Education department warns new university is ‘fraudulent’

Shai Reshef: UoPeople is accredited in the US. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SEAN GALLUP

Shai Reshef: UoPeople is accredited in the US. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SEAN GALLUP

South Africans love a freebie as much as anyone, but when a “tuition-free” university hit our shores recently, it rubbed higher education authorities up the wrong way.

On the eve of the launch of the University of the People (UoPeople) in SA, the department of higher education & training issued a media alert warning that the “fraudulent university” was not registered with the department as required by law, and that it could find no evidence that it was accredited with the US education department. UoPeople did not have the authority to enrol students or grant degrees in SA, it said.

Department spokesman Madikwe Mabotha says there is no evidence that the online American university is accredited in SA, and whether or not it is registered with the US education department has no bearing on its accreditation status in SA.

But the local department’s warnings fell on deaf ears, as the launch of UoPeople was covered by television and newspapers across the country, highlighting the desperate demand for fee-free higher education.

UoPeople president Shai Reshef says the university is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, an accreditation body that is approved by the US government. “University of the People has enrolled over 10,000 students from more than 200 countries. We are fully accredited in the US, and US higher education is generally well respected and recognised worldwide.”

In this country, the SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA) registers qualifications against its National Qualifications Framework, while the Council on Higher Education (CHE) accredits learning programmes and submits qualifications to the qualifications authority for registration under the framework.

SAQA advocacy, communications & support director Wellington Radu says genuine qualifications can be issued by an education provider only if it is registered with one of three quality councils in SA: Umalusi, the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations, and the CHE.

Mergence Investment Managers equity analyst Nolwandle Mthombeni, who works with private education groups, says: “In the context of [SA], it isn’t a recognised institution.”

Mabotha says fraudulent tertiary institutions are prevalent world wide. The problem is especially pronounced in the case of online distance learning companies.

“In this country, bogus operators hide behind so-called ‘international’ accreditation,” he says.

Though the department has shut down many bogus colleges, some operators change their modus operandi once they are caught. Some, like the Academy for Sexology in Pretoria, take their courses online; others change their names.

UoPeople’s Reshef insists the institution is accredited in the US. “At this point we have not felt the need to pursue accreditation in any other country,” he adds.

More than 400 local students have enrolled with UoPeople, even though some say it has not been transparent about its fee structure, as it is not completely cost free.

The university claims to have free programmes, but its steep processing fees mean it isn’t a cheaper education platform. UoPeople charges a nonrefundable US$60 “processing fee”. It also charges $100 for each exam and $200 for an MBA exam.

The average undergraduate student in SA has four exams per semester. Using this average, UoPeople’s cost per semester is actually more than R5,000, and this doubles for MBA students.

Reshef says these “modest fees” ensure that the university remains sustainable.

A registered student told the Financial Mail he is happy to have found an internationally recognised institution to further his studies. Registering was simple, he says, but little contact support is offered and students have to grapple with material on their own.

Another student says the model allows her to work full-time and study in between.


Singapore’s creative economy is in full bloom

This year’s Innovation by Design conference – organised by the DesignSingapore Council – attracted a diverse line up of international creatives. From left, fashion accessories designer Beatrix Ong; Low Cheaw Hwei, head of design at Philips ASEAN Pacific; Patrick Chia, director of the Design Incubation Centre; and Ernesto Quinteros, chief design officer at Johnson & Johnson; Mauro Porcini, chief design officer at PepsiCo; Ford Motor Co chief designer Chelsia Lau; architect André Fu, founder of AFSO; and Daan Roosegaarde, artist and founder of Studio Roosegaarde. Photography: Jovian Lim

During the past five decades, the Lion City has built a strong reputation as a global business and tourism hub, attracting an ever more discerning and cosmopolitan community of global travellers who seek to immerse themselves in different cultures and build deeper connections with each visit.

Singapore has worked hard to develop a reputation for infrastructure, safety, stability, connectedness and accessibility. It is no wonder it has been designated a UNESCO Creative City of Design, or as Ernesto Quinteros, chief design officer at Johnson & Johnson likes to call it, ‘a hybrid-vigour epicentre’ for a global talent pool of designers, architects, thinkers, engineers and entrepreneurs, and ‘an East-meets-West intersection of design and technology, fashion and tradition’.

‘Singapore is like entering a parallel dimension, totally projected into the future, conceived and produced by the imagination, the spirit of innovation and the creativity of its people,’ Mauro Porcini, PepsiCo’s chief design officer, told Wallpaper* during Singapore Design Week’s Innovation by Design conference. ‘In the streets of Singapore nature dances with architecture and architecture challenges the laws of nature, creating jazz for your eyes, food for your mind and inspiration for your soul.’

Even more visual music and eye candy is currently under construction at Jewel, a S$1.7bn ten-level development at Changi airport that, when completed in 2019, will feature an ambitious mix of mall, check-in, hotel and transit facilities, complete with a five-storey-high garden and a 40m waterfall.

Jewel is the work of Israel-born architect Moshe Safdie, best known in Singapore for creating the country’s most striking silhouette, the triptych towers of the Marina Bay Sands casino resort. ‘Singapore is probably at the forefront, worldwide, of publicly-initiated urban design, and also in massive and ambitious landscaping of the urban environment,’ says Safdie. ‘I believe this is an extraordinary collective achievement, a massive undertaking which has had a tremendous effect on the lives of its people.’

The enterprising, persevering hybrid vigour spirit is articulated in a new Singapore Tourism Board tagline, ‘Passion Made Possible’, intended to market Singapore on the global stage for both tourism and business. A collaboration between the Singapore Tourism Board, Economic Development Board and the Ministry of Communications and Information, the agencies’ first joint brand is a bold move to showcase Singapore’s unique attitude and mindset.

‘With “Passion Made Possible”, STB is presenting a brand that can tell a fuller Singapore story beyond just tourism,’ explains Lionel Yeo, chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board. Designed to build a deeper and more personal connection with Singapore’s millions of visitors, and to serve as a unifying brand for Singapore on the international front, the ‘Passion Made Possible’ brand is aimed at ‘sophisticated tourists who are seeking more aspirational value propositions in their travel’.

‘Singapore is making the shift from being primarily an investment-driven economy to one that will be led by innovation,’ says Dr Beh Swan Gin, chairman of Singapore’s Economic Development Board. ‘Singapore and Singaporeans are where we are today because we pushed the limits of what’s possible, and did not allow constraints to hold us back.’

The October issue of Wallpaper* – our landmark 21st birthday edition – includes a Singapore Revealed special supplement, bringing the island city state’s ‘Passion Made Possible’ philosophy alive via a profiles, products and destinations. Edited by Wallpaper* contributor Daven Wu, the project channels the zeitgeist to explore the personalities, activity and industry generated by Art Stage Singapore, the Singapore Biennale and Singapore Design Week – all now well-established events on the calendar.

We discovered that the island’s creative community incorporating into their work issues of ecology, aged care, education and public housing, as well as breaking new ground in new construction techniques. ‘Most intriguingly, from coast to coast, the buzzword we kept coming up against was “innovation”,’ writes Wu. ‘Not innovation for its own sake, but rather innovation in terms of business and design. Remarkably, for a country that’s barely 700 sq km, it looks as if Singapore is showing us all the way.’


Why Developing Good Apps Is Not Cheap

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Why is app development so expensive?

I get this question a lot, and it often comes from a shell-shocked CEO or CIO who discovers his five-figure-budget project ends up being six or even seven figures. That’s crazy. Why is app development so expensive?

The easiest explanation is that apps are cheap; it’s the engineering and design talent that’s expensive. If you look in the App Store, you’ll see over a million different apps. These were all built by independent developers, yet the bulk of these apps will never earn a penny.

A different set of apps serves as the foundations of million- and billion-dollar businesses. Solo developers typically don’t build these apps; instead they’re built by teams of developers and designers. These teams range in size from nimble three-person teams to large enterprise organizations that employ hundreds of engineers.

Seriously: hundreds of engineers. Facebook, Google, Twitter, FitBit and many other tech giants have teams numbering over 100 people, often all working on a single mobile app. Teams this large aren’t typical, but it is important to understand that there is a lot of work that goes into making products that on the surface, may seem simple.

You might be thinking, “OK, but my project doesn’t need hundreds of engineers.” It’s true that most projects don’t need hundreds of engineers, but most products do need at least a small team of experienced engineers, designers and product people to produce an end product that is competitive and that will generate true business results. It’s common to have between three and 10 people working on a single platform (iOS/Android) app.

The typical timeline for an initial project is often four to six months. Much like building a ship, you’ll end up doing architecture, schematics, design, building and launching.

Doing The Math

At this point, the math is pretty simple. Labor costs are the No. 1 driver of the cost of your final product. Look up the salaries of top developers and designers in your region, and you’ll likely uncover an annual range of anywhere from $60,000 to $150,000 for most of the roles. Multiply your average salary by team size to determine your annualized product design and development costs.

Your annualized costs are often a good reflection of the true costs of building a product. Even if the initial version of the product takes three months and not six months, it’s common for product teams to continue to improve the product and further drive revenue and key metrics for the core business.

Driving core metrics of the business is the reason why the companies have the larger product and engineering teams. An improvement of one-tenth of 1 percent is still a million dollars in the upside. Larger businesses are simultaneously driving multiple new product feature initiatives that each aim to impact business’s bottom line.

Deciding Whether To Build Or Buy

At this point, you have an annualized expected cost, and you may be thinking, “Should I try to hire the people and build this myself or look for a services team?” Great question. This often comes down to a question of timing and core competencies. For companies that consider themselves to be technically savvy, it may make sense to try to build the technology in-house. The biggest challenge we’ve seen with an in-house strategy is hiring and staffing the appropriate level of engineers and designers to the effort.

For companies that aren’t technically savvy, there’s a second challenge, and that’s retaining talent once you’ve found it. Non-tech companies often experience high turnover when it comes to tech initiatives. This is often due to the fact that the culture and speed of a non-technology company may inhibit tech organizations from getting things done quickly.

Looking For The Best Of Both Worlds?

If you want to have your cake and eat it too, there are always options. Based on what I’ve seen, many teams can be successful by using an external team to do the heavy lifting, and a lower cost in-house team to keep the product running year-over-year. In general, you’re trading cost for speed to market. You don’t want to trade on quality of the product.

At the end of the day, I’ve found that it’s about the moving the needle for your business, and finding a team that can deliver is the most important part of growing your business for the mobile generation.


Nintendo is updating Super Mario Run with a new character, mode, and world

Nintendo will issue a new update to its iOS and Android game Super Mario Run on September 29th, which will include a new world, mode, and playable character.

The update will introduce a new mode called Remix 10, which randomly splices together 10 sections from the game’s various levels in quick succession and rewards players with rainbow medals. Completing the various stages will allow players to rescue Princess Daisy and subsequently play as her throughout the rest of the game. Players will also be able to unlock a new world called World Star, which includes nine new levels, enemies and some additional gameplay mechanics.

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Polygon notes that there’s some other minor updates: players can get new items to put in their Mushroom Kingdom, and can listen to their own music while they play — when they do so, their runners will wear headphones. Nintendo is also temporarily cutting the price in half starting on September 29th through October 12th.