elearning Africa conference – day 2

Dancers at the opening plenary

Brief run down of the sessions I’ve been to today…

Opening plenary
Conference was officially opened by the Vice President of Zambia and other opening speeches, including the Anglican Bishop of Gambia talking about the use of Facebook and Twitter – not something I was expecting.

Implementing and Sharing Open Source Repositories
With all the JISC conferences and meetings I’ve been to over the previous few years, I thought (hoped) I’d heard the last
about learning object repositories and metadata, but apparently not. The main question for me that came out of this session was the fact that much of the talk seems to be about how institutions can push out their OER content, but little about how to encourage people to make use of the available content, or evaluating how much this content is really used.

Research Networks on ICT4D
For me this was the most interesting session of the day – possibly because it broke away from the normal series of powerpoint presentations and was more of a discussion forum. Tim Unwin (Royal Holloway Uni, London) had several interesting points to make:

  1. Most ICT4D project fail as they aren’t based on a real demand or need from Africans themselves, rather they are driven by outside (EU/US) organisations
  2. Technology providers see Africa as a market to make money from. This is shown by the number of technology vendors present in the exhibition area, looking to sell their solutions
  3. The quality of journal papers and research from African universities is very poor and this isn’t a technological or funding issue.

On the last point Jophus Anamuah-Mensah (TESSA project, Ghana) talked about the fact that African researchers seem to have lost a lot of the collaborative culture which previously used to exist.

Improving Mobile Learning Environments
At the conference there are many presentations and sessions about mobile learning. Much talk is made of the fact that so many people in Africa have a mobile phone and that they are cheap. Unfortunately this still isn’t the case in Ethiopia, where mobile ownership appears to be noticeably lower than other African countries. Many of the projects presented make big assumptions about the type of devices that students have access to, for example, owning internet & java enabled mobiles. From my very unscientific assessment, I would put student mobile ownership at Mekelle Uni at less that 30% and these tend to be only basic/entry-level voice/SMS enabled phones (I ought to include this as part of our student surveys/questionnaires once I return to Mekelle next week).

I’ve also heard about a couple of project integrating Moodle and SMS, but both of these seem to rely on either a subscription service, or with good cooperation from the telecoms provider, something we’re unlikely to be able to make use of in Mekelle.

General Comments

  • Ethiopia appears to be very under-represented here, so far I’ve only met one other person coming from an Ethiopian organisation. If you are from Ethiopia and you’re here then please get in touch.
  • I’ve caught up with many ex-colleagues from the OU (UK) – showing what a small world it is.
  • I now have plenty of leads and technologies to follow up on and investigate, plus many ideas for possible projects and/or collaborations.

One Comment

  1. Brenda Zulu says:

    Thanks Alex for your thoughts on the conference content. I agree with you and i really liked the iPhone and iPod Moodle service.
    I am sure teh future will be mobile and i encourage all mobile projects because i see that working for Africa.

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