Thursday, November 10, 2011

Collaboration in e-Learning in Zambia

Status of e-Learning in Zambia

The TVET system in Africa has been predominately classroom based. This is particularly true in Zambia. The classroom based learning is characterised by a physical learning environment between a student and a lecturer. However, the emergence of e-learning has allowed some people in Zambia to acquire and improve their training in different fields.

Some of the challenges that have been identified that pose a challenge to many Zambians benefiting fully from the advantages offered by e-learning include: the low numbers of people with internet access, availability and affordability of computer hardware, cost of acquiring the training. Many African nations are struggling with limited access to training for young people, and at the same time have to address the basic needs of an older generation. In Zambia, secondary school leavers at grades nine and twelve have to compete for limited places at universities and colleges. The TVET sector has enrolments of 27,000. Considering the number of youths that do not qualify to grades eight and ten and those that write grade twelve examinations, this number is not as high as it should be to cater for these youths. Distance learning and e-learning can help the youths in training. In the TVET sector in Zambia very few institutions are offering distance learning let alone e-learning. The Technical, Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA) outlines the objectives for distance and vocational training as being:

· To provide access to Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training (TEVET) to a wider category of students.

· To develop an affordable type of education and training to citizens in the country.

· To provide opportunities for the acquisition of education and training to disadvantaged citizens in the country.

· To eliminate distance as a barrier to the acquisition of knowledge, skills and values.

· To develop a variety of means of offering TEVET programmes which are in line with developments in the region and globally (TEVETA, 2004:v).

There is need to promote access and inclusion for TVET through promotion of ICTs. The National Information and Communication Technology Policy has a vision of “A Zambia transformed into an information and knowledge-based economy supported by consistent development and pervasive access to ICTs by all citizens by 2020” (Ministry of Communications and Transport, 2006:20). This gives a policy direction of how the different sectors, like the TEVET one, should align their strategies in their training.

Survey of e-learning

Approach to e-Learning

In a survey carried out on the four institutions offering distance learning in TEVET it was found that the approach to e-learning was mainly computer-based assessment, web-based research, discussion board, wireless device, simulation, learning software and streaming video/audio.

e-Learning Technologies

It was found that face-to-face where all participants are physically present was among the e-learning technologies used.

Benefits of e-Learning

The most significant potential benefits of e-learning were identified as:

  • No barriers in learning;
  • Learner progressing at their own pace;
  • Workers do not need to go on leave or resign in order to pursue their studies;
  • Being cheaper than traditional learning methods;
  • Being flexible;
  • Ability for students to communicate and have discussions with other students within and outside the country.

Challenges in delivery/learning of e-learning

The following challenges were identified by e-learning practitioners:

  • Development of adaptive material being time-consuming;
  • Certain e-learning systems are expensive to purchase:
  • Lack of skills in e-learning technologies and how these can be used in lesson delivery.

Recommendation for the improvement of e-learning

Respondents proposed the following recommendations for the improvement of e-learning:

  • Government policy guidance;
  • Removal or significant reduction of tax on ICT equipment and software;
  • Information dissemination on e-learning benefits and technologies through seminars and workshops;
  • Having specialised courses on e-learning technologies that will give knowledge and skills to lecturers and tutors.

The survey on e-learning shows that there are number of challenges that need to be overcome if the potential benefits of e-learning are to be fully realised by learners. In TEVET, e-learning has not yet been fully realised as a mode of learning that can enrich traditional learning and bring on board those that are not part of the formal full-time training system.

Provision of Information and Communication Technology training

It should be noted that a number of institutions are offering computer training programmes. In a survey conducted by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training, it was found that 6,943 out of 32,841 trainees were enrolled in ICT programmes. This represents 21.1% of the total enrolment (Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training, 2005:11). A total of 125 out of 340 registered institutions offer computer training programmes. This represents 37 percent of the institutions. Programmes offered include: Information Technology, Diploma in Computer Studies, Computer Systems Engineering and Information and Communication Technology for the Visually Impaired. A number of the TEVET programmes have ICT integrated in them. This means that most TEVET institutions have the potential to develop distance learning and e-learning programmes to benefit students that cannot be enrolled in the full-time learning programmes.

Promising Practice of E-learning in TEVET

The School of Radiography at the Evelyn Hone College has been implementing e-learning since 2003. This is being done under the ORET (Development Related Export Transactions) programme financed by the Zambian and Dutch government. The aim of this cooperation is to improve the quality of the Diploma in Radiography programme. This is realised by support in curriculum development, teachers training, provision of books and lesson materials, a website and e-learning space. In collaboration with Fontys International Projects of Netherlands a range of services from basic literacy to highly specialised vocational training are provided. Since 2003 the School of Radiography of Evelyn Hone and Fontys University of Professional Education has been cooperating in Curriculum Development and Education. The e-learning programme has enabled learners and lecturers develop a collaborative work culture. Lecturers have pursued various courses in the Netherlands and enhanced their skills in areas such as Information Technology, e-learning, teaching methodologies, diagnostic ultrasound, and Educational materials development (Munsanje, 2007:1).

Students on the e-learning programme use a digital learning environment where they follow Internet courses. Students are able to sign up and subscribe for a course. For example, they may subscribe for a Basic Ultrasound course. The student will find information on the course on the website. The course duration for each course is stated including the start date.

The e-learning programme has enabled learners to enrich their learning of Radiography. In cases where lecturers are not available, the learners are still able to follow the course material on their own using e-learning.

(This article is part of a paper that was presented at the 1st African UNESCO-UNEVOC TVET Summit held in Nairobi in May 2007)

The full paper can be downloaded at: http://bit.ly/vwazL1

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