Yesterday morning I met my new boss (Samson) for the first time and also got to see the university campus and my new desk. The campus is only a short (10 min) walk from my house, so really convenient and think it’s the first time I’ve ever lived within walking distance of work!
I’ll be working in the Computing Faculty, which has about 25 staff, although 12 of these left over summer, so they’re trying to recruit at the moment. An extremely high turnover of staff is another common problem in Ethiopia, staff move on to get degrees & masters to increase their earnings. The staff who are in place then tend to be quite young and inexperienced (though not in all cases).
Samson took me to the staff lounge for some tea and described the how the project has been going and where I’m expected to fit in. The project started in 2005 with funding from the World Bank to develop an elearning system within the university, with study centres in towns around Tigray, which students could visit to access the materials. The university already has a distance learning programme (and department), with students coming to the university only for 2 weeks (2 x 1 week) each semester for tutorials and face to face tuition.
A Moodle server is in place for the courses to be loaded into – they’re currently converting the word documents (from the lecturers) into SCORM packages, then loading these into Moodle, concentrating on the business and accounting courses. The lecturers for these courses have received some training in Moodle, but the system isn’t yet released out to students.
Basically my job will be to get the system launched and support the lecturers and students in using Moodle and promoting the system. It will be the first elearning system available in Ethiopia and they’re hoping to use this as a selling point to entice new students – especially those in Addis who have better internet access. Other parts of my job will be to help get the study centres set up – all the computers have been purchased, quite new ones by the look of it, all flat panel monitors – and also, if I’m interested, to do some teaching, most likely in website development, HTML, PHP etc.
My first impressions are really good, the university sounds much more up together than some of the stories I was hearing from the other IT volunteers last week – though also sounds like I’ll never be short of work!