If you look at the youth education landscape available for Africans, you will notice that many programs exist.
A much closer look will reveal that most of them are either “no-tech” programs, which are prohibitively expensive, or they are too “high-tech” and there is low accountability, low customization, low guidance, and low chances for practical learning.
All of this fuelled Yusudi’s ‘Why’ when creating Jijali.
Jijali is a revolutionary learning program with several characteristics that make it unique. It is localised, affordable, machine-learning supported, mentorship-focused and individualised to each learner. To change the way learning is done on the continent, Jijali is placing experiential learning at its core because the latter offers a lot of advantages to both the participants and the program itself.
The experiential learning theory, as a whole, was proposed by David Kolb who was inspired by the works of other theorists such as John Dewey, Jean Piaget and Kurt Lewin. According to his theory, true knowledge comes from the combination of “grasping and transforming the experience”. Once a concrete experience is achieved, the learner gets to assimilate the information gathered by developing new theories about the world.
Educational institutions across the globe are slowly beginning to realise the need of incorporating experiential learning into their syllabi. However, the same cannot be said about a lot of the learning programs currently available for the youth in Africa.
Even with the proliferation of technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution into education, there is still a lot of learning to happen similar to how it was done during the Third Industrial Revolution. This means that learning is generally stuck in too much theory, without much chance for experiential learning.
Experiential learning, no matter how it’s achieved, is the future of education.
Looking at Jijali, particularly the journey towards Jijali 3.0., we noticed the program has been a transformative experience for its participants because it is highly practical. Most of them felt that the program was bringing their University knowledge to life and that they were able to discover more about themselves and how to apply their strengths to their future paths.
A glimpse of this can be seen in the visual representation below. It depicts the most frequently used words when the participants were asked if they would recommend Jijali to their best friend.
As you can see, Jijali is truly focused on helping people learn.
We believe that incorporating experiential learning into any educational program means individuals can take away much more.
Here are three key reasons why.
1. Learners grasp concepts better and remember them for a longer period of time
One of the biggest advantages of experiential learning is that it allows learners to have a better grasp of the concepts they are learning. By being able to play out the concepts in practice and with their peers, learners can better understand what is being taught and it becomes much easier for them to remember the material weeks and even years after that.
As scientists like to say, our brains are wired to forget what we learn. Without useful reinforcements or connections to prior knowledge, the forgetting curve takes over. According to psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, information is quickly forgotten—roughly 56 per cent in one hour, 66 per cent after a day, and 75 per cent after six days.
In a reality where some concepts are better understood via practice and where much of what we learn is bound to evaporate without useful reinforcement, experiential learning steps in to save the day.
Within Jijali, experiential learning is achieved in three important ways. Through practical tasks, through mentorship and peer-to-peer engagements.
It’s not enough to simply train the participants on what makes a great CV great. It helps to make them grasp the fundamental concepts by actually letting them edit their own CVs with their peers and with the guidance of instructors. It is not enough to simply train participants on how best to get their next job interview. It helps to make them speak to their mentors about what direction their career is taking and it also helps to get them to practice interviewing in front of each other to understand what works and what doesn’t.
2. Learning happens faster
Still connected to how quickly we humans are bound to forget things, the question of how long we need to be able to learn something sufficiently becomes a complicated one. In a situation where you have five years to be good at something, there is enough time for you to learn the key concepts even in theory and become pretty good at the topic at hand. While there is a lot of time for you to forget what goes into the brain, there is also enough time for you to reinforce what you have learnt.
In an alternative situation, however, where you have to learn and get pretty good at something in just three months, a different strategy has to be employed. It is not prudent in this case to use the same learning strategy like the one you would likely use for a five-year period. In three months, it is best to utilise experiential learning to get the most out of that limited duration of time.
Jijali is a three-month program. To get its participants to learn all they can from one quarter, a lot of practicality is involved to encourage faster learning.
The three-month period involves in-person workshops held once a month to facilitate program introduction and to build motivation in learners, online learning content in the form of video and reading materials, practical field tasks to enable participants to apply their learning and virtual mentorship to provide support, motivation and feedback to learners.
If the online learning content was all that was being offered within Jijali, learning would be much slower and there would be a lot less motivation and commitment to the program - which brings us to the next point.
3. There is increased commitment and therefore a higher completion rate
Incorporating experiential learning into a learning program increases the commitment of learners and consequently, increases the program’s completion rate. A look at the low completion rates of online courses fully demonstrates this idea.
In a 2013 study by Katy Jordan, an analysis of the enrollments versus completions for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) revealed an average completion rate of below 10%. In a subsequent study by Hanan Khalil and Martin Ebner, one of the key reasons why lots of students drop out of MOOCs is the feeling of isolation and the lack of interactivity. Khalil and Ebner pointed out that learners lose their focus when regular communication and interaction is lacking.
Incorporating experiential learning into a program turns this problem on its head. Within Jijali, for example, regular interactions with virtual mentors, program instructors and their peers ensure that the learner stays motivated and can complete the entire program. The kind of accountability that such a setup provides encourages the learner to stay on until the very end.
With Jijali 3.0 just finished, there are a lot more lessons we have learnt that will help us move further with the iteration process of the program. But one thing that will not change is the experiential learning bit of it.
The fact that it is making a difference in the lives of the participants and in addition, making Jijali unique in its own right means it’s definitely here to stay.
If you’re interested in participating in our Jijali program and deepening your understanding of yourself and your career goals- we still have slots open for our upcoming group. Please sign up online at http://yusudi.co/jijali.