Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Are African HEIs Missing out on eLearning?

Stephen R. Ruth in the current issue of educause discusses financial and strategic perspectives of eLearning in a study that found that the market for distance education is increasing annually by about 25%. In the paper, the revenues growth rates for for-profit higher education institutions in the USA that have adopted eLearning have quadrupled those of the traditional universities a fact that Stephen asks whether it is too good to be true. Other interesting findings are (excerpts):
  • Three-fourths of academic leaders at public colleges and universities believe that online learning quality equals or surpasses face-to-face instruction.
  • The larger the school, the more positive the belief in the quality of online learning compared to face-to-face instruction.

In the US, many traditional universities use eLearning, but are unwilling to offer fully online programs. This is a fact I have observed with the few universities that offer eLearning programs in Africa. There are suggested strategic/financial approaches suggested that the traditional universities can use to "achieve full utilization and possible profitability" from eLearning investments:
  • Investigate mergers and integration.
  • Establish a no-nonsense, globally oriented virtual university.
  • Limit bricks-and-mortar investment in favor of blended learning.
  • Support the deliberate proliferation of distance-learning adjunct faculty.
  • Accept that e-learning is costly but crucial.
I will highlight the last one, which I think the players in the African Higher Educations should concentrate on before checking on the other four. Stephen puts accepting that eLearning is the way to go " is an easier solution, far less painful than any of the approaches already suggested". A quote by Victor Hugo can be used to explain the eLearning idea: An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come. And Stephen says "e-learning is a necessity, a significant convenience, an indispensable service, and a way of life".

And to answer my question, African Higher Education Institutions are missing big time on the eLearning issue. To the best of my knowledge, there is NO university in Africa that has an eLearning financial model to sustain it other than that financial vote that usually goes to the Information and Communication Technologies department. I can already see someone thinking that there is always the issue of lack of resources and some other excuses, but my question is what have the HEIs in Africa done (or are doing) with the meager resources at their disposal? We got first to work optimally with the little we have, stretching it for maximum returns and that would give us something, albeit small to grow.

Palaver: I am disturbed by the news that there are people who use the scarce bandwidth in Africa to watch and engage in pornography and other weird online behaviors at the expense of the taxpayers.

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