By Cheranka Mendis
Creating the first ever global partnership in launching an international MBA programme via mLearning platform, Mobitel on Monday tied up with Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland, one of UK’s top 10 universities, to offer world class MBA qualifications for local students.
The tie-up would enable students island wide the opportunity to hold a UK degree in the comforts of their home. Initially offering only the courses available in the University’s Business School through online connectivity or distant learning but in a more interactive virtual class room environment, the study has been designed to fit into the schedule of busy executives who are constantly on the go.
mLearning, a platform created by Mobitel in 2008 in an effort to create more access to students who wish to pursue their higher studies while engaging in part time occupation, the programme has gained steady recognition and success over the years. The programme connects a number of key local universities which include Colombo University and the Open University with over 1000 students island wide. The new partnership with a foreign university, the first of its kind, would extend further the goal of mLearning by taking the accessibility of higher education beyond local shores.
Speaking to Daily FT, Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel’s Senior General Manager, Corporate Planning and Marketing Janaka Jayalath stated that riding on the success of the national programme, five to six universities from UK approached the company in extending their education to local students through the mLearning initiative. “Edinburgh University was one of them,” Jayalath said. “For us this is just the start. Another five UK universities will join into the system soon.” The medium is cost effective as no proper infrastructure is needed to conduct lessons. “It is a unique way of learning. Unlike in other distant learning networks, mLearning enables student-teacher interaction as well as student-to-student interaction.”
He stated that according to an effective study conducted prior to Edinburgh University finalising the deal, mLearning has been identified as the only programme in the world that offers such flexible and comprehensive interaction between persons for higher studies. The programme has been purpose built to suit rural community needs as well. He stated that with Mobitel offering 3G connectivity to areas such as Jaffna, Kilinochchi and even Mahiyangana, the same benefits are being offered to students to further their studies. With over 8000 students from Sri Lanka studying in UK every year, such initiatives will help retain the brain drain of the country as well.
Commenting on the partnership, the Dean of Edinburgh Napier University Business School, Prof. George Stonehouse stated that the medium used is one of the best in the world. With over 20 years of experience in Hong Kong and a more recent one in India, the University promises to bring in the same level of quality and expertise to Sri Lanka. “Sri Lanka has a good higher education system.
There are good universities here; world class ones like the Colombo University. However, like many of the countries the need for higher education is a vital one. We are here to supplement what you already have,” Stonehouse said.
The University which has been ranked as the number one modern university in UK for business and management for three consecutive years is also considered the number one university in Scotland with graduate employability. In UK, the university is among the top 10 under graduate employability. Stonehouse assures that the learning will not only be limited to a virtual classroom. Every once in six weeks, professional lecturers from the University will host three day workshops in Sri Lanka to introduce new modules and answer questions. “So it’s personal, it’s flexible; there is face to face interaction, employability will be enhanced and it is comprehensive and widely accepted by all,” said the professor.
He asserted that the first class is scheduled for end October this year and that enrolment had already begun. “We are looking at the best students. We will be very selective. We hope to take in only 35 students per class. However we hope to run the programme for three batches every year.”
In the pipeline are plans to introduce the University’s courses for Doctor of Business Administration, IT, Engineering and Creative Industries. A taster event will take place on 15 October at the British High Commission.
Endorsing the partnership was British High Commissioner John Rankin. “The partnership is encouraging in two aspects. One is that there is a greater demand for degrees from UK in Sri Lanka and the other is that Sri Lanka has the right kind of mind that the UK universities need.” With the country boasting of the highest literacy rate in South Asia, students from Sri Lanka are the kind that the British want to educate, he said.
On the importance of mLearning, Rankin said, “I was brought up in a traditional way where you sit in a class and learn. I have two children and they learn differently; it is an online generation. Provided that quality is guaranteed and there is accessibility, such programmes give a chance to those who otherwise might not get an opportunity to study abroad or to get a UK qualification.”
Pic by Daminda Harsha Perera