E-learning. The way forward for Africa?

Online master’s degree from UK. Min 2 yrs work experience required.” Such adverts are very common on the internet. Advancement in technology seems to have shifted the classroom from a congested room to the comfort of one’s home or smaller classes. Today, a single lecture can be transmitted to more students than those that can sit in a lecture theater at the same time. A student in Kampala, Uganda can attend a lecture delivered from London in real time.

But the technology has not been applied in many African countries. Rwanda has started using the service in training students on how to develop and use the medical data a field named as Bioinformatrics. This kind of training requires highly skilled professors that the country does not have. According to Amy Tang the Country Director of OpenMRS (medical record system) training programme at Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA):

We have connections to several professors of medical data informatics and computer programming in the United States and South Africa. Once or twice a week, we schedule lectures - in the afternoon in Rwanda and in the early morning in the USA. Before the lecture time, the professor emails the PowerPoint slide lectures for us to upload in the Rwanda. Then we project the PowerPoint slides in the classroom using a projector. We connect to the professor using SKYPE and broadcast his/her voice using speakers. Then the professor lectures about one hour on a topic. Afterwards, we spend 30 minutes in question and answer session, where the students ask to the professor question and the professor responds.

Will it be embraced?

Professor Venansious Baryamureeba is the dean of the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology at Makerere University in Kampala Uganda. He told a live talk Show in Kampala (KFM hard talk) that many people had got excellent degrees from Universities like Phoenix without going there. Unimpressed, a political party vice president Hon Salaam Musumba dared him to “take the graduates to work”. She argued that education is much more than delivering the lecture. Its about the experience of studying with others, she says. It therefore appears that some people are yet to be convinced that E-learning can provide the service, just like in a traditional classroom.

As the New Times of Rwanda reports: Thanks to technology today a group of software developing students can be taught by the world’s leading professor in the field without incurring the expenses of travel and accommodation to foreign countries. Distant learning has ensured quality education to students without ‘denting’ their pockets.

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About the author: Kwagala Derrick is a Ugandan computer-scientist (Programmer), social entrepreneur and educator. He's passionate about Information Technology literacy & Professionalism, mobile and Internet accessibility for all on the multilingual-multicultural African Continent.
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