Astria Learning: Providing IT Solutions with Dr. Jeff Bordes and Dr. Maja Zelihic

A lot of times, we hear from the higher learning institutions saying, “We want to go online, but we don’t know how to go about doing it.” Dr. Jeff Bordes and Dr. Maja Zelihic of Astria Learning say as they traveled through the world, a few requirements that we have are not necessarily resource requirements that translate into money. The requirement is more on the willingness to embrace new technology, adapt to a change, and willingness to take that jump into a different type of a setting.

Dr. Jeff Bordes is the CEO of Astria Learning. He specializes in E-learning solutions, client development, and business development. Astria Learning is currently providing IT solutions in nine countries and working with 208 institutions. Dr. Maja Zelihic is part of the educational team at Astria Learning and is a part-time lecturer at the University of Zambia in Africa for their MBA program that uses Astria’s learning platform. They share that the fear of the unknown can be pretty powerful, however, at the end of the day, they have a lot of programs, especially some of the government institutions who have historically been funded by government able to generate their own revenue and create sustainability.

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We have a special show. We have Dr. Jeff Bordes and Dr. Maja Zelihic with us. Dr. Jeff Bordes is the CEO of Astria Learning and Dr. Maja Zelihic is a Program Chair, a Doctoral Chair, author and she works with Jeff with his company at Astria Learning. This is a unique show because I’m going to talk to them about what they’re doing in different countries to offer some educational advantages of online learning in countries that normally haven’t had access to it. It’s important to look at some of the things that Jeff’s company does and the work that Maja does because they offer some interesting options for countries who have not had a chance to embrace the eLearning platforms. That’s what we’re going to talk about.

Listen to the podcast here:

Astria Learning: Providing IT Solutions with Dr. Jeff Bordes and Dr. Maja Zelihic

I am here with Dr. Jeff Bordes who is the CEO of Astria Learning. He specializes in eLearning solutions, client development and business development, including helping companies grow their client base using SEO and other web technologies. Astria Learning is currently providing IT solutions in nine countries and working with 208 institutions. Also with us is Dr. Maja Zelihic, who is the Program Chair at the Forbes School of Business. Her research has been published everywhere. It’s in top research journals and she’s well-known giving presentations in multiple countries. She has spoken throughout the world and she’s part of an educational team at Astria Learning and that’s part of the lecturer at the University of Zambia in Africa for their MBA program using Astria Learning program. Maja’s part of the educational team at Astria in Zambia.

I’m fascinated in what you do because I’ve worked with Maja at the Forbes School of Business and in other areas. We have done a lot of things together. I’m interested in what you’re doing, Jeff, because Maja has great things to say about you. What does Astria Learning do? Tell us a little bit about your company, your background, and how you got to this point?

Thank you for having us, Diane. Astria Learning is an Ed Tech company. We develop software and the software is designed for education, mainly distance learning. You can see the statistics of the countries we’re in. Many of the countries we’re currently working in are developing countries because no one has the resources. It’s hard to leverage the built institutions. With the technologies we have at our hand, we’re having a video call. We don’t have to travel to meet each other. There are a lot of tools that we’ve repurposed and we’ve used specifically to enhance the experience, especially for distance learners. Passion is essentially to use technology to make education as flexible as possible.

I share that love of eLearning and being able to reach people where you never could before. As much as I love to go to Africa every week, I’m not able to do that. It’s something you can do, you can connect with students all around the world, but you guys do go to Africa, which impresses me the things you’ve done. Every time Maja comes back from one of her trips, I’m always bowing to her. I can’t believe the great things you guys are doing around the world. You have this global presence that’s so important.

I want to ask Maja this question because she’s done what I’ve done in terms of online education. We’ve both been program chairs at the same school. Maja, can you explain online education because lot of people in our audience doesn’t understand that? They think that we get on the computer at the same exact time with students and that we have lecture. Every school is different. Can you paint a picture for what it is that Astria offers that these regular universities in other countries don’t already have that maybe need?

Many of the companies and many of the higher learning institutions are struggling with the budgeting constraints. A lot of times when Astria Learning goes into a particular country and they start talking about their solutions, the first question on everyone’s mind is, “How much do we have to invest upfront?” The answer is zero. In Astria Learning, solutions are provided. It’s a cloud-based system. It’s an IT provider. They provide everything for the institution because it’s easy to use what they already have. They have a traditional setup. They have well-developed programs. They have educated instructors that are providing a great service, but a lot of them are a bit hesitant to jump into that online distance learning setting. It is wonderful to have someone like Astria Learning providing the learning platform, also if needed and if requested, providing the entire set of courses with the lecturers in an online type of a setting.

A lot of times we hear from the higher learning institutions saying, “We want to go online, but we don’t know how to go about doing it.” As we traveled through the world, there are a few requirements that we have and those are not any resource requirements that translate into money. The requirement is willingness to embrace new technology, adapt to a change, willingness to take that jump into a different type of a setting. One example that I have, we did mention Africa couple of times. When we were doing a transition in Zambia with a team of experienced traditional labs, we were trying to get them from a regular traditional setting into an online setting.

At first you do a little bit of a fear, a little bit of a resistance. Within six months when we went there again, upon completion of our training, they all want it to show us their courses. What they did in those courses using the Astria’s platform. Southeast of Europe for example, we have a situation where they’re still trying to struggle as to whether to do final exams face to face. We have solutions for that as well because you don’t have to do that.

Anytime you can do anything virtually, it’s great. The free upfront thing is interesting to me, Jeff. How do you do that? That you can do this for free?

It’s not free. We basically take away the biggest hurdle, which is the fear of an initial investment. We put all the upfront money to launch this and show the institution this can be profitable. We keep all percentage of the revenue. It’s a good tool because we’re able to create new form of revenue for many institutions while empowering them and not launch their own program without even having us involved because they’re not empowered. It’s more a way to do the because the fear of the unknown can be pretty powerful. At the end of the day, we have a lot of programs, especially some of the government institutions who are historically been funded by government able to generate their own revenue and create sustainability.

When I said free, I mean initially free but then it comes back later. You’d share in profits and that type of thing. Are you concerned that they won’t be successful? You’ve put all this time and effort in. It is free initially, but how are you insured that they’re going to be successful and that you’ll get your investment back?

Any investment you make has some innate risk in it. When you look at the stats, the analytics, you know the direction is online education. You already see it’s a multibillion dollar industry here in the States. When you look at Latin America, we penetrated Mexico. We know, once we show the confidence that people will follow. Surely enough, all the programs we’ve launched, the States and countries that never had online education, it has been a success. We know for a fact the trend here now, or trends that will follow in many of the developing countries that we are trying to penetrate, it’s a risk but it’s not really a risk.

I can understand because I’ve worked on some boards where we’ve talked about the differences of where we are here versus where other countries are in terms of online education. Maja, you could probably attest to this that what we’ve been pretty far ahead of different countries, in terms of what we do here. What do you think is the biggest challenge that you’re dealing with as you go with Jeff or whenever you go to other countries? What do you see, Maja, as far as problems with institutions wanting to join? What’s the appeal for them and what’s their hesitation?

One of the things they’re still questioning in certain parts of the world is the credibility of online learning. The perception is everything in certain areas, Balkan region for example. They are willing to explore within the parameters of this, but obstacles which we felt was not an obstacle at all, was they were still insisting for the students to take their final exams in a tradition. They are willing to meet us halfway but they were still talking about that component. Here’s an issue with that. If you are still insisting for the students to come to a physical location of a particular university, you are limiting yourself. You cannot expand your operation to international students. The benefits of this platform are we have with the University of Zambia. We have students from Australia, from China, that University of Zambia never had.

In the Balkan region, we were saying to them, “What’s your vision? Can we have international students enroll in your programs?” Honestly, what was surprising to us was that many of them never put that as part of their vision statement and they were surprised because they were insisting on that final exam component. We were trying to provide them with different things to offset that particular challenge. Some of the challenges are not at the extent of Mount Everest. Some of the challenges are pretty minor that you can address the different solutions such as final exams as part of the online learning. You do have quizzes. A lot of times, those of us who took classes online, participating under discussion board, it’s easy in a classroom setting to say something and you’ve got your participation points. It’s not as easy to do an elaborate discussion.

It is interesting to do online education and to be part of it. It sometimes reminds me of social media in the respect that you have a thread, people are discussing and they’re talking back and forth. People often ask me what it looks like. I’m sure in other countries where they’re not familiar with it, maybe they don’t use Facebook or other things as well, it’s harder to explain to them. Jeff, how do you find the organizations to work with? How many institutions you work with now and how do you go about picking the right ones?

The exact number is 233. The way it works, the institution in the country is usually the toughest one to get. Once you get the first one, takes care of the rest. It’s always, “Who’s going to be first?” Zambia, for example, we never had any strategic plan to penetrate Zambia. Somehow, we managed someone from there, found our company here, and decided to launch this. We put a team there, an office and that’s actively doing business development. That was one example. Others are simply knocking on the door and hope the pitch is powerful enough to create a revenue stream. It’s traditional selling method.

People are looking for ways to change how they’re running. An example is the gentlemen in Zambia. He came because he studied in the University in Hawaii and he wanted to know, “How can I bring this technology into my country?” I knocked on their door and say, “We’re working with this company,” and months later we were flying into Zambia to open this channel, seeking active resources because before Astria Learning, the students were mailing assignments in. You’re looking at about six years ago, mailing in assignments. A lot of the times it’s people looking for solutions that are flexible. Other times it’s our team knocking doors and creating opportunities.

You’ve got a challenge when you go internationally and Maja can speak several languages, but not all of us can. Maja, I know you speak Bosnian and I don’t even know what else you speak. I assume though when you go to these other countries, are they all speaking English? Do you only go places where you can speak English or how do you determine that, Maja?

Dr. Bordes speaks several languages. I speak a few. We’re covering that small fraction of the globe with some of those languages that we’re able to communicate in. The language of business is English. In certain regions in Africa, English was the official language. In certain regions of Africa, Jeff was fortunate enough, French was official language. We were able to cover a big chunk of Africa that way. In the Balkan region, I’m able to communicate. For the most part, the educators, the higher learning institutions, we have this new generation of digital natives and they are very well-versed in English. You may have the senior faculty members that are having students helping them out with understanding things. Thus far, the language has not been a major obstacle. The major obstacle has been what we’ve seen in the States, because now that we’re with Forbes School of Business, in online education there are still pockets within the United States where online is not perceived as worthy. That is still very prominent in the world. It is a reality.

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Astria Learning: Many of the companies and many of the higher learning institutions are struggling with budgeting constraints.

It is challenging sometimes to get people up to date. I thought MOOCs might have a good impact on that. People understand that there are other opportunities and massive open online courses for people. It is important that we look at some of the challenges. Do you bring in your own instructors or do you use their instructors? What about accreditation? Are there accreditation issues when you’re talking global, Jeff?

To make things easy, we usually bring our own team because the biggest challenge is not competition from a company standpoint. When you come in and you’re introducing many elements and you’re telling someone who spent their entire life doing certain processes, “I need you to change,” you probably know it’s not the easiest thing to ask people. To make things easy, to validate our cases, we tend to bring our own. The long-term goal is to individually empower. The institution can run on their own without having to have Astria Learning there. You have to have our system, but the whole point is to enable independence. We usually bring our own team, but we also benchmark together to replicate whatever success we’ve established with our own programs.

Who competes with you in this market then? You’ve got your own LMS. I know of the different LMSs’, the learning management systems here. We have Canvas, Blackboard, and everybody knows the ones that the universities use here. You’ve got your own LMS, you’ve got your own people. Is there anyone that competes with you?

In the States, there are many heavy lifters here. When you leave certain countries, these are countries where people don’t think it’s worth the time. Unless you’re truly passionate, a lot of the countries can put some challenge forward because you have to reeducate their way of thinking. Whereas most markets, we don’t have a lot of competition. Moodle is probably the only one that we compete with simply because it’s free. It’s open source and a lot of the time, people usually try it. It’s never a success enough for them to say, “Moodle is working for us,” because they’ll install it, simply we’re using something.

I teach on Moodle in one of my schools. It drives me crazy because it’s not user friendly. Maja, didn’t you tell me yours is similar to what Canvas looks like in ease of use? That’s an important thing because if you’re going into this difficult situation of trying to get people to embrace change and grab on to this great new technology, the easier the better. What do you think are the biggest challenges you’re encountering, Maja, when you’re dealing with talking to these schools and converting them over? The longer they’ve done something one way, the harder it is to embrace change. What other challenges have you seen?

We talk a little bit about the concepts of digital immigrants. All the faculty members that we encounter in a traditional setting, digital immigrants, they all grew up without ever using computers. They’re being expected to be full-blown online teachers. All of us here have gone through that transition. We went through it. I went through it in the United States. I started using computer technology in my 20s, having been raised overseas. One of the things that I encounter is I try to relate to the challenges they’re facing. I’m trying to explain my story to them, letting them know now here I am teaching that technology and teaching you how to use it, and that is inspirational. The system itself is very user-friendly. You mentioned Canvas, I’m a bit biased. I’m going to say that this system is faster. It has some features that Canvas does not support at this point in time, but I’m not going to disclose those features because we don’t want the competitors to know what those are.

With that said, it’s a system that once the initial fear of using it, in Zambia six months later when I came and I encountered some of the professors that I trained, they were all excited to show me their courses. They’re now having some things in their courses that I say to them, “You’re teaching me what to do.” You learn the basics and then you start building your own course. One of the things we professors face, I’m sure both of you can attest to that is, “Can this course still be my own course?” In a traditional setting, I can make my own. Every single one of those courses, the shell is the same, but the course is vastly different.

It is interesting to see the differences in the platforms and which ones work well. A challenge though, when you’re dealing with technology, that you have to have some backup support in case things go down. How do you deal with that Jeff? Who runs all the server stuff? Is that all you or do you use what they have or in terms of managing where everything’s stored and all that stuff?

As far as reducing the cost of migration, we keep everything on the cloud. Twice a day we back up all the data and we store it for ten years. We handle that to ensure that we’re compliant to almost any location. We use the same standards in the States. By the time we go to another country, we usually either meet or exceed the data management standards. At least all of it is handled through Astria Learning and the institution has full access to our database, they still feel that ownership. The cloud is the easiest way to reduce the investment.

Everything is handled and protected. Everything is handled by us to ensure that they can have security. At the end of the day, an institution is not an IT firm. When you look at the staffing, sometimes you walk in, you see it as if they’re running an entirely new Silicon Valley company. At the end of the day, the main goal of an institution is to educate. When we take this component out of their responsibility, they’re able to focus all the resources. What they do best, which is educating people.

There’s such a market out there and I know that Maja’s done a lot of research into the different viability of different areas around the world, which is more than I could handle in terms of my research skills. Maja, I’m interested in what you found were good areas to expand in. Have you looked at China or other markets like that? What did you find in your research?

There are many areas where firms are doing workshops in India. I was teaching primarily in their Ivy League school system, so I don’t think I can say that I got to know the educational system in India, but they have such vast opportunities within the public education system of India for this type of technology. I would imagine the same stands correct when it comes to China. There are certain challenges when we were talking about, that it’s hard for us within United States to even comprehend. We were at a conference where all the Zambian public universities were in attendance. We were discussing the challenge in the African market, it’s a textbook shortage.

The textbook shortage is so severe you have suburban structures, you have eager to learn students, they don’t have textbooks. One of the solutions we have is the eLibrary. What Africa has them doing is skipping a few steps. Here in the Western world, we had to do step one, step two, step three. Why build traditional libraries? Why ship books to Africa? Instead we have the technology that can offset that challenge within the African market. Each market has a unique challenge. The name of the game is providing solutions that are appropriately positioned for that particular market segment.

That brings up an interesting issue because I automatically would imagine they would go with eLearning books because why not? it’s much easier, cheaper and everything else. Do these students have access to computers, laptops and things, Jeff? What kind of technology? Are they going to the school to access? How are they accessed?

Like every place, we have to think global but act local. First five, six years ago when we started working, let’s say in the Sub-Saharan Africa, we’ve been trying a learning management system. We realized there were a lot more challenges to deal with. First of all, there was no internet. We partnered with some of the local telecommunication companies. Anyone in our platform gets zero rated access, literally study free online, as long as you have a SIM card from some of our partners. That was one challenge we had to overcome.

Second challenge was shortage of books. Many of the libraries we visit their books from the ‘80s. How can you compete globally? My kids here when we’re studying at a US school, the technology I see them using versus when I go to Mexico, or if I go to Zambia or Tanzania, there’s no way we’re competing equally. The first thing for me was to essentially create a digital library and working with the publishers has been difficult. We launched an eLibrary. There are many libraries already but make ours different is the offline component. We spent a lot of effort. We developed complex encryption methodologies to ensure that we can protect the authors and the publishers while giving flexibility. Once you download a book, you can hold onto it for as many days as possible because every publisher has different criteria.

When we’re here, if I need something, I google it because I have cheap, cost-effective data access. Most people don’t have that privilege that you and I have and something that we take for granted. Something that mostly you have to be middle or upper middle class in many countries to have what we take for granted here. We had to develop tools that are relevant to the people, tools that anyone can use, not just those who are privileged.

I worked with Roya Mahboob on a couple of things. She was voted Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. She’s an amazing woman. She created an internet company for women to learn how to use computers in Afghanistan, which was a heavy-duty thing to do in that area. I created a training program for her to give to these young women in Afghanistan to help them understand personalities in the workplace and that type of thing. Maja, thinking of Roya’s work and the cultural issues, how often do you run into that where they don’t want you to educate people? Do you in avoid those areas of the world?

I had a distinct honor of meeting Roya and she’s such an amazing individual. What she does for girls in Afghanistan is inspiring. We do encounter some challenges. We’re going into predominantly male-dominated societies in the vast majority of the cases. One of the things that Astria Learning is doing is providing learning opportunities for young ladies that otherwise, in certain cases, you’re forced to take a completely different life path.

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Astria Learning: Each market has a unique challenge. The name of the game is providing solutions that are appropriately positioned for that particular market segment.

I was sharing with Jeff that approached me at the Executive Leadership Summit in Osaka indicating that her father gave her two choices. Either you’re going to marry or you going to pursue an education. If it wasn’t for the online platform of Astria, she was living in a remote village, she wouldn’t be able to pursue higher education. We’re changing lives without sometimes even realizing that we’re doing that because providing online learning, to women in particular. The kids that in many cases have to work, now they’re able to access higher learning platform online from the comforts of their home.

That is where we are changing of many young ladies and many young women out there and we do not encounter too many obstacles as far as when we start talking about the online learning. A lot of countries are now going to volunteer, within cultural framework per se. Even southeast of Europe, in the Balkan region, you are still talking about a society that is predominantly, the higher learning managers are men. With that said, that is the framework we have to work within and we’re having two ladies one at a time for lack of better words.

On the same show that Roya was on, I put two shows together. I had a woman, Manar Alomayri, and she’s in Saudi Arabia. She was talking about how she started a startup in their culture to try and get business books for women there because they don’t have a lot of audio books. Apparently, they don’t want to have regular paper books, they want audio version books. I could see that that would be a market. Is that too hard to get into an area like that, Jeff, because of the culture? Is that someplace that you would consider?

It’s definitely the path. You have a lot of insight. When it comes to copyright, not an easy topic, and when you’re asking people to contents and it takes building that trust. Our goal is to not focus only on audible but focus on video of learning because we can see. We will get their access, skip a few steps as quickly as possible. As of now, the goal is to make as many resources available in any format with this, audio, visual or traditional books.

She was going to self-published authors that we’re willing to give up a percentage to her and they would split whatever. I don’t know what the split was. It was 50/50 or 90/10 or it could have been anything. She was going to do a situation like that, anybody who had a book that was self-published and could have the rights to it. That was something that you might find her interesting to content. There’s so much content now. Maja, you know that we were able to access a lot of content in some of the schools for which we teach. For Forbes, we enter a lot of Forbes links because the Forbes team and we are able to have great content that we had to class because of that. What content are you able to link to in these courses? Are you able to put in anything that is available on the internet or are there restrictions?

The Forbes Media content, as long as you embed the content within the discussion forum or the announcements, you have access to that content and students love reading that content and commenting on it. When it comes to the copyrights, Jeff has to ensure that they’re protecting all the rights of the publishers. That is eLibrary is doing as far as that content in particular. A better content within the body on the courses as their schools is allowed, giving authors their due rights.

One of the things we talked about online education a couple of times, one of the things that make online education in some instances superb to the traditional model. You have instructors in a traditional model of teaching from a textbook as a scenario, and they’re unable to consistently update their content. In online learning, you can change an article on a moment’s notice if something relevant just happened. Media content is of great interest. In any of the markets that we entered, the south east of Europe, Latin America, Africa, there’s not one single area that we entered where Forbes Media and the name of Forbes didn’t spark interest.

Jeff, where is this? Now that Maja’s saying all this, it’s bringing up a lot of thoughts in general. I’m curious where are you located? Are you based in United States? Are you based somewhere else? What is the future of Astria? What are you seeing in terms of growth?

Our headquarter is in Tampa, Florida. We’ve managed to open offices, one in Mexico. We have one in Lusaka, Zambia. We have an office in Bosnia. We’re interested in the Balkan region. Our CTO’s in Spain now, so we have an office in Seville. With five offices, as long as there’s a room for us to grow, there is no limitation. We’ll go where most companies don’t want to go because this is where the people need you. A lot of company wants to make it in a profitable region. We have to be profitable, but we also want to ensure that we can be of service.

Does Bill Gates know what you’re doing? Have you talked to him? He’s into this.

I would love the opportunity to meet Bill Gates.

This is our call out to you, to Mr. Gates, to talk to you. Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, their foundation is an amazing way to reach people in education. If you’re looking for partners, is your organization going to grow? Are you looking to stay this size? Are you an entrepreneur, a serial entrepreneur that wants to do other things? What’s the next step?

The next step is expansion, but we want to grow with the people with the passion. We have to pay our bills, we have to meet certain standards, but at the end of the day we’re looking to partner with people who want to make a difference. I believe if you can create a solution that’s different than the rest in terms of profit, the rest tend to follow. You mentioned Bill Gates, many of the strategies, many of the programs he has created are also inspiring us to continue supporting. We haven’t had a link. I feel like we’re working parallel, although his scale is much larger. We want to see how we can work with people because we believe a bigger team, the bigger the impact essentially.

Maja, you’ve put some of my work in the different courses, you’ve linked to my site and I’ve appreciated that you’re sharing what we’re doing here in the United States around the world. I know that what you guys are both doing here is amazing work. I enjoyed having you guys on the show. I would go to Jeff for the last words here. Jeff, can you share how you’d like people to find you, learn more about you and all your website type information?

Yes, if anyone’s interested. Let’s say you have one of our solutions or you want more, you can go to AstriaLearning.com. There are a lot of contacts, a lot of foreign. One of our business development officers will reach out to you and then we’ll start talking. It’s all about understanding your challenges and if there’s something we can resolve, we’ll be happy to be of service.

This was fun. Thank you so much, Jeff. Thank you so much, Maja. It was great having you both on the show.

Thank you. It’s an honor and a pleasure. I know your show’s very popular. It’s more than an honor to be here, and you took time to speak with us. Thank you.

Thank you, Diane.

You’re welcome. This is a very unusual show because we usually don’t talk about education. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about online education, so I thought I’d take the rest of the show to talk about some of the experiences I’ve had. I’ve been interviewed about a lot of things that I do, but I usually don’t get interviewed about what I do in online education. I’ve taught online for twelve years. I have taught for every type of program and used every type of learning management system that we’ve mentioned on this show. We’ve talked about Canvas. We’ve talked about Blackboard and a lot of the different other platforms that are available out there.

It’s a very tough subject to talk about with people because there is so much news about online education, what’s good, what’s bad and there are many good things about very valuable ways of learning in online education. It’s changed much since I first got in. There was a lot of difference in terms of supply and demand here in the United States. There was little offering of online education when I first got into it. The people and the companies that got into it had a unique platform and something to offer that no one else had done. That’s why it got such attention.

We’ve got a lot of the traditional universities offering their own versions of online education and its thrown industry into trying to adjust a little bit. There are obviously players that aren’t as good as others and you read some negative press sometimes. There are many good programs out there that get mixed in with the bad and it’s hard to tell which ones are good and which ones are bad unless you do a lot of research. I can tell you that my experience has been mostly good.

I’ve had great companies, I’ve had some companies that weren’t great. You need to look at each individual program and company separately because some of them do some amazing things in their programs. It’s hard to compete when the major universities now offer online programs because they have the name, recognition, and everything else of course. I would like to see the quality improved in some areas. Each of them has their ability to reach certain populations and if they’re accredited, that’s very important thing. In the United States, they have different accreditations that are very important.

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Astria Learning: The future of education is going to be something to really watch because everything as it’s being reinvented.

There’s so much emphasis on what do you do in these online classes. A lot of people don’t even understand what to expect. I wrote a book many years ago about online students that they could understand what to expect in class. It’s changed somewhat since then, but not as much as you’d think. For me, I prefer online learning because I learned the same amount of content, but I could do it at 4:00 AM or in middle of the day or whenever I want to do it.

You don’t have to deal with all the other things. I never was one who liked to listen to lectures and you don’t get as much of the lecture type of thing in online education. You get much more right to the point, you learn, you do the papers, you do some discussions in class but it’s not as heavy on the lecture type of thing. There is a lot of content to read and watch, but you’re not forced to sit in a room and listen to hours of somebody talking, which is what I like about it.

Everybody’s got their different opinions of online education and what they like or don’t like about it. There’s a lot to like and that what to expect is what people are not sure, when they hear about online education. What is the classroom like? What can a student expect? It’s different for each school, but a lot of it is not unlike what you would see in a social media site where people start a discussion, we call them a thread. If you were on Facebook, somebody might make a comment about something, and then other people would respond to that comment and that’s what we do in these classes. I might post a question as an instructor and everybody would chime in with their discussion on this thread. There are a lot of discussions like that. There are also assignments like in any other courses. You have papers that are due. You maybe have to create PowerPoint assignments.

I’ve taught more than a thousand business courses and each course is so unique. It’s fun to develop different types of courses. Some of them have more interactive qualities. Usually they’re either offered synchronously or asynchronously and if they’re asynchronous, that means that people can sign on whenever they want. They don’t have to all be on at the same time. Those are the courses I prefer because you can work any time of night or day and you don’t have to worry if anybody else is on at the same time.

There was a focus of getting people more interested in online education when MOOCs, massive open online courses, became available. You’ll see MOOCs out there and that’s what that’s referring to. Even Harvard and some of the big schools out there have these massive open online courses available and a lot of them are free, which is a great way to reach people around the world who haven’t had exposure to a lot of the types of education that we get here. It’s going to change a lot. The future of education is going to be something to watch because everything as it’s being reinvented. These industries, Uber has reinvented transportation and we’ve seen many changes in many areas. Online education and education in general is going to change.

We’re seeing younger generations want more individualized, quick learning and in terms of not having to take everything that is in a whole program, maybe more a la carte kind of thinking. What I worry about a little bit in that case is that we remove some of the humanities or the soft skill type of training courses and different things that are the glue that hold together everything. I hope we continue to get well-rounded education, so we don’t leave out some of the things that are out there. With apps and corporate training, there are many ways to learn now. What I hope is that people continue to explore education, whether they take one class, they take a degree, they learn through searching online. Whatever it is, I want people to develop their sense of curiosity.

I’m writing my book, tentatively titled Cracking the Curiosity Code. If we can develop this desire to learn and to seek out more information that developing curiosity is going to help increase in innovative thinking. It will help engagement. It will help productivity. All the issues that you hear in the workplace that are leading to lack of productivity, could be improved by developing curiosity, with developing that through helping improve education. I’d like to see more organizations provide more education. I know that I had an organization pay for my master’s, which was nice when I did that years ago. I’d like to see more sponsorships so that students aren’t left with this burden of debt. Organizations could only benefit from having people better educated.

It’s all interesting to see what’s happening in the area of education. Had Jeff Hoffman, I’ve had lot of people on my show, Naveen Jain, and they’ve all said, “Education is ripe for reinvention.” The future, it’s hard to tell what they’re going to do, if we’re going to have the a la carte training or if we’re going to have a completely different type of format that we can’t even foresee. In this show, what was interesting and what I’ve found is that with Jeff and Maja’s work is what I’ve been hearing all along, is that these other countries are about ten years or more behind what we’re doing here in the United States. If we could get people up-to-date, get them better educated, that’s going to be the key to working on improving the education system.

I love the work that Jeff and Maja are doing and I’m glad that they were able to join us on the show. We get many great guests on this show, it’s fascinating to talk about different areas. This was on education. We’ve had shows on medical with Dr. Nandi, Dr. Berry, Dr. Spies. We try to do a bunch of different focuses, so we don’t stay with consultants or authors. It’s important in business to look at some of the different industries to see what everybody’s doing. What my Maja and Jeff are doing is important. If you’ve missed any of our past episodes, you can go to DrDianeHamilton.com/blog if you want to read the episode.

You can subscribe to past episodes at the site. You can also find us in iTunes. We’re on Roku, iHeart, and AM and FM stations around the nation. You’re able to find the show about everywhere. I hope that if you’ve missed any past episodes, you’ll take some time to look. I also hope that if you’re on iTunes, that you take some time to rate the show. The more people who rate the show, the better exposure we get so everybody knows what’s out there. It’s been a great experience having so many shows. We’re past our 200th episode and it’s amazing the amount of knowledge out there. This episode was no exception, having such great guests. I hope that you did enjoy it. I hope that you join us for the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.

About Dr. Jeff Bordes

TTL 217 | Astria LearningDr. Jeff Bordes is the CEO of Astria Learning. He specializes in E-learning solutions, client development and business development including helping companies grow their client base using SEO and other web technologies. Astria Learning is currently providing IT solutions in nine countries and working with 208 institutions.

About Dr. Maja Zelihic

TTL 217 | Astria LearningDr. Maja Zelihic is a Program Chair at the Forbes School of Business. Her research has been published in top research journals and she is well-known for giving presentations in multiple countries throughout the world. Maja is part of the educational team at Astria Learning and is a part-time lecturer at the University of Zambia in Africa for their MBA program that uses Astria’s learning platform.

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