The internet has become a tool that presents an equal, parallel and unbounded access to knowledge, people and resources. Online learning has been considered as model that will help curtail the inequality and social exclusion in high quality learning and create a democratic model of learning.
Unemployment rates across the continent are at an all-time high. Many economies are unable to provide adequate opportunities for their young graduates. There are fewer opportunities for learners alike.
The ability to equip the young population with practical and vocational skills may hold the key to unlocking the potential the continent has.
If we can then look at the ways to integrate technology and the internet for skills based and vocational training, will it be safe to ask – can technology enhanced learning address the literacy, political, poverty and social problems in our continent?
VLE’s For Africa
TEL can take several forms, models and scenarios. Technology can be applied in the creation of learning resources, distribution and storage of said resources. Technology can be applied in the delivery of learning, the teaching process and practical lessons. Technology can also be used in the assessment of learning and more.
There are several virtual learning environments that are available to use in the different TEL scenarios described above. However, there are no VLE’s that are specifically designed for Africa and if there are, they are yet to become widely adopted. For example, we have been conducting extensive research with our institutional partners at BAU R&D to build a new VLE that is tailored within its framework to accommodate learners from Africa. This will include designing a system that can work with the most minimal internet access available as well as take into consideration the skill level of its users, their location, their unique market terminologies and more.
There is this urgent need for providers in Africa to develop systems that are tailored wholesomely to their market. This of course, has to work with curriculum and content that has been designed for the African continent as well.
Vocational Training and Technology
Vocational Education and Training prepares trainees / students for jobs and roles that are based on practical activities (mostly manual) that are traditionally non-academic and mostly related to a trade, craft or vocation.
VET unlike other forms of education is quite unique in its requirements for learners and teachers alike and this reflects in the requirements for technology implementations in VET. It is then important to creatively approach TEL in VET. The practical nature of VET requires that students are taken through same rich range of practical training that is provided in person. It is also key to note that many VET students come from different background and as such, their skills, literacy, preferences and adoption will greatly differ.
In a few other continents, some countries are making efforts to drive the use of technology in VET learning and teaching. One of such countries is Australia with their Australian Flexible Learning Framework scheme that is creating a framework for implementation of TEL in VET.
Multimedia Resources: Multimedia resources create a step towards closing the gap of practical learning for VET students on VLE’s. Students will be able to see the step by step procedures for each lesson being thought as well as have a guide when they decide to execute projects, assignments or practical sessions. Students will understand and follow the learning faster and better if they are delivered in Multimedia and Interactive formats.
Completion and Time Management: Time management in using VLE is important for both the learner and the trainer. It is important for students to base their deliverables on carefully organized time in order to complete their programs at the right time. One of the most prevalent challenges in VLE’s will be completion of programs. Therefore, programs need to be designed in such a way that they continuously capture the interests of the students and keep them engaged through assessments that will ultimately lead to program completions.
To successfully grow and take its place in the development of our continent, Technology implementation in VET in Africa will have to address connectivity, accessibility, learning outcomes and the overall learning experience for the students.
With time, there will be proper implementations of TEL in VET in Africa and there will be a pivoting to blended learning in Vocational Education and Training. The boundaries between technology based and physical practical lessons would be clearly specified and students will have to complete modules digitally and in person.
The question remains, are we ready for the technology revolution in education?
Gossy Ukanwoke is an African Higher Education Investor and currently is the Founder of BAU Research Development and Investor in a few African institutions of higher learning.
He is an advocate for youth and women employment, education and a global distribution of opportunities.
Follow him on Twitter: @gossyomega