Late last week The Guardian published an article about online learning systems in Africa. As a response to the conclusion of the annual eLearning Africa conference in Kampala, Uganda, the author Holly Young titled the story “E-Learning: more hype than hope?” Perhaps a reactionary response to that title is “certainly not,” but once logistical details are understood the challenges become more apparent.
The positives to conferences that sponsor online learning platforms such as “eLearning Africa” is that it provides a platform to encourage online learning. Online learning allows a few faculty members to lecture and teach beyond physical limits to anyone around the world with access to a computer and internet. Additionally, in lower-income neighborhoods and developing countries that have such apparent education gaps, online learning allow for more educational opportunities therefore expanding the impact of a single educator.
In theory E-learning sounds promising, however, Young is right in questioning the hype. At the end of her article she asks,
“How do we ensure that investment in e-learning is not restricted to the technology itself, but extends to the infrastructure and resources needed to fully support it? How do we guarantee that e-learning benefits groups at all stages in education, including teachers? The focus on e-learning often centers around Africa, but where are the other examples of innovation?”
These are all valid questions. According to Internet World Stats, an international online market research company, fewer than 16 percent of African users have access to internet. A major problem with the oil extraction industry in many of the newly rich Middle Eastern countries is its purchase of technological equipment, but not investment into technological infrastructure. This will be a major challenge for many African countries as well.
That said, there are considerable positive initiatives that are addressing many of these issues. In Young’s article, The Keplar Project, developed by the African Management Initiative, “illustrate[s] the potential to breakdown access barriers for groups logistically or financially locked out of education.” Through initiatives like these, many African countries are not creating an eLearning hype, but instead an eLearning hope.
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Rodrigo Futema is the Communications & Event Planning Intern at the Global Business School Network