Challenges faced by African Universities in technology integration

“Social Networking Technologies for Teaching and Learning Transformation”

(Live notes, errors likely exist)

Overview of the project

The workshop (two day face-to-face workshop in Dakar, Senegal…with Day 2 also offered as an eLearning Africa workshop) was offered by University of Manitoba and the Association of African Universities. I delivered the face-to-face workshop with Kathleen Matheos (Associate Dean, Extended Education, University of Manitoba). Open Society Initiative for West Africa sponsored the event. The second aspect of the grant will be a 12 week online course with educators and leaders from African Universities.

The 12 week course has three objectives:

  1. Review emerging technologies and affordances they generate
  2. Create and share institutional and national learning technology integration strategies
  3. Plan and implement a sustainable forum for African educational leaders to engage with each other on innovative policies, procedures, and advocacy

Day One: Strategic Planning

Day One of the workshop addressed the theme of strategic planning and challenges for university leaders.

We delivered the following presentation: Ten Principles of Learning Technology Integration.

The following image presents the distinction between emerging technologies and LMS in terms of innovation and systematization.

et_lms

…and the image below is a discussion of the system support needed for online learning: technical infrastructure, cognitive infrastructure, and systemic reform:

systemic_change1

And, as a model of planning at a systems level, I presented the following model:

strategy

An African Perspective on Challenges

We asked members attending the workshop about “the challenges educational leaders face in African Universities. The following is a brief summary of their input.

Group 1:

  • Political commitment is most important (leaders to be dedicated to introduce technologies in education…political will can address problem of institutionalization).
  • Infrastructure – needs to be addressed.
  • Human resources – training of new faculty (upgrading skills)
  • Funding of educational institutions: need for governments to review the budget and engage in income generating activities and provide services and resources
  • Partnership issues: internal and external (corporations). This must be addressed upfront
    Incentives: people may not be motivated to implement ICT (not interested in the challenges and overcoming challenges). When you ask a staff member to put a course online, he/she will say “I’ll put it online, for what purpose? Am I not losing my advantages? Am I going to have allowances for extra hours? Now that I have my course online, everyone has the course…people will not need me anymore and I’ll get fired”. They should feel part of a big hole. These faculty should set up, with peers, a strategy for development of the institution. University should be an instrument for development. The elements within the university should generate its own resources, and create a system for revenue generation and knowledge development

Group 2:

Four parts:

  1. Policy level: existing problems include stakeholders requiring policies to bring on board actors. The existence of legal texts should be developed (policy & procedures issues) so staff and students can relate themselves to the system. Once the system is put into place, there is need to evaluate the students. How can we put tech into place in order to grant degrees that study online.
  2. Infrastructure: there is instability in the energy sector. We need energy to make this infrastructure work. We need a permanent and reliable energy. Also a problem of computer equipment. In our country we don’t have enough computer equipment. Problem of budget and financial resources. Connectivity: we need good connectivity, and we don’t have it. It is very difficult for us to connect ourselves to the internet and put courses online and have everyone participate. Physical premises are also a problem (air conditioning)
  3. Training: technicians need to be better trained on how computers should be installed and maintained. We have a serious problem of maintaining it. Multimedia use is also important – staff need to be interested in using this. We also need students and staff trained. It is a whole system
  4. Content development: we need software tools for online education. Our stuff should use software so as to put courses online and finally create content. Staff should be trained on this. This should help us continue to use ICT online.

Partnership and networking: I believe that Côte d’Ivoire – we are interested in networking – first with ourselves and then with other countries and even outside of Africa. But, the infrastructure is inadequate, we can’t do that now unless we have good partners. African Virtual Campus is being put into place. But you need a minimum before you can network with others. The policy of using technologies by brought in by individual countries what remains should follow.

The need for networking for West African Universities: Networks for Excellence…(missed exact name). There is a genuine need for networking for training, libraries, faculty. LMD (licensed, masters, doctorate) programs need support with technologies. The need is there. But the means and resources are lacking.
Counter point: Is the will to network really there. We sometimes see networking between Europe and Africa, but not Africa to Africa. Sometimes we have concerns even within the country. We are doing less mentoring.

The main problem is that people just allows us to have access to information, but not to share (high school response). People want to download music, but they don’t want to share. You can’t talk about networking without talking about sharing. We need a mentality change: be willing to share information.

Online vs. F2f: is there an acceptance/accreditation problem between the modes? When courses are provided with elearning, we cannot get the degree validated sometimes. Commerce should validate elearning before we do.

If the university organizes with teachers and elearning, it’s clear that the degree will be easier to get. But if the student should receive training elsewhere, it becomes more complicated. We don’t have “legal texts” that allow us to validate elearning degrees. If the university accredits it, faculty should as well.
Accreditation is a problem for each institution. A big problem in Africa – if we have a university who partners with others – would universities accept each other’s degrees?

In Africa, we talk too much about resources. We need to talk more about inter-continent partnerships. If we have partnerships, why don’t we open up more to each other.

When we have the opportunity to meet in various forums, we should make sure that we understand that elearning is not cheaper training. We need to make our degrees more credible. We have to really stress the point of building bridges between residential and online courses.
Group 3: (Group of 3 countries): Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya

Planning and technology challenges for universities executives and leaders:

Resistance to change: fear, ignorance of benefits, unwillingness to change – this is a big challenge for leaders.

National ICT policies often do not favour the educational sector. Resources are not adequately channelled into elearning. We have frequent educational changes in policy, so it makes planning difficult. Government changes result in changes in policy, which makes it difficult.

Where policies exist, there is often bad implementation. No enforcement of policies exists. No adequate incentives (such as technical support) and motivations exist to drive policies. Staff do not have adequate time to develop online content. ICT policies cannot be implemented due to work load. Monetary incentives do not exist, and quality assurance processes are not in place. For example, policy of staff development should be done on a gradient and tracked.

Low level of knowledge of technology by leaders. This produces reluctance to implement technologies.
Resources are limited. We don’t have adequate skills around pedagogy and ICT skills.
Inadequate infrastructure, low bandwidth, access, and energy (human and infrastructure is low).
It boils down to habit. There is a human element: people find it difficult to change. Do we need to motivate through coercion?

Group 4:

Group of 4 countries, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Congo.

Each country has a different context. Senegal, we don’t have a problem with connectivity. But we have a problem of content. Our elearning platforms are empty. Congo has a problem of connectivity, but they don’t lack content.

  • Content quality is also a concern. We discussed using MIT OCW, for French-speaking countries, this is a problem. Should we translate? Or should we use from French universities. Only a few French-speaking universities post content. But it is not up to the level of quality by MIT. Content is not necessarily suited to local context. MIT courses are not suited to cultures that don’t have a scientific culture.
    Courses and content should be well done and well structured. We should realize that the student is not in front of us in elearning. Students learning online may be sitting all alone, so pedagogy should be attractive and suitable to the experience. Students should not be bored by the content.
  • Motivation & incentives: generally, teachers and researchers in African universities are highly motivated in publishing research articles because it helps their careers. Developing elearning content does not offer this motivation. They don’t see how developing elearning will contribute to their university career. Should universities pay for content development as an incentive? Or pay a bonus (such as research bonus in some universities)? Content development should also contribute to promotion.
  • What should be done to introduce elearning effectively in universities. Generally, there is no strategies put into place. There is also a problem of research. They are used to research (i.e. they are trained to write research papers). But for elearning, there is no training…but they do not have the skills or institutional strategy/support for elearning development. The background and support does not exist for people to do this. Universities should create a plan to support people in developing resources. Training should be continuous. A structure of support is needed that rewards elearning such as how research is rewarded

Online Guests at the Workshop

We brought in two guests (we had solicited several others to present, but schedules didn’t work, hence the prominence of the male gender) via Skype to comment on their experiences with emerging technology.
Peter Tittenberger, Director, LTC at University of Manitoba.

Peter shared his experiences in two generations of technology integration:

  1. Late 90’s/early 2000’s as University of Manitoba moved to WebCT. This period was somewhat grassroots-driven. The university systematized LMS procedures after faculty interest in learning technologies was of sufficient level to warrant adoption and planning. The formal structure of this stage of technology use informs much current systemic thinking
  2. Emerging technologies of the lasts several years have influenced educational approaches. At this stage, freedom has been given to learners. Personal control afforded by emerging technologies competes with the mandate of Computer Services to protect user data and restrict access to those who are enrolled or have suitable permissions.

Personal reflection: Most universities do not have a strategic view of emerging technologies. This is partly due to the rapid change in society and technology. However, the lack of response to what is now a ten year trend, seems to be a failure of current policy approaches. A system is needed that is more adaptive and better integrated with the context of society today.

Terry Anderson, Canada Research Chair, Distance Education, Athabasca University.

Terry addressed two themes:

  1. The internet is a disruptive force that alters existing practice in education. Open educational resources, self-directed learning, learner control, etc. are innovations in content and information access. Equally important, the internet has recently seen a shift to conversation and interaction instead of only content provision.

  2. Athabasca uses a self-directed learning model in many faculties. In order to increase access to learning opportunities, open enrollment is offered. This freedom comes with a cost. Students are often not able to interact with each other when self-directed in distance/online education. Terry (and AU) is actively involved in researching how social network technologies can be utilized for connecting learners that may have similar profiles and interests, but are at different stages in their learning path.

3 Responses to “Challenges faced by African Universities in technology integration”

  1. [...] from a workshop and discussion session with leaders in education and ICT from African universities: Challenges faced by African Universities in technology integration. I’m continuing my quest to use more images. But, as the post reveals, visuals truly are not [...]

  2. Robert says:

    As a teaher of twenty years in Canada this sounds all too familiar
    [............]Where policies exist, there is often bad implementation. No enforcement of policies exists. No adequate incentives (such as technical support) and motivations exist to drive policies. Staff do not have adequate time to develop online content. ICT policies cannot be implemented due to work load. Monetary incentives do not exist, and quality assurance processes are not in place. For example, policy of staff development should be done on a gradient and tracked.

    Low level of knowledge of technology by leaders. This produces reluctance to implement technologies [............]

  3. [...] View original post here: Challenges faced by African Universities in technology integration … [...]