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Sam Paddock

Sam Paddock

Founder and Co-managing Director, GetSmarter – High-Touch Online Education Company

With the recent publicity and global interest in Online Education, SABLE reached out to GetSmarter, a high-touch, online education platform based out of Cape Town that is causing much disruption to South African Universities, traditional and correspondent, and whose results and unique 'personal-trainer' model speak for themselves. See below for an extract of the conversation between SABLE's David Kitley and GetSmarter's Co-Founder and Co-Managing Director, Sam Paddock

David (D): Who is GetSmarter and how did you start?

Sam (S): We are a family business, started in 2008, with a mini-pivot in 2010, growing from 10 to 100 employees over a period of 4 years.

D: Simply put, how would you describe your business?

S: We help people believe in themselves. We choose to do this by offering high-value University certifications, and a support model that helps people complete their studies.

D: What makes GetSmarter different from other learning institution's in the South African landscape?

S: Our education is delivered 100% online. We employ a high-touch delivery model that results in 95% completion rates. Comparable completion rates for distance learning sit at ~20%.

D: How is GetSmarter helping to improve education offered in South Africa?

S: We are re-inventing what it means to deliver education online. A move away from low-cost, self-driven courses towards medium-cost, highly supported courses. We are also experimenting with education models for disadvantaged communities. We are crafting these with local and international markets in mind.

D: What areas of GetSmarter are showing the most promise and potential?

S: Currently it is business-related education for working professionals and people in "geographically challenged" areas. Also, Post-graduate programmes for working professionals and people in "geographically challenged" areas

D: What are your plans to provide further support or new offerings for new education requirements? Where do you see Online education in RSA? Is GetSmarter only scratching the surface of the potential market?

S: Scratching the surface, yes. We're rolling out our first PG Dip with UCT in 2014, and our first BCom program with them in 2015. We've started a new division that is servicing corporate South Africa with corporate-based education. We're getting involved in projects that involve developing entire Academies, mobile-based solutions for education in Africa, and a wide array of HR and Business related bespoke courses for business requirements. Online education has an important role to play in RSA in that it broadens access to education. But there are very diverse sectors of education, and each sector is diverse enough to require a different, well-thought-out approach to achieve success.

D: What is your opinion of free online training courses taking the world by storm? And how do you see these in relation to your current offerings?

S: These institutions are part of the MOOC craze that has gripped Higher Ed throughout the world. I am grateful to them for raising the profile of online education, and for the research outcomes that they are sharing openly about what works and doesn't work in online courses for higher ed. MOOCs in their current form are good for research and marketing, but without significant change they don't have a long-term role to play. I predict 2013 to be the year MOOCs peak, and by mid-way through 2014 we'll see them mature into more sustainable models of education. MOOCs have no proven revenue model, and 5% completion rates. Our offerings have a proven revenue model and 95% completion rates. Sustainability for us is based on value to the consumers and return to shareholders.

D: What are the key challenges you are experiencing at GetSmarter and where could you use the greatest assistance in furthering your goals?

S: Rapid growth and the challenges that accompany our current growth strategy. Furthermore, access to high-value University brands in defined territories (UK is our current focus)

About Sam Paddock

Sam Paddock is the Co-Founder and Co-Managing Director of GetSmarter - a premier online education company based in Cape Town, South Africa. He is also a co-founder of Getwine, an online wine sales company, and Paddocks, a niche property law education and consulting company. Sam is a leader and authority in South Africa's education and information technology space, and is passionate about business, family, and fine food and wine.

For further information see GetSmarter at: www.getsmarter.co.za

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