Project Expansion

Over the last week, as well as preparing for next weeks delivery of our Basic Certificate in Online Education to nearly 50 new staff, I’ve also been looking at ways in which we can extend the project. Possibilities we’re investigating include offering the certification to staff at other Ethiopian universities, testing the thin client infrastructure at another organisation and taking thin clients attached to a data projectors/whiteboards into the classroom.

Getting the network into the classroom would allow us to help close the gap between the classroom teaching and the online activities – currently they are very separate, but if students can see the Moodle content/activities in the classroom, they’re more likely to realise they can access this content and more in the computer labs. It also gives us the possibility to test out whiteboards and other technologies.

The labs we installed last November are still working well, only a few of the terminals aren’t working and these are almost all due to poor network or power connection, rather than the terminals themselves. We still have a few issues regarding getting the labs open outside normal working hours. The Health Sciences lab is well used as it’s always open during the normal working day, but we still have to work on extending these hours and also make sure we can get the Technology Institute lab open.

Mike and Elfu in the new lab

In the Technology Institute, as well as ordering several hundred new PCs (not yet all purchased/distributed) they are building a new thin client lab on a similar model to our existing lab. This lab is reusing old PCs as thin clients – with the new PCs arriving there should be plenty of old PCs available for use. It’s a huge room, space for 60 terminals. All the furniture is being produced by the university’s workshop and I was pleased to see that they are using my design for the hexagonal tables which we have in the other labs.

[Our labs need some better names – any suggestions welcome :-)]

Metalwork for new tables

We begin delivery of the elearning training again on Monday and we have had a lot of interest from staff. Our plan was to deliver to 15-20 staff, but we had over 50 staff asking to join. Only a few who have told us they are leaving for masters soon we’ve had to turn down. I expect that, similar to last year, we’ll have a fairly high drop out rate, but even if half complete we’ll have more than 20 new courses online for student access.

In personal news, I was very pleased to get my first shower in over a week on Friday – the water in our area of town had been completely off. The well near our house was restricting the amount of water anyone could take, despite the best rainy season for 10 years only just ending.


  1. Terri says:

    Hi Alex – tuning in again to your blog, reading about all these developments makes me want to get back there and be involved (though that definitely won’t be happening for at least a year, what with my immiment arrival in December).
    Good to see more labs coming on stream in MU and I hope you can make progress in narrowing that gap between classroom teaching and online activities – it’s a good way of putting it and should help the students.

    I’m always amused to see an Amharic word being just the English word phonetically spelled with fidel characters…as with ‘eLearning’ on the sign in your photo. Seems noone has yet figured out the Amharic for eLearning….maybe that could be a competition to have among eLearning practitioners in Ethiopia 🙂

  2. Alex says:

    Terri, I think you’d find a lot of changes since you were last here, both at the uni and in Mekelle generally. Let me know when you get chance to have a visit 🙂 Hope all is going well.

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