Beni American University
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Beni American University is dedicated to the removal of barriers that restrict access to and success in university-level study in Africa. We aim to increase equality of educational opportunities for young and adult learners of all genders and backgrounds in Africa. We provide supprt and opportunities beyond learning.
Tell us about yourself/your team.
Dubbed “Nigeria’s budding Mark Zuckerberg” by Forbes, 24- year old Nigerian entrepreneur, Gossy Ukanwoke, wants to transform how education is provided and make it readily available for people who otherwise might not have access or the resources for an education.
Prior to Beni American University, Gossy founded Students Circle Network, an academic social network for students, teachers, institutions that brings over 10,000 free academic resources from over 200 universities globally and shares it free for students and teachers. Students Circle has grown to become a world known social network and has been featured on several news media worldwide. He has been referred to as “Africa’s Top Tech Entrepreneur” by ITNews Africa in 2011.
Gossy holds a B.Sc in Management Information Systems
What makes you an intrapreneur? What are the skills, capabilities, and personality traits that make you an intrapreneur?
We are a team of goal oriented entrepreneurs and professionals in both business, finance, education and management who are working towards the provision of affordable higher education for Africa's youth.
Beni American University believes in the collective support from industry leaders in Technology, Education, Business, Entrepreneurship to prop us towards our goals. Members of the Advisory Council bring their immense experiences in related fields on board to serve the purpose of guiding and serving in an advisory capacity to the Leadership of BAU on resource policies, technology focus, academic policies and related matters.
As a team of diversely talented and skilled members, we are evenly matched to take on projects and satisfactorily complete them. This is evident in our results
About Your Organization
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Established (past the previous stages and has demonstrated success)
The Need: What social or environmental problem are you trying to solve?
In the past school year, the total number of students that graduated from Nigeria’s high schools totaled about 1,500,000 students. However the capacity of the students who could be admitted in Nigerian schools totaled about 350,000. The estimate of the number of students who are expected to study outside Nigeria was put at about 250,000. This leaves a gap of about 900,000 students who will need to gain admissions. Our research shows that over 200,000 are qualified and can afford the education. This research also shows that there are another 150,000 who are qualified but cannot adequately afford higher education.
These figures have accumulated over the past 10 years resulting in over 7 million Nigerian youths who are trapped between High Schools and Universities.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
We have created Beni American University, Africa's first Hybrid university that combines the uniqueness and flexibility of online learning with the rigorous curriculum of on-campus learning to train students both locally and regionally.
70 % Online
• CLASSES: Live video, audio and text classrooms from our interactive learning portal
• GROUP COLLABORATION: group collaboration through our learning portal and google apps
• PROJECTS: student projects
• TESTS and QUIZES: online tests, quizzes and assignments each week.
• STUDY / FACILITATION: Physical mini campuses for facilitation and student support
• INTERNSHIP: compulsory 30 day internship program for all students
• EXAMINATIONS: examinations are taken at physical testing centers.
• ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAMS: entrepreneurship programs at the end of the academic program.
We have an active Research and Development department that trains, engages and provides finances to invest in our student projects.
The Solution: Why is this solution innovative for your company and industry?
Africa is at the cross roads of innovation, growth and opportunities. We have created a unique institution that looks at these three points and uniquely adapts to grow within the sphere.
BAU focuses on student innovation and entrepreneurship that provides students with the capacity to turn their ideas into viable businesses as well as helping them source the finances to grow.
Our Hybrid model allows us to grow continuously and accommodate more students without strain.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities.
Joining the Institution:
We are admit students from all background who are qualified based on our standards which includes equality for women and girls. Students are then provided with free learning support tools such as tablet computers, internet access and library access. The students will be taken through our online learning training before they start their degree or professional programs.
Our classes typically take place online through our learning platform. Students receive their course schedules and log on to the platform at the designated times and join other students and their instructors in our unique virtual classrooms. Student engagement in the learning process remains a key aspect of our teaching and learning practice.
Tests and Quizzes, Discussions and Forums take place online. However final examinations are physical
After Completion from our university
Entrepreneurship Programs: Our students will take a 12 week bootcamp program with our partner incubators, accelerators and center of entrepreneurship. They will be grouped in 5’s to create business solutions out of ideas that can be implemented in the market. We will invest in the projects and create mentorship
Degree Completion Program: Our students who wish to move on to our partner universities to complete their undergraduate degree programs can do so with little or no barrier. We have created a direct entry system into these universities of choice to allow our students enjoy the highest preference.
Graduation: Our students may also graduate with their BAU awarded degrees and diplomas
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
Private Universities: We provide affordable and more flexible alternatives to the learning offered.
Government Universities: We provide a quality specific and program focused alternative
We are a local university with a global perspective. Our students do not need to accrue expensive living and travel expenses to join the university.
Open Education Initiatives
Our key differentiation from open initiatives come from the local support we provide for our students (tablet/PCs, internet access, learning zones, mini campuses) in Nigeria which no one else is doing.
We are also a fully recognized institution that can award certificates, degrees and diplomas. We provide physical/local tests through our testing centers across Nigeria.
This Entry is about (Issues)
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world.
After creating and successfully growing global educational social network – Students Circle in 2010, I realized from the inputs and conversations with the students who signed up to the network to access free learning resources from over 200 global universities needed more. Upon a closer look, I realized that most of the students from the West African region didnt just need another free course resource, they also needed to be tested and awarded a form of certificate to show for it.
Taking a trip to Nigeria, I conducted a survey to find out the reason for this. Upon the conclusion of the survey, the results were glaring. There was an obvious gap in the higher education provisioning in that region. Students were not being admitted because there were no free capacity schools.
Looking back at the success of Students Circle Network and working with a network of global educators and mentors, I decided to lay the foundation for a university that will overcome the prevalent challenges
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
Pilot Student Program
Date: 1st April 2012 – 20th April 2012
Details: We offered a free Entrepreneurship and Innovation short program to over 100 students within Nigeria. At the completion of this program, we continued following up with the students, providing mentoring and support and by December 2012, 3 had successfully moved from Idea to Solution on their businesses. They credit the program we offered them and our post program support for their success.
This gave us the opportunity to measure the acceptance, usability and viability of our solutions.
Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program
In December 2012, we started offering free a full scale Entrepreneurship and Innovation program to university students at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife who are studying Computer Science and are members of the Paradigm Initiative TENT Program.
We are already in the process of reviewing business plans from some of these students and staging an Business competition for them
What is your projected impact over the next 1 to 3 years?
1. Kicking off our Degree Programs by June 2013 with an estimated 200 students.
2. Graduating a minimum of 2500 students from our professional programs.
3. Investing and sourcing finance for a minimum of 10 student project teams
4. Graduating our inaugural class in exactly 3 years.
5. Include more Market / Industry specific Entrepreneurship Programs in our offering such as Entrepreneurship and Innovation Clean Energy, Agriculture and more
6. Grow our degree program disciplines to at least 10 programs.
7. Advance our usage of technology and the provision of learning to the population that do not have access to the internet but do have access to normal mobile phones through SMS.
8. As a partner to several international universities, BAU will provide cross campus opportunities.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
Government Policies: as at the time we started, there were no regulations, policies and guidelines for online institutions let alone our unique hybrid model in Nigeria. However we have worked closely with the appropriate authorities over the past one year to institute proceedings to create these policies and implement them.
Public Weariness:Our unique model ensures that students are tested like they would be if they were in regular universities. This combined with constant awareness programs will create more acceptance. Our research shows that the students on their own are ready to take on online learning
Employability: We are partnering with recognized organizations that have pledged to accept our students for internship programs. This is showing that employers do not mind the model
What is the benefit or value you're creating for your business?
Beni American University is a self sustaining project that can run on the tuition of students who enroll. Our model allows us to spend on resources in equal proportions to the number of students we have currently enrolled.
The tuition of students cover every aspect of the learning process, logistics and maintenance of the institution. We have worked extensively to find the middle ground between affordability and viability to offer programs that the students can afford and at the same time, can cover for their learning costs and more.
How are you leveraging internal resources (funds, time, knowledge, etc.) to support this initiative?
Our free programs are supported by Students Circle Network and our instructors are professors from already established institutions who are currently in their current employment but take out a compulsory number of hours per week to teach and assess students.
Our Degree programs are directly funded by our students and the instructors are professors who are under our employ and are paid equivalent to the number of students they teach and assess with specific limits to the number they can have in each class.
The rest of the BAU team are spread across the globe with their unique strengths and knowledge employed when needed and when they are serving their roles. Each team member commits are certain amount of time every week to focus on this project while a few of us work full time.
Expand on your answer, explaining the long-term funding and support plan.
Tuition: Our student tuition plan will continue to remain a revenue stream for the institution. With every year comes an estimated growth in the number of students and this will result in increased revenue
Internal Sales: Provision of student merchandise and other related services will be a source of revenue for the institution.
Administrative Fees: Students will be required to pay certain standard administrative fees and registration figures that are common with institutions of higher learning. This also remain relative to the number of admitted students.
Grants: As a supporting plan to our other revenue streams, we will eventually apply for grants that support institutions of higher learning both locally and internationally.
Investments: Our investments in student projects
Tell us about your partnerships across your company and externally that are key to your project's success.
Academic Partnerships provide millions of academic journals, articles and content for our community at not cost as well as providing Entrepreneurship Program support, training and staffing
Atlanta Metropolitan State College, JSTOR, SPIE Digital Library
Support Partnerships: provide technology tools, support, infrastructure, technologies to support learning
Google, Students Circle, Objectivity Inc, NEAI, Pulse
Internship Partners: Njorku, Encipher Group, Pliris Mobile
What internal support have you gotten for your project? What kind of push-back have you received?
An initial undisclosed seed funding for the kick off of the Beni American University project.
An array of university and institutional support that will initiated as soon as we kick off our degree programs in 2013. This support include technology, staffing and academic partnerships