Posts tagged ‘adama’

Experience sharing with Adama University

Adama University - eTeaching website

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to go and visit Adama University – in Nazret, about 2 hours drive south of Addis. I went with a couple of staff from ECBP (Ethiopia Capacity Building Programme), as they have a similar learning programme to what we are trying to achieve in Mekelle.

Adama University is an interesting case in Ethiopia as it now has a German President and several other senior expatriate staff – such as the ICT Director. So they have implemented many changes which have yet to reach other Ethiopian Universities.

Their elearning programme seems to be going well, they have a team of 5 staff dedicated to uploading and developing the elearning materials – more information about their team can be found on the Adama University website. Although they have a very similar approach to the one we’re taking with the Digital Campus project, there are some crucial differences. Firstly, their team are uploading the materials for tutors, whereas we are supporting the tutors uploading their own materials (I have previously blogged about this). Some of their activities and assignments form part of the students final grades, as we are not including the whole course cohort in our program, we are unable to use summative assessment. Their better IT infrastructure and lab access allows them to offer the online courses to many more students.

One the other side, we have our system available off campus too, whereas at Adama their Moodle is (currently) only available through the local network. I’m still unsure that having a centralised team is the best way forward. I can understand it’s advantages, in quality control, consistency etc, but unsure that it will encourage teachers to feel they actually own the course and should be keeping content up to date, participating in discussions etc.

Their ICT infrastructure looks very well organised and they have common computer labs which are open 24/7 – this obviously gives them much more opportunity to push courses out to students and know that the students will get access. We’re trying to push the University here to having similar levels of access times for students, but I think it will be a while yet before Mekelle reaches 24/7 access to labs which have a large proportion of machines fully functioning.

Although it was a long way to go for half a days visit, it was well worthwhile for me to meet the team there and look at the different approaches they are taking.

Approaches to eLearning in Ethiopia

Last week, Oliver and Haileleul from the Engineering Capacity Building Program (ECBP) in Addis came to visit our elearning project in Mekelle. They are working for the elearning development program for ECBP, setting up eCompetence Centres at other universities in Ethiopia and are looking to develop a similar program in Mekelle without duplicating the Digital Campus project work.

All seemed to go very well and we’re currently in the process of writing a proposal for the training of more staff to become elearning experts, to be presented to the University management in the very near future.

Their most successful program so far seems to be at Adama University, where the Engineering College has been turned into an independent Institute of Technology. The (German) director and senior management have really focused on improving student computer access, by setting up 600 terminals open 24/7.

The ECBP approach taken to develop elearning course content/materials is slightly different to our approach with Digital Campus. We are training teachers to set up and upload their own courses and teaching materials, with the support from pedagogical department, whereas the eCompetence Centres allow teachers to take their materials to the centre. The centre staff then do much of the content development and uploading for the teacher. There is good reason for this difference, the ECBP approach has a stronger focus on multimedia content, whereas we’re looking at much more basic content uploading and activity creation. Expecting all staff to have the facilities, skills and time to produce multimedia content is simply unrealistic.

There are pros and cons of each approach. Sending your content off to a centre for transformation into online activities can increase the technological complexity of the activities or content developed (e.g. multimedia or flash animations), increase quality (questionably) and consistency between courses. Also it is easier to set deadlines for course production. However I have concerns that staff then have no sense of ownership of the online materials related to their course, for example, that regular updates are made and that staff participate in and monitor forum discussions. It may mean staff then don’t consider it to be part of their jobs to be involved with the online aspect. I have to ad that the ECBP approach does have the teachers working with the elearning team – it’s not a case of the teachers dropping off the materials and walking away from any further involvement.

Training teacher to produce their own online content and activities means that you can have a smaller team supporting the elearning development, providing advice and training but not the ‘doing’ and this woul dhelp to reduce the direct cost to the university. We hope it would also motivate the teachers to encourage their students to use the materials and activities if the teachers have gone to the effort of creating them. The danger is that teachers won’t have the time or skills, or it will be considered to be more work force upon them by management. Maintaining a baseline level of quality and consistency between courses may be difficult.

So, which do you think is the better approach? Or should there be a mixture between the two?

I hope that I’ll get the opportunity to visit Adama university early in the new year, with some staff from Mekelle, as I believe there will be a lot we can learn from their experiences. I think that the success of their program may be mainly due to the efforts put into providing 24/7 open access computer labs to students, something that’s yet to be achieved on anything but a very small scale at Mekelle.