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E-learning report finds mobility in learning has ‘not yet eclipsed traditional ways of education delivery’

June 13, 2013  »  EducationNo Comment

An annual report on the African e-learning landscape was released during the 8th International Conference on ICT for Development, Education and Training, held in Windhoek, Namibia in May 2013. At the conference, an estimated 2,000 attendees were told of the need to redefine the education system. ICT in education needs a modern approach that values entrepreneurship and technical training just as much as political science.

The eLearning Africa Report 2013 – a survey of the experience and opinions of more than 400 professionals and practitioners from 42 African countries – covers successes and failures in how technology is being used to support African learning. In general, the report finds optimism for harnessing the potential of technology to improve the quality of African education.

Successes are met with challenges, however. Report editor Shafika Isaacs finds mobility in learning has “not yet eclipsed traditional ways of education delivery.” Mobile devices and laptops are increasingly used by teachers and students, but how they are meaningfully used is less clear. Tablets – perhaps the device best geared toward e-learning – are still used by a minority of classrooms. Little local content is created using indigenous languages. The commercialization of learning also poses its own challenges.

Summary of key report findings & data

Use of Digital Technologies:

  • Nearly all respondents use either a laptop, mobile phone, or stand-alone PC to support learning every day. Less than 10% use smartboards. 30% never use tablets. 31% still use radio.
  • 60% use social networking sites to support learning. 29% use VoIP. 22% use blogs.
  • 33% use learning technologies to expand access to learning opportunities. Only 8% do so to develop employability skills.
  • 71% find technology to have a positive influence on learning outcomes.

Constraints, Failure, and Change:

  • Constraints vary widely although lack of financial resources was cited 54% of the time. Lack of hard ware, bandwidth limitations, lack of political will, limited electricity, and lack of appropriate training ranged from 30%-40%.
  • Half of respondents have experienced failures in using technologies to support learning.
  • Mobile technology is expected to bring about the most change in how learning technology is applied. Social media, increased bandwidth, rise of MOOCs, and policy implementation are all essentially tied. No change in sentiment in this question has been noticed over the past five years.
  • The national government is seen as the most important agent of change in enhancing learning technologies. One-third as many respondents cited the private sector as being most important in this regard.

Key Themes:

  • Respondents were split between producing local digital content and not. Only half of respondents have definite access to local digital content.
  • 63% use content in indigenous languages. Only 16% create content in indigenous languages.

Conclusions:

  • The integration of digital technologies in African learning environments is still an emerging process.
  • The dominant views held by respondents are unsurprisingly positive and optimistic.
  • The conversations regarding the benefits of mobile technologies and social media could benefit from more sober reflection on the risks for learning that these new possibilities pose.
  • There is a stronger-than-ever sense of local ownership and entitlement.
  • It is encouraging to note the openness with which the conversation on failure in e-learning has been embraced by respondents.
  • The clear priorities for a post-2015 development agenda focus on education and ICT, with an emphasis on the technology-specific priorities of ICT in education, training and infrastructure.
  • Whilst reference is made to the ubiquitous use of mobile technologies and social media by respondents, less is known about how these are integrated in classroom practice, how they facilitate the learning experience and how they are enabling the emergence of new ways of learning.

Note: The eLearning Africa Report 2013 is a collaborative endeavor to enrich the conversation on ICT-enhanced learning in Africa, shaping policy and practice across the continent. Views of the less technologically-savvy such as parents, teachers and government officials have not been considered as strongly in this survey.

P.S. Reviews of eLA13 can be found at The Guardian (“Should Africa beware tech companies bearing gifts?“) and eLearning Africa (“The eLearning Africa Debate 2013: An invocation to innovation“). A photo gallery is also available.