notes will be at its minimal. Notes, articles and all other soft copy documents can be retrieved from the cloud server at any time to use. Students do not have to carry heavy books around any more. All reading material that has a soft copy can be uploaded to the cloud.

Also, the use of floppy disk, external hard drives, pen drives will be used less or possibly not all. Instead of carrying around these items that will contain your important documents, you can easily access it from your cloud provider. Currently almost all software supports the cloud. Adobe and others like Microsoft have made provision for these services and it is so convenient for individual use. So, you forgetting your flash drive somewhere and not having access to your documents will not be happening any more or your document being corrupted. You can have access to your documents anywhere at any time. Also, it will save a student’s money… You don’t need to spend money on a flash drive or an external.

To the benefit of both the teacher and the student, issuing assignments have become really simple and every student is assured of having access to it. The problem with copying assignments from friends is that the information is not always accurate. There is something always missing. So now, whether you are in class or not, a student is assured of having access to assignments in its original correct form. There is no need for a stack of printed assignments to be distributed to over a hundred students for instance.

It is not just the staff and the student body that can enjoy from the cloud. Administration of the school can also benefit from the cloud. School administration can send notices concerning the students via the cloud. Instead of pasting papers and postures on the notice boards, it can be uploaded to the cloud for easy access. How easy is that?

Technically, everyone benefits from the cloud. Last but not the least; virtual classrooms have become realistic in the African higher institutions using the cloud. On-line courses can now be put in full force because every activity, research notes, lecture voice tutorials, assignments and all relevant documents can now be uploaded to the cloud. All students can have full access to the same information at all times. With this, people who cannot attend class like regular students due to day time jobs or other related events can equally have access to information just as a regular student does.

I am concentrating on higher education because that is the level of education in Africa where the cloud concept can be effectively implemented. They have access to technological infrastructure like phones, laptops, tablets etc. that can support the use of the cloud and it is quite feasible to be implemented at this level.

There are still challenges related to implementing the use of the cloud in the higher education but it is a process that looks achievable. As Benjamin Franklin said ‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’.

Higher Education Quality – Quality Assurance Ideas For Higher Education

Even in the past, the primary focus not only of the government, but of every family, is basic education.

This means that there must be solid foundation when it comes to the learners’ elementary and middle school years.

However, what is always left as next in line is higher education. Sometimes, the improvement of higher education becomes a sole responsibility of higher education institutions. As such, higher education quality is sacrificed.

Yet, this scenario should not happen. The knowledge acquired by learners during their early school years would all be placed to waste should they get no quality higher education.

There must be a continuous acquisition of knowledge so that learners would turn out to be better and more productive individuals.

In order to assure the quality of higher education institutions as well as of higher education in general, here are some of the steps that must be undertaken.

If these recommendations were be put to practice, not only the students, but the entire education stakeholders, would benefit from the results.

1. Review and revisit each course curriculum. The main reason why some curriculums tend not to be effective anymore is that they are already outdated. Some of the contents only address the needs of the learners in the past.

As education is alive and evolving, so are the needs of the learners. Therefore, each higher education institution must see to it that there are updates to the curriculum.

It must integrate the changes that are currently arising. It must also have corrective feedback on the errors, if there are any, of the previous curriculum.

By this, learners would see the educational process as more relevant and responsive to the call of the times.

2. Check the learners’ ability to apply theories learned. Another issue why higher education quality is always questioned is the learners’ ability to put to life what they have learned in the four corners of the classroom.

Some learners might be mentally capable and excellent when it comes to theories. However, when asked to go to the field, they could hardly practice what they have learned in school.

In short, learners were not prepared for real life tasks. It is therefore another issue that must be given priority. The content of the courses they are taking must have practical applications. By this, even in school, students can already anticipate what might probably happen in the real scenario.

The students however, should be assessed individually. At the end of the day, there must be an assurance that people who need to learn at a different pace are given that opportunity.

3. Give focus on faculty development. Sometimes, the success of every curriculum also depends on the teacher. No matter how great the planned curriculum is if the teacher could not carry it out well, then it would be useless.

Therefore, along with the updating of the curriculum is the updating of the teacher as well.

This holds true not only to new teachers, but to those who are teaching for quite some time already. Everyone in the academe needs to update themselves with current trends in order to give a better point of view during the discussion of the lesson.

The worst part is if students know more than teachers do. As such, faculty development must also be one of the targets.

4. Stop rewarding poor student performance with the theory that no one is left behind. It’s ridiculous to assume that every single student should move forward with their class if they are flunking out of school.

Let those that need to be held back, GET HELD BACK. Perhaps the stigma attached to doing better in school would be reaffirmed if students themselves were held to higher level of accountability.

These four are only some of the steps that must be undertaken to ensure quality higher education.

There are definitely a lot more things to be done to come up with only the best environment conducive for higher education.

This must be a constant battle to be done not only by one, but the entire learning environment.

An Entrepreneurial Development Framework for Institutions of Higher Education

Introduction

With increased globalization people have seen the need to increase wealth creation especially within the underdeveloped Third World. It has also become evident that neither the government nor the formal sector can supply the necessary job creation without a sustained effort and partnerships between all sectors of the economy. One means of creating work opportunities will be the development of entrepreneurial and innovative skills within the country. The creation of such job opportunities by encouraging entrepreneurial innovation has been well illustrated by Dana, Korot and Tovstiga (2005:12) in Silicon Valley, Israel, Singapore and the Netherlands. These authors report that in the narrow 35 mile by 10 mile corridor within Silicon Valley 6,500 technology enterprises are located. Singapore is home to almost 100,000 entrepreneurs and had a per capita GDP of US$42,948.00 during 2004 and an annual growth rate of 8.8% (Singapore Statistics, 2006).

In addition higher education has become a prime export commodity of total world services trade, amounting to a staggering 3% (Grundling & Steynberg, 2006:5). With the increased interest in entrepreneurial innovation as an economic driver there is a need to develop expertise within this area. Thus there is a need to develop entrepreneurial innovation knowledge within higher education institutions to ensure the maintenance of a competitive edge in an under developed market. Dana, et al. (2005:10) define knowledge as “the integration of information, ideas, experience, intuition, skills and lessons learned that creates added value for a firm”. In addition Dana et el. (2005) define innovation as “the process by which knowledge is transformed into new or significantly modified products and/or services that establish the firm’s competitive edge”. It can thus be seen that it is imperative that higher education in South Africa actively pursue a policy to encourage entrepreneurial innovation to ensure the creation of expertise, the development of new industries and the empowering of students to establish themselves within an entrepreneurial innovative culture. Higher education will be required to become a key player in domesticating knowledge and diffusing it into the economy in order to serve as engines for community development and social renewal (Grundling & Steynberg, 2006:6).

Problem statement

The research question under discussion is formulated as What minimum requirements should be set in an entrepreneurial and innovation framework in order to support entrepreneurial and innovation knowledge creation at institutions of higher education?

Purpose

This article attempts to develop a framework to encourage entrepreneurial thinking within a higher education environment, taking into account consideration policy and infrastructural requirements, knowledge creation fundamentals and institutional arrangements.

Policy intervention

Policy initiatives within higher education institutions are essential to establish guidance for entrepreneurs, funding agencies, industry, labour in general and for students and institutions of higher education in particular. From a higher education perspective government as well as institutional policy requirements will be discussed in brief.

·Government policies

If this is to be accomplished it will require government intervention to construct policies which should include the reduction of taxation in the form of capital gains tax rate, providing incentives for increased spending on research and development, encouraging active venture capital markets, an alteration of the ‘hiring and firing’ labour regulations, and encouraging the spending on new technology shares (Da Rin, Nicodano & Sembenelli, 2005:8).

·The higher education institution policies

The higher education institution must provide a working atmosphere in which entrepreneurship can thrive. Venkataraman (2003:154) proposes that it is not merely the injection of capital that enhances the development of entrepreneurship. Rather, it is the tangible infrastructural essentials such as capital markets, advanced telecommunications, sound legal and transportation systems. In addition, intangible components must be in place. These intangibles are access to novel ideas, informal forums, role models, region specific opportunities, access to large markets, safety nets and executive leadership. As policy within the institution is developed it must consider and include a planning process to accommodate these essentials.

Policy must also augment the entrepreneurial culture within the higher education institution as a new mindset of students must be established from one of expecting to be employed, to one of providing work opportunities for others. Technology licensing offices (TLOs) must be established at the higher education institutions. Stanford University sponsored research expenditures of US$391 million generated 25 TLO start ups in 1997 (Gregorio & Shane, 2003:209). An investment in patent rights by the higher education institutions will ensure future capital investments into the institution. Intellectual property (IP) policies should be framed so as to capture the wealth generated and to distribute it equitably between investors, partners, the university and the entrepreneur. Such rewards will generate future interest for both the investors and the entrepreneurs. Policies, procedures and network contacts to capture venture capital must be established.

Research and Development policies in entrepreneurship must be refined and focused. Currently, the focus of entrepreneurial research at Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa falls within the three niche areas of business clustering, business development and management of innovation. In each of these niche areas it will be necessary to develop Masters and Doctorate programmes in entrepreneurship and innovation. This in turn will mean a need for the improvement of the staff qualification profile within these areas. Along with the Masters and Doctorate programmes, accredited research outputs must be produced in entrepreneurship and innovation (Grundling & Steynberg, 2006:6). In addition to the Masters degrees in Entrepreneurship and the Masters degree in Comparative Local Development, a Masters degree in Cognitive Reasoning should be considered for the future. Such a course should include a thorough foundation in finance reasoning along with creative thinking and business planning.

Institutional structures to be established

The higher education institution will have to establish itself as a seamless knowledge node into which a variety of parties can contribute. Parties contributing to such a knowledge node might include industrial partners, specialists from industry, relevant government agencies, foreign investors, community forums, labour unions, academic specialists, research foundations, funding agencies, students and potential entrepreneurs. Such a node would provide the necessary contact between entrepreneurs, funding agencies, industry and labour. This will ensure exposure of research and innovative ideas to the relevant parties. It would also provide a relevant export/import platform for entrepreneurship within the country. In addition to this, regular colloquia should be held to allow potential entrepreneurs to expose their innovative ideas to the funding agencies. An information network connecting entrepreneurs to venture capitalists should be established within this knowledge node.

Such forums would allow industrial partners to present commercially-oriented research proposals to the higher education institution which funding agencies in turn would be willing to fund. Gregorio and Shane (2003:212) also emphasize the need for the higher education institution to demonstrate intellectual eminence. It is suggested that better quality researchers are more likely to exploit inventions than lesser qualified researchers. The intellectual eminence also makes it easier for researchers involved to start enterprises and to exploit their inventions (Gregorio & Shane, 2003:212). In addition, more eminent researchers provide a better knowledge base and this in turn will attract better qualified researchers and students. To ensure an intellectual eminence of their outputs, higher education institutions should select students carefully.

The higher education institution should also encourage the development of incubators, either close to the institution or close to the involved industry. This will certainly influence the start up capital expenditure. Gregorio and Shane (2003:213) suggest that such incubators would allow entrepreneurs to “ripen” technologies in close proximity to inventors and specialists.

The establishment of technology parks could be instituted at the institution. Dana, et al. (2005:12) report that the first technology parks were established in the Netherlands. It is hardly surprising that the Netherlands is one of the leading nations in promoting entrepreneurship, comparing favourably with Israel, Singapore and Silicone Valley. Perhaps such parks could be established in conjunction with the government and serve to expose students to the entrepreneurial culture.

Information networks connecting entrepreneurs to venture capitalists should be established within the higher education institution. Dushnitsky and Lenox (2004:618) reinforce this view. Gregorio and Shane (2003:214) also recommend that in exchange for taking an equity stake in TLO start-ups the institution should pay patenting, marketing or other up-front costs. These measures would encourage the formation of start-up enterprises. Furthermore, locating a higher education institutional foundation presence in physical proximity to the enterprises donating the capital might be an advantage (Gregorio & Shane, 2003:211).

Strategy to develop an entrepreneurial innovative culture

·Re-curriculation of syllabi within Entrepreneurship programmes

When training entrepreneurs two realms of knowledge should be recognized, “tacit” and “explicit”. “Explicit knowledge is easily identifiable, easy to articulate, capture and share. By contrast, tacit knowledge consists predominately of intuition, feelings, perceptions and beliefs, often difficult to express and therefore difficult to capture and transfer. Of the two, tacit knowledge carries the greater value in that it is the essence of innovation” (Dana et al., 2005:10). Perhaps an illustration given by Ali (2001:339) serves to illustrate the difference between the skills involved in producing an artifact. The engineer is a man of action developing mental skills but seldom having the opportunity to develop manual skills. The craftsman uses his hands more than his head, tools more than instruments and rarely uses science or mathematics. Both are geared towards inventing. The engineer is concerned with ideas and artifacts, while the craftsman is concerned with the making of artefacts. The craftsman has no ready made methods and the technique is devised during the process. The engineer draws mainly on explicit scientific skills while the craftsman draws on intuitive, tacit knowledge. This person is involved in the creation of something new, an innovative skill. The engineer’s plans and blueprints might well involve tactic knowledge.

In curriculum design one must recognize the difference between infrastructure supporting recursive skills which are typically routine in nature and infrastructure supporting the nurturing of innovation and making skills. These involve designing, innovating, communicating in groups, problem solving, face-to-face communication, idea generation and group-work (Ali, 2001:41). Brown and Duguid (1991) quoted by Ali (2001:342) make use of the expression “communities of practice” to describe the social context for developing work, learning and innovation. Lin, Li and Chen (2004:4) and Markman and Baron (2003:291) make use of the term “social capital” to describe the ability to establish networks of supporting relationships. This ability is seen as a means of mobilizing environmental resources to overcome obstacles and threats within the entrepreneurial process. Others have noted how important social capital is in the creation of new business ventures. Lin, et al. (2004:4) recognize the need for formal and informal funding relationships within the business environment. Such entrepreneurs are termed “business angels” for they gain access to required resources, such as capital investors, suitable distributors and talented employees from the external environment. Lin, et al. (2004:6) thus regard social capital as “entrepreneurial social infrastructure”. Harris, Forbes and Fletcher (2000:125-126) suggest that planning “dampens” the entrepreneurial spirit and that emergent problems tended to be better training triggers than planned approaches. It is proposed that the learning style for entrepreneurs should be one using facilitators, learning by doing, interactive classroom approaches, peer group work, problem solving, grasping opportunities and holistic approaches. It is recommended that inputs should be made by outside speakers and entrepreneurs (Harris, et al., 2000:126). Johnson (1987:31, in Harris et al., 2000) states that an entrepreneur’s planned approach to any problem should be problem awareness, problem diagnosis, the development of solutions and the selection of a solution. Once again the need for “an emergent” approach rather than a “planned approach” is emphasized. In addition, Harris, et al. (2000:133) emphasize the need for long standing close relationships in the development of the entrepreneur. Such partners can share vision, and serve as sounding boards for ideas and concerns. These relationships are vital for the development of innovative thinking. The findings suggest that entrepreneurs must be trained in a less structured way, which involve group work, class discussions, specialist input, a concentration of social skills, communicating and conflict management. The methodology must involve face to face contact and the developing of lasting relationships.

Another factor that should be written into the curriculum is the ability to deal with problems that arise and then to reschedule goals so as to accommodate the new situation. This is clearly illustrated by Ireland, Kuratko and Morris (2006:12) showing the presence of internal and external triggers of corporate entrepreneurship. External triggers that encourage entrepreneurship arise from developments in the external environment. These include diminishing opportunities, rapid changes in technology, labour shortages, aggressive moves by competitors, change in the market structure or regulatory threats. Internal triggers include employee rewards, directives from managers, tension between staff, problems with cost control, etc. Ireland, et al. (2006:12). Triggers for entrepreneurship may be summed up in the statement “necessity is the mother of invention”. This once again emphasis the need for trainers to concentrate on the entrepreneurial process rather than the content, with particular emphasis on change, the unexpected and resolving problems that emerge within any particular process.

Markman and Baron (2003:288) regard self-efficacy as an important success factor in developing entrepreneurs. Self-efficacy is defined as “the extent to which persons believe that they can organize effectively, execute actions to produce given attainments” (Bandura, 1997 quoted by Markman and Baron 2003:288). Successful entrepreneurs will have high self-efficacy and tend to believe that their actions will lead to a successful venture. It is also suggested that entrepreneurs need to recognize opportunities from possible businesses. In addition it is suggested that entrepreneurs need perseverance and need to be able to overcome adversity and uncertainty. The curriculum should thus contain training on self esteem, reliability, perseverance, overcoming setbacks, having a vision, setting goals and rescheduling if things go wrong.

Boussouara and Deakins (1999:204) suggest that a gradual approach into a high technology business can be an advantage in that it allows time to develop contacts, strategy, and networks as well as gives time to acquire funding and income. The latter authors emphasize the need to acquire market-based knowledge for a successful business (Boussouara & Deakins, 1999:205). It is thus recommended that networks and external business agents present relevant market research to the trainees. These findings should be brainstormed and shared in the larger group.

Conclusion

In this article an attempt has been made to develop a framework for the development of entrepreneurial thinking within a higher education environment. This framework needs to be supported by government policy initiatives and include taxation incentives for entrepreneurs, encouraging investment in research and development, incentives for industry for active venture capital and alterations to the labour law to accommodate small entrepreneurial industries. In addition techno-parks should be developed in conjunction with government to expose students to the entrepreneurial culture.

Research should be done within the business development niche area to investigate these policies and communicate the needs to government. If government officials are participating in the knowledge node it might provide the necessary exposure to government.

Policy initiatives from within the higher education institution should establish the knowledge node which should include academic specialists, research foundations, relevant government officials, industrial partners, specialists from industry, foreign investors, community forums, labour unions, funding agencies, students and potential entrepreneurs. Information networks connecting entrepreneurs to venture capitalists should be established within this knowledge node. Intellectual Property policies should be developed by the business development niche area to ensure that possible TLO start-ups within the higher education institution are protected and that patenting, marketing or other up-front costs are paid by the higher education institution or associated enterprises. The higher education institution could liaise with the Innovation Hub established in conjunction with the CSIR. A cooperation agreement could benefit both parties. Research should be carried out by the business clustering niche area to select the most appropriate combinations and networking within the knowledge node.

To ensure intellectual eminence the correct researchers, academics and industrialists should be chosen within the entrepreneurship cluster. Incubators and TLOs should be founded to “ripen’ developing technologies and to form small innovative industries. Research within this area could be done by the niche areas business development and management of innovation.

A funding agency for the entrepreneurship innovation (previously termed the institutional foundation) could be located close to the industry partners for fundraising. All three niche areas should be actively networked with industries on an ongoing basis, communicating needs and proposals.

A teaching strategy should be developed to foster tacit knowledge development. Group work, problem solving, idea generation, innovating, designing and face to face communication should be extensively used. Smaller classrooms need to be utilized allowing for group work. Curricula should include topics like self efficacy, perseverance and the need to overcome adversity. In addition market-based knowledge should be presented by specialists from the industry on an ongoing basis. Networking should be a normal part of the curriculum and will allow venture capitalists to be connected to the innovations developed within the knowledge node.

If South Africa and institutions of higher education do not see the need to develop entrepreneurship within all communities, people may be delegated to a life of poverty, with no opportunity to work or to develop South Africa’s rich natural resources for future generations.

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