Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Elearning in Africa

"If you look at the one laptop per child programme, if I remember correctly, the Nigerian government cancelled their order because they couldn’t afford desks to put them on.”

John Traxler, LearningLab director at the University of Wolverhampton

This article in TrainingZone magazine (you will need to register to read it, but it is free) highlights some of the challenges facing those who look to deploy technology-supported or technology-based learning solutions in Africa. Presumably many of the challenges mirror those faced in other parts of the developing world.

Among these are
  • lack of hardware - many students do not have a computer at home and have to attend a teaching institution
  • lack of infrastructure - while there may (or may not) be computers at the aforementioned teaching institution, there is not always a teacher
  • poor internet speed - Africa has the lowest average internet connection speeds in the world at an average of 1.1Mbps as compared with over 6Mbps in Europe
  • and even lack of access to mains electricity (the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa estimates that only 20% of the total African population have access to electricity)
  • poisonous drinking water
  • high infant mortality rate
  • HIV/AIDS which is killing people off faster than they can be trained
So, to use a South Africanism, you can throw them dead with elearning, but until some of these basic problems are resolved, it isn't going to make a heck of a lot of difference. There are some far more fundamental issues that need to be addressed.

However, on the plus side, according to John Gordon AIS President,
[In Europe] mobile learning is either an extension of elearning or a reaction to it. It’s seen as tethered or limited, indoor. So mobile learning to a large extent here in Europe is a reaction to that; we’d like to take learning al fresco, into real life.

In southern Africa, there isn’t that history – they don’t have any elearning to react against – so if anything, mobile learning grows out of the distance learning model, often as a response to infrastructure issues.


grant ralph said...

What you say is true, but one starts social activities never to benefit the 100% but the 10%. In time these will by-word-of-mouth spread the message and more will make a plan. Think of the millions who are connected who may require a little help.

Brian Hart of Sedgefield.

Karyn Romeis said...

@Brian Thanks for your comment. You make a valid point. But it is as well for people in the developed world to be aware of the challenges facing those in our field in the developing world, rather than always presuming to have all the answers... as is too often the case.

BTW You live in a very beautiful part of the world. Sedgefield was our favourite place to break the annual journey from Cape Town to East London. I used to love taking my kids down onto that glorious beach! I was most disappointed when the rise in property prices put paid to my parents' plans to retire there.