This week, #ela14 takes place at the fancied Munyonyo Resort, 12km south east of downtown Kampala. eLearning Africa is the largest gathering of elearning and ICT supported education professionals on the continent. And it happens annually. I attended Cotonou 2 years ago and Dar es Salaam prior to that. I can confirm that if elearning, online learning and ICTs for education interest you, this is a great place to be. So lets examine a little what kind of Ugandans would attend elearning africa – Teachers of ICTs, University ICT departments, elearning Service Providers, Policy makers from the Ministry of Education, and a ton of exhibitionists – software vendors, technology vendors and as always, a number of schools looking to attract support from represented donor agencies. The potential to network gainfully is enormous, as this conference averages 1400 professionals over 3 days!
Last year in Windhoek, Namibia, 86% of the participants came from African countries. It is not clear how many came from within Namibia. That would be an interesting statistic, because as the ICT Association of Uganda has already lamented, the conference fees for the category ‘African Nationals based in Africa’, stands at €380 (an equivalent of Ushs 1,350,000 – One Million Three Hundred Fifty Thousand Shillings.) To get the context right, this figure represents about 4 times the net salary of a primary school teacher, and about the gross salary of a university teaching assistant!
I have had the honor of serving in a senior management position at a university, and facing the National Council of Higher Education. Particularly, my interest was tweaked when an NCHE representative asked the University to guarantee that elearning students would access their courses – either by providing internet access to the hosted learning materials and/or providing the means (read gadgets) for the students. Access to the internet remains a critical factor in any online and elearning venture. 3 years later, I am happy to note that overall access to the internet in Uganda has increased – but that is to the outside. It is still not clear what the national policy for elearning is – I hope this conference will bring us to the table.
Within Uganda, one of the hugest drivers for elearning will be the Research and Education Network for Uganda – RENU. Over the last 8 years, RENU has gone from a concept on paper to become a driving force in promoting research collaboration between institutions of higher learning in Uganda and beyond. Through its mission, RENU hopes to promote knowledge creation and sharing amongst scholars and researchers through the provision of advanced network services. The realisation of RENU’s vision and mission is closely intertwined with elearning and online learning. RENU seeks not to create superstars, but a network of like minded centres of excellence in research and education.
Online learning (and indeed, some aspects of elearning) present a new problem for our age-old standards. MIT, Harvard and Berkeley have Free Online Courses -the question is, and appropriately for this day and age,if i covered 15 online courses, from various providers, totaling enough credits for a degree, would I be awarded?
Is the Uganda National Examinations Board (as well as the National Council for Higher Education) ready to accredit and honor hours spent learning online?
I have also scoured the Uganda Ministry of Education website for any policy documentation on elearning and i did not find any. Does that explain why the chief hosts are the ministry of ICT and the Uganda Communications Commission? I appreciate, the role of technology in elearning but i also sense that the leading policy body for education, at an event hosted by the ‘Government of Uganda’ – the Ministry of Education is on a long leash.
This year’s theme, ‘Opening Frontiers to the Future’, is one that calls to mind, what we would like elearning and online learning to be like – when our children’s children go to school. Uganda – what is your frontier to the future of elearning?
Looking at Blackboard, July 2006, i was indeed fascinated. But sitting in the same class as my mom had its issues. I was glad it was a certificate, i was impressed at her tenacity, and she doesn’t know how much that week long certificate has grown into a full fledged career path. Blackboard has since grown by leaps and bounds – See Here
So when one of my classes in FOSSFA’s FBT Training had an online module, 3 years later, i was more than happy to ‘study online’. Online learning is not necessarily the same as e-learning – with the advent of Flip classrooms, anything is possible with e-learning, but perhaps the most common form of electronic enabled/supported learning is Online Learning – we are happy to call it E-Learning.
Online education is education that is delivered via the internet. Throughout the world, e-learning is fast becoming an important mode of education delivery, not only for online students, but also for full-time students at many of the larger universities. However, online learning and the provision of learning materials via the internet necessitates a change of paradigm – a recasting of the traditional conception of a university. Classrooms, lecturer’s offices, sports facilities, and student residences are largely made redundant, while servers (whether local or in the cloud) become the centre of the university’s education provision. – source
FOSSFA’s elearning happened on a platform called DOKEOS. Beautiful, but somewhat tacky, but that was 2009! Dokeos has beautiful features – See Here. On here, i was able to quickly transform from a Student, to hosting an entire class, successfully.
You can say this transition freshened up my desire, and suddenly, i was ready to reunite with a lost passion. In all this time, i had carried out numerous trainings, and i had even used my laptop in most of them. But you see, that is not quite it.
In 2010 when i started out at IHSU, i found Moodle! I had heard about it, had even used it on a few online courses, but now i had the honor to administer it. IHSU runs Moodle 1.98, but that was only until a few months ago, as Moodle’s upgrades are much of a temptation!
Moodle is an Open Source Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It has become very popular among educators around the world as a tool for creating online dynamic web sites for their students. To work, it needs to be installed on a web server somewhere, either on one of your own computers or one at a web hosting company.
Moodle is perhaps one of the more popular Online Learning Environments – Check Stats Here – and has served at IHSU, faithfully, for over 4 years and 2 graduation classes now. As you can imagine, being a Moodle administrator is alot of fun. My work is technical, some tasks daunting, and others, well, simply magical – like the smile of a successfully logged in first timer! Now we are in the middle of upgrading to 2.2, then to 2.4 the latest!
Loiusa is from Malawi, she is a Lecturer, speaks lovely french (not that i know better); and Sabina is a recent graduate from a Beninese University – she understands Louisa, and all i can do is look on! In 2012, this small West African nation was the host to the annual e-learning Africa Conference – website – and my second time in attendance. Dubbed as Africa’s premier networking event for educators pursuing e-learning, and service providers of the same, i have to say, I have met more than my match for passion, excellence and practical e-learning across the African continent. Its addictive, and this year in may, i hope to be in Namibia.
Only last year, Hospice Africa Uganda approached me and asked to be helped with setting up their online learning platform – Now Up – and i could not believe my excitement. Hardly quarter and the list is growing. But that’s not it, its the happiness with which i approach everything e-learning! Its exciting, installing servers, training staff, via a platform they are new to, I have even submitted (my first ever) a session proposal to e-learning Africa, because i feel there is something about e-learning missing from my google searches.
The Uganda Centre for Open Source Software is now running Linux Certification and Training via http://coss.ug/elearn.
At IHSU, we have our firsts cut out for us – the first ever e-learners pre-course survey; the first ever IHSU e-learning survey (hope to become annual). And for once, i have alot to learn, but it feels so good, i feel like a wall onto which you can throw anything, and it will be transformed into something about e-learning.
I guess when ICT and Training are your life passions, Training Online, using ICT should come natural, and for me, the timing couldn’t be better.
Learning Management System – Here
Virtual Learning Environment – Here
Distance Education ( or distance learning) is a mode of delivering education and instruction, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional setting such as a classroom. Distance learning provides “access to learning when the source of information and the learners are separated by time and distance, or both.” Distance education courses that require a physical on-site presence for any reason (including taking examinations) have been referred to as hybrid or blended courses of study. [Source: Wikipedia]