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2016-11-22 06:00
A learner accesses the online training lessons at the Rlabs centre in Strandfontein.

A learner accesses the online training lessons at the Rlabs centre in Strandfontein.

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A specialised unit from a top local university has given back to the community in the hopes of aiding job security and innovation.

A centre at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) has hosted a free course on social innovation to bring about effective change in communities.

The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the GSB teamed up with social enterprise organisation Reconstructed Living Labs (RLabs) to run a novel programme in Strandfontein this month for people who want to become change makers and successful social entrepreneurs or innovators in their communities.

The course, titled “Becoming a change maker: Introduction to social innovation”, is presented online but also has an in-person facilitated component, free of charge.

“Many of the challenges facing communities in South Africa actually represent opportunities, which can be turned into businesses and has the potential to create jobs for others,” says Marlon Parker, founder of RLabs.

He says the course has been designed to show individuals how they can make a difference and includes the use of social media to market an organisation or business and how to use the library to mobilise a youth group.

“It is about showing people how problems can be solved innovatively and creatively,” says Parker.

The six-week course is UCT’s sixth Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) made freely available online through the university’s Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching and international online learning platform Coursera.

Despite the material being delivered online, students also have access to a physical campus where they can find information and get help with assignments and internet access.

Director of the Bertha Centre Dr François Bonnici says this format of running MOOC lessons will break the barrier of internet access and data costs as the content will be available offline to the participants.

“The Strandfontein venue is really a place where people can come to connect, to brainstorm ideas and do the course online,” says Parker.

“There will be someone to help facilitate the course content offline, to explain concepts and provide further assistance.”

He says more of these campuses are planned – as part of their ­RLabsU initiative – from Atlantis to Hanover Park.

UCT deputy vice-chancellor Prof Sandra Klopper explains that in developing the university’s MOOC strategy, there has been awareness of the scarcity of contributing universities from Africa in particular.

“We believe there is an opportunity to share knowledge generated from our leading academics and researchers, and to showcase the university’s rich array of intellectual and teaching resources.”


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