Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Kenya has a National ICT Policy Document

As an extension to my earlier post one eLearning policy, I have come across a National ICT Policy document for Kenya that recognise eLearning:


The lack of a policy framework on e-learning has hampered its development and utilisation. In this regard, there is need to:
a) Provide affordable infrastructure to facilitate dissemination of knowledge and skill through e-learning platforms;
b) Promote the development of content to address the educational needs of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions;
c) Create awareness of the opportunities offered by ICT as an educational tool to the education sector;
d) Facilitate sharing of e-learning resources between institutions;
e) Promote centres of excellence to host, develop, maintain and provide leadership of better learning resources and implementation strategy;
f) Exploit e-learning opportunities to offer Kenyan education programmes for export; and
g) Integrate e-learning resources with other existing resources.
I am also studying the Kenya's National Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Strategy for Education and Training. These are two lengthy documents that I will take a couple of days to read - and raise my issues here. But, my question still remain...what next after these well crafted policies?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Success of eLearning Programmes and Initiatives

After I posted the blog on 10 reasons whey eLearning initiatives fail, my friends and I were engaged in a diagnostic discussion of why it is difficult to create sustainable projects in Africa. The concern was mainly on the public and donor funded projects. Some of the strong points that came out are:
  1. Some of the projects are started for the wrong reasons. One one of the wrong reason that came into the light is personal gratification and enrichment. While it is not wrong to earn from donor/public funded projects, it should be within all moral and ethical bounds and not at the expense of its sustainability.
  2. Related to the point above, is that the project created become synonymous to their founders or directors. These people always form a shield around themselves to protect their interests - and block any new ideas that will destabilize the status quo. This makes it difficult to audit the projects. Further, in case of any eventuality that the synonyms cannot continue leading this projects, there is a vacuum in terms of the knowledge of what the project was all about or being run.
  3. People in leadership monopolizing the custodianship of knowledge about the projects and selectively passing it out when it favors them. This is usually because of the wrong philosophy that for you to be powerful, you should be the only one who knows how to do something.
  4. Finally what also came out is what I will call a copy-n-paste solution, or a next patient same treatment situation or a one size fit all. A good example of this is where an initiative that was perceived to have worked with the UN staff in New York is imposed to a rural school in say Mozambique, Zambia or Kenya. The disparity of these two contexts is as wide as the earth is from the now disowned Pluto.
What these brings forth in summary is:
  1. We should always start our eLeraning initiatives and programmes for the right reasons.
  2. While it is good to earn from such projects, it is good to put the projects before self.
  3. We should strive to share knowledge with others - empowering each other.
  4. We should localis and contextualise the solutions that we are offering.

10 Reasons why eLearning Fail

It is always good to here something you have always known through experience, or gut feelings being said differently. Today, I participated in a webcast on 10 reasons why eLearning Fail by Will Hipwell of GeoLearning. He outlines the as:

  1. Wrong Learning Strategy – Inappropriate content
  2. Poorly Designed Content – Poor learner experience
  3. Poorly Designed Program – Lack of support
  4. Not Tracking Enrollments and Results – Lack of data
  5. LMS Technology Fails – Difficult to find and launch
  6. Delivery Technology Fails – Content cannot run
  7. Stakeholders not bought in – Managers do not support
  8. Poor support infrastructure – Nowhere to go for help
  9. Poor business alignment – Poor overall buy in to program
  10. Poor workflow integration – Not integrated into business processes
Although the contexts, reasons and environment that Higher Education Institutions operate might be different from the for-profit organizations, most of this points are valid and applicable. Hipwell in his presentation offers insightful suggestions to counter these failure points.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Life after Blackboard

If home is where the heart is, then we should make our homes better places to live. An equity trend analysis by Forbes has shown that Blackboard Inc is on top of the chart of companies whose insiders are disposing off their shares. This clearly shows even the insiders have no confidence with Blackboard's future or at least it opens up avenues for speculations as to what its future holds. The speculation is favoring the view that most people are not living Blackboard they are leaving. It is no longer a place where hearts can be at home. Saddening, among those featured to have sold most of the shares in the recent past are Mathew Pittinksy -the chairman of the board and director of Blackboard Inc. If this is related to the latest move to do business in the court corridors, then the Blackboard's future looks dull. Is it time to prepare for life after Blackboard?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Screen Capture & Tutorial Creating tools

Today I was searching for Open Source Software that I can use to develop some tutorials and guides as supplement materials for my eLearning Training and support. I have seen Viewlet Builder in action, but I did not like it because
1. It is proprietary, though we have a license for a number of computers.
2. It requires a lot of time and effort to put up a simple tutorial.
My usual search place is sourceforge.net, and I came across CamStudio which did what I needed to do. I two hours, I have a demo of the tutorial I wanted to create. Only glitches are on the time it takes to generate a flash file, and also having to manually edit the output files for it to be visible in Mozilla-based browsers. Other than that, I will be using it until I get/develop a superior product for this kind of work.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

From Blackboard to Whiteboard

A walk around some educational institutions have shown that there is a great decline in the number of blackboards in use. Instead, most of the the educational institutions are using whiteboards. I do not know if the person who invented the blackboard had patented the various ways you could hang it up in a classroom, or the various types of chalk you could use. When I was schooling, in the times of blackboard and chalk, most of the teachers used to drink alcohol after work - to down the chalk dust. Nowadays, most of the whiteboard markers are made from alcohol. I do not have evidence that teachers no longer drink alcohol, or they now use another 'solvent' to down the alcohol. Isn't innovation interesting? History tells me that the first writing material was the scroll then the paper. I am wondering here if the paper inventor patented the art of writing or the paper itself. I am thinking of the billions of dollars that would have translated to. Well, this are just side thoughts and trying to picture how far we have come and yet to go with innovation - with or without Blackboard's Patents.
Stephen Downes in the December 2006/January 2007 issue of Innovate has presented a patent dilemma that has seen one Learning Management System transform itself to a Litigation/Lawsuit Making System thanks to Blackboard's patents. I would echo what he says in his last paragraph and I quote:
I have argued in the past that the thieves in our community are not the file sharers and the advocates of open source, but rather, those who use the nuances of the legal system to take something created by others and to make it their own (Downes 2003). I agree with Howard Rheingold: "Blackboard's actions are shameful, greedy, and bogus, and they have the potential for retarding the development of online learning throughout the world" (2006, ¶ 1).

BUT, like I have said before, online learning is an idea whose time has come, and NO action by the likes of Blackboard would stifle it.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Does eLearning Policy Influence its Adoption in Higher Education?

Ok, let us all dip our hands and make them dirty, as long as we have an eLearning programme at the end of the day. Oh no, let us first strategise and agree on what we can pull together to come up with an eLearning programme. What is the best approach - going different ways as long as we are doing eLearning - and then define a policy, or having an agreed policy to guiding policy and the start implementing eLearning? I am persuaded to believe that both approaches would succeed in different contexts in varying degrees. For example, most of the successful cases of eLearning in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Africa started as a passionate drive by individuals - using different approaches. After the success of these approaches, institutions leaders discover the need for eLearning, and for centralising and standardising its use. This arises because of among other things the cost involved. More often than not, I have heard lamentations from the HEIs which have long had an eLearning policy that the success rate - or use of eLearning is dismal.

In my opinion, it is good to have an eLearning policy, but an eLearning policy is not an end by itself. An eLearning policy is best in defining strategic objectives and position of HEIs - but in itself does not influence the adoption decision.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Using Technology to Reach Out People on HIV/AIDS

Today is World AIDS Day and according to the UN "World AIDS Day is a day when people from around the world come together within a single effort. The global theme for the World AIDS Day 2006 is accountability - and the slogan is "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise."" If the promise is to stop aids, then we got to use every means and methods to do that. Today, I remembered to wear my RED RIBBON and the whole day I have been thinking of what has/can be done on the use of educational technologies in general to reach out the masses. I have also checked some cartoons posted on the UN website. Even though I could not interpret the meaning of all of them, the ones I did passed on the message.
I write my reflections. As I write, I do it with a lot of sadness and helplessness. Am sad because I still think the whole of mankind has not done its fair share in eradicating and fighting HIV and AIDS. Helpless because despite what I do now, I might not reach the most deserving soul. I did to do it, nonetheless because it might be my fare share in the war against the AIDS pandemic because you are reading and might be inspired to do your fair share.
I have seen and/or reviewed a number of eLearning courseware on HIV and AIDS (most of them funded by the North or is it the West?). However, I have not seen or heard of an evaluation of the effectiveness of such courses in reaching the most deserving people in developing countries who are worst hit. It seems to me that the donors are ready to pump in money even before they do a thorough analysis of the contexts involved. Studies have shown that there is a link between poverty and the HIV infections. It is therefore very unrealistic for anyone to purport to be using eLearning to reach out to people who live on less than a dollar a day. To such people, technology would not be a priority. To them, we need a different mode of delivery and dissemination of information - and a totally new perspective of looking at the AIDS pandemic. I am not against the use of eLearning in HIV and AIDS education, am just questioning its effectiveness in reaching out to the poorest of the poor especially in Africa. Cellphones have been used (successfully?) in South Africa by medical and social workers to monitor patients on anti-retroviral therapy.
If you care, like I do, use more than one means to get your message on HIV and AIDS accross.

What are your Greatest Learning Experiences and/or Opportunities?

Today I attended a session on equality in education. The assignment below was given to the participants in groups of two members each. Each one was to interview a partner and report back to whole panel. It amazed me what we use or see as our greatest learning experiences. I took the notes in italics when the reports were being made. Being a Friday, I have to run up and down. I will rationalise the points over the weekend.

Assignment: Think of a time in school, work and society where you felt you have an opportunity or experience that you have never had before that you think you learnt a lot. why you think your learnt a lot? What was so outstanding about the learning experience/opportunity?

I sample some of the responses that came out - I was disrupted when I was doing the mind2finger - I would have wanted a verbatim of what was said.
"On of the greatest learning experiences that have helped me is converting what I know to students in a way that is easy for them to understand. The is through the inspiration of my High School physics teacher who showed me how to learn. He was there, he used very unconventional yet intuitive means of teaching physics so that all of us could understand."
"The fact that the course I attended was Voluntary/ not-obligatory and it entailed personal improvements and brain power - allowing me to focus and refocus on myself, giving me the freedom to choose, so liberating - provided me an astounding learning experience. It helped me realize my potential beyond my wildest dream."
"The way my supervisor encouraged me to redo my proposal it did not feel like I had been told to rewrite the whole proposal. The way he reassured me after what I perceived to be my failure point. During the course of the study, I encountered people who were willing to get out of their way to assist me in my research. This was a great learning experience because it makes me always feel indebted to others - who would like to learn."
"My greatest learning experiences and perhaps what has shaped my life and career is when at the age of six my brother introduced me to the non-fiction side of the library. I frequented the library before then and I always ventured on the fiction side of it. I cultivated a passion for the library - and perhaps that is why am a librarian."
"During the initial stages of our entrepreneurship assignments, all of us had great, competing and divergent ideas. Although we had the best of intentions, and the commitment to the success, we did not want to talk with, and listen to one another. During these times, our business hit rock bottom. Maybe it was a wake up call for us to start talking with each other, because when we did, we turned the tables upside down. Withing a very short period, we were able to repay the loan that we were given to start our business, and our books were looking much better. I learnt to accept different and divergent ways of thinking and learning."

"When I started my distance learning course, all the excitement I had initially feigned over time because of the delays I experienced in getting reading resources. I felt that there was no commitment at all from all the people - in the distance learning college - to bringing me the resources I needed and on time. Within my frustration, I enrolled in a resident college where I could use the library facilities, and never even recognised the delays. I realised the importance of timely delivery of information and feedback"
This was such a great learning experience for me. First, reflecting on what counts to be learning experience or opportunities for different people, and what learning is achieved. Secondly, a chance to look back, to all the situations that I have been subjected to, and choosing the one that I think was a turning point - or at least I learnt a lot.