[Column] Jens Ischebeck: Four key essentials of e-learning in Africa
The rate of technological advancement in Africa is growing rapidly. Introduction of computer and internet in the 20th century has significantly improved the way of life across the globe and in the African continent.
Africa countries are now embracing technological innovations in their operations. Technological innovation has brought new dimensions in every aspect of life and has made life easier.
Learning, in particular, has been transformed from the traditional classroom model of learning to the new digital era of distance learning process. The internet is used to disseminate information and students can now study virtually from anywhere and at any time they want.
It is no doubt that the availability and use of technology has opened many avenues in the education system. E-learning is an essential tool that has numerous benefits. This article will outline some of the essential benefits that have been brought about by e-learning:
Increased Learners Flexibility and Convenience
In the past, the only way to access learning materials was via a classroom setup. Today, the use of internet has helped to expand access to education through the distance learning option.
Distance learning helps one to access learning materials from anywhere in the world and one can study on the go, at their workplace, at home etc. The students can access learning materials through the internet using their smartphones and private computers.
E-learning has thus opened multiple opportunities in the continuing education system which has enabled the students to:
• Plan their studies where and when they want to. Students are able to create their own timetable depending on their availability with fewer interruptions.
• Access to e-courses and learning tutorials online, and can subscribe and follow their different courses of interests.
• Choose the course’s content they need and the tools that are appropriate to their chosen needs, interests and skills.
• Learn at their own pace with a chance to speed up or to slow down as they deem necessary. The courses are available to them 24/7 and thus they can choose the time and pace of study.
• Easily download the learning materials and read them any time they choose to, can be either immediately or later.
• Select the courses they want to study easily when and how they want.
• Do a test when they are ready for it and assess their individual performance online through online examinations.
A famous example of such e-learning benefits are language learning apps!
Broad Learning Options
The traditional classroom learning setup offered limited options to access education. The only way students could access learning materials was through attending physical learning institutions.
E-learning has provided an alternative option of learning through the internet for a recognized international qualification (Read: How to close the skills gap in Africa).
With the ease of access to numerous courses via e-learning, most students now have many options at their disposal to choose from. Students can choose the course to study depending on their interests without having to follow a classroom schedule.
Learning materials are available on the internet and they can be readily accessible to them anytime and anywhere in the world. This has made learning more affordable as there are no extra costs involved like transport and accommodation costs.
• The students can access almost any course they want at the comfort of their home and learning is made available to everyone.
• The students in Africa can access tutorials and learning materials from institution across the globe without having to travel abroad for education.
• The students are also able to access courses they could not access before due to lack of trainers who are well versed in that particular course.
• Tutors across the globe offer all types of courses through the internet and thus students across the globe can access them at ease.
• The Students can access the same course being offered by different tutors and thus if they are not able to understand one tutor they have an option to switch to another easily and on time.
Improved Delivery of Studies
E-learning tools have brought the faster delivery of studies. E-learning is delivered through online platforms like the use of internet and electronic materials.
The students are able to use different learning styles and methods that are faster to access compared to when it was just the traditional classroom methods available. Teachers are able to use electronic tools to disseminate information and to teach students virtually.
The student can opt to put more effort in the areas they have more challenges in. The learning materials are online all the time and so a student can revise as much as they want until they understand their topics of interest.
Read the related article: Online education: Linking up Africa with some of the best colleges in the world.
E-learning has eliminated the geographical barriers and has opened an alternative avenue to learning. The cost that students incurred to access the learning institutions like traveling, accommodation, tuition, parking, among others has been eliminated.
The student can select the online courses they want to undertake according to their budget and cut the costs of learning courses they don’t have interest in. It reduces the need to have a physical campus site and location and thus the costs associated with building and maintenance of the facility and the equipment is eliminated.
It also cuts the costs for huge piles of paperwork as the learning materials are provided electronically and one can access them through the internet and thus there are fewer or no costs for buying and printing papers.
The e-learning process provides ease in supplying and marking of tests and examinations as this is done online and thus reducing the costs of distribution and marking of papers.
Education is an important aspect to everybody as it is the key to a better future. The future of learning is in e-learning and the more people in the African countries become tech savvy the better.
The governments should work tirelessly to eliminate the infrastructure problems that are making e-learning challenging.
Countries across the African continent are gradually embracing the technological innovations which are paramount to development.
E-learning will open numerous opportunities that can transform the continent and become like or better than the developed countries.
M-learning is one of the relatively new applications which use the new internet and mobile phone based technologies to improve the access to some basic needs or skills, such as medical education, app based language learning or cheap online money transfers.
Since distance education plays such an important role in the further development of the African education systems, more and more regional African edtech providers offer locally adapted products, such as online courses or tutoring. Many of these African startups are presented on apps-for-learning.com.