Posts tagged ‘ecbp’

Elearning training at new ICE Addis

Elearning participants

This afternoon Jaime and I finished delivering our updated Certificate in Online Education to over 25 elearning team staff from 7 universities across Ethiopia, who had all gathered at the new ICT and Technology innovation hub (ICE Addis) at the Ethiopian Institute for Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC).

We’d been invited by the on.e elearning team (part of ECBP), who have been setting up eCompetence Centres at many Ethiopian Universities. So was a really good chance for us to work with staff from other elearning teams.

We were really pleased how well the training went, all the participants seemed to enjoy the course. We arrived in Addis last weekend, but have been quite flat out with the training and meetings, so haven’t had much chance to blog. Heading up to Mekelle tomorrow afternoon, so for now will just post up a photo of all the participants – will post some more details in the coming days.

The dog ate my homework

Have been hearing a few critical comments from some staff regarding the Certificate in Online Education and it’s content. Apparently some staff feel that learning about some of the techniques that we have been showing them is beneath them, or they already know how to perform these functions (for example use of graphics editing software). In my mind it’s just another excuse not to participate in the training. It also shows that they aren’t coming to the training with an open mind and consider that elearning is simply a technical issue, rather than a way of truly improving the quality of their course content and activities. I’m quite sure that some staff are capable of using some of the software, but in order to give them a certificate they need to prove is to us by actually demonstrating their skills with the courses they deliver to students.

Unfortunately, it still seems far too common here for staff to receive a lot of training, but never follow the training up by implementing what they have learned.

There are a wide variety of other reasons (excuses) I’ve heard as to why staff haven’t participated in the training, but there are few I believe as anything other than excuses.

More positively, except for the England v USA result, I’ve now found a few good places to watch the world cup matches. Apparently some students here have requested alterations to their exam timetables so they are able to watch all the games. I don’t think they received a particularly sympathetic response!

Otherwise, another busy week, spending much of the time with the new Institute of Technology (officially the Tigray Institute of Technology, but this results in an unfortunate acronym!), working on an action plan for the implementation of elearning into the new institute. They certainly seem to have more commitment than we received from the rest of the university over the past year. But hope that the Institute will be able to set a good example of how changes can be made in the rest of the university.

A team of staff (Joern, Selamawit, Haileleul and Oliver) from ECBP on.e arrived yesterday to begin working with the Institute and the new elearning team here. We’re planning how we can integrate our two separate training programmes for staff (elearning team and the tutors) and assisting with planning the technical/ICT infrastructure required.

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.