Before I start: Here (follow the link below!) is the result of the last 2 years of work in this project…
Again a project ends – funded by the german Academic Exchange Service – final report preparation leads me to recapitulate the last two years, achievements and learning. this project has been definitly one of the real amazing ones.
elearning for African universities – not possible!!?
Absolutelly possible! We proved it – it works!
In a project between my university, the University Yaounde I, Kenyatta University from Nairobiy and Captown University, South Africa, as well as string support from the United Nations University, we managed to set up a strong vision for eLearning in Yaounde which is now taken up by the new leadershp of the university and lead towards sustainability!
The project organised all in all four ‘eSchools’ (workshops) over 2 years in which participants developed eCompetence in order to make use of eLearning in a way that it improved higher education learning scenarios. Each eSchool focussed on a specific topic.
- eLearning in higher education: general introduction and first practice
- Content development and content organisation for eLearning
- Teaching and Learning with eLearning
- Quality, assessment and review of eLearning content and learning processes
Every workshop lasted for 5 days.
Within the course of the project it was decided that two parallel strands needed to be implemented in order to make the project work sustainably:
1. First, 15 different teams, each consisting of a full time Professors and two assistants, mostly PHD students, were formed which agreed to a tight working schedule and to develop for each team one full lecture as an online course, thus digitalizing materials, designing tasks and implementing everything online in the Moodle Platform which had been provided by the project. The project teams met regularly throughout the entire project duration of two years in various compositions and locations, which provided the grounds for the project to exceed its expected outcomes in all respects. The motivation for the continuous and non-funded work of the university colleagues in Yaoundé I was kept high through the admirable, strong and persistent leadership and management of the local project coordinator Prof. Dr. Mama Foupagnigni. He did not refrain from encouraging the colleagues to continue to participate in the local meetings and work on their online courses. This led to a continuous high participation rate of the group in all four eSchools and to a very visible and strong outcome of the project in which 15 lectures are now online available in very good quality, and available to all students from Yaoundé I as eLearning materials, lectures scripts, visualizations, podcasts, electronic syllabi and course descriptions, objective lists and learning assignments as well as eAssessment self-evaluations. Already in the second year 2 Professors were using the online environment to enrich their classroom lectures and by the end of the two year project 4 Professors systematically had adopted eLearning in a Blended Learning mode to their teaching. Today all participating professors are now pointing their students to the available lecture materials online and the university Yaoundé has its first eLearning portal up and running and available for students and teachers (http://elearning.uninet.cm/moodle/).
2. The project led to an unparalleled visibility and agenda setting within the university. Although small on funds, it brought colleagues from different universities of other African countries to Yaoundé and shaped what now is an Intra-African support partnership between Kenyatta University and Capetown University from South Africa. Not so much the North-South component of the cooperation project encouraged the colleagues of Yaoundé I to bring forth their amazing innovation but really the South-South contacts with colleagues from other African universities in which eLearning has already been introduced. Specifically Tony Carr and his team from Capetown University (South Africa) and Dr. Speranza Ndege and her colleagues from Kenyatta University (Kenya), which participated in every eSchool, gave credibility to the case of African universities adopting eLearning innovation for university level teaching and learning. The combination of the South-South networking process together with the higher education partnership component has proven to be very successful. In addition the project has been supported through the United Nation University (UNU) very profoundly. The UNU sent one or two representatives and experts to every meeting taking place on their own costs and supported the entire project process in an extremely cooperative and valuable manner. The support of the UNU gave the project additional visibility and credibility, which proved to be important on the level of policy and university management. Examples of this invaluable support are interviews with press and TV during the eSchools, request from the German ambassador to receive a report on the project and regular meetings between the project team and the university’s rector and vice rectors.
3. In addition to that, there had been phases of eModeration and eCollaboration in between the eSchool weeks, as planned in the project proposal. Tony Carr was leading the interaction and moderation of these collaborative efforts to connect online in between the eSchools. However, while it worked for some, it did not work for all and always. The local constraints of technology, connectivity and availability of times in an overstretched professors work agenda of an African university did not make it possible to provide a full, satisfying and motivating experience of online connection. Asynchronous cooperation worked very well, especially when concrete tasks were agreed. Before eSchool 3 and 4, a peer-review of the developed courses had been agreed and that was conducted by previously agreed partnerships of each two professors and their team, and the results were then shared online through email. Synchronous communication through Skype of other technologies is still a challenge on a large scale because of bad connectivity.
All in all we can see: The passion of persons like Mama, Tony, Speranza, and the entire team of participants won over all constraints we had and led to an amazing sustainable outcome which will last and which will lead the way into the future.
A very special thanks also to Stefan Thiemann, who managed the entire project in a very efficient way and steered it around all difficulties. This gave a good basis for our common success!
Congratulations to all! And a big thanks!