Very brief notes on some the interesting projects and websites I found out about whilst at the eLearning Africa conference last week:
i-call (http://common-sense.at/i-call): Using a dial up voice service, where callers can select their way through a story (interactive decision maze) to teach them about the consequences of their actions. Designed to identify pregnant women at risk. Also using SMS to remind women about their medical appointments. At the specialist level, using Moodle mobile extensions to provide case studies, self testing and forums.
Botswana-UPenn Partnership (http://www.upenn.edu/botswana/): Testing myTouch 3g Android smartphones with doctors and their students. The phones were preloaded with a range of (free and paid for) medical and drug applications. The applications most used were Dynamed, 5 min clinical consult and Epocrates RX. Found that people preferred using phones with slide out keyboards rather than on-screen virtual keyboards.
Mobile learning for applied distance learning, presentation by Niall Winters from London Knowledge Lab: Participatory design methodology (using pen & paper) to iterate the design of mobile applications for health workers before the applications are finally written. Running a workshop “Designing Mobile Learning Activities” on 4th July in London (https://store.ioe.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?modid=5&prodid=39&deptid=111). Also LDIC report “Distance Learning for Health: What works” (see: http://www.lidc.org.uk/news_detail.php?news_id=117).
Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT): Mike and I met with some of the DOT staff at the ICE hub in Addis a few days before the conference. At the conference they presented one of the research projects “Web2.0: Mapping Practices and Perceptions” (see: http://www.dotrust.org/research/publications)
Health Sciences Online (http://hso.info): Repository of freely available health sciences knowledge
OpenECBCheck (http://www.qualityfoundation.org/openecbcheck/): Peer reviewed quality and accreditation for elearning programmes
After a couple of weeks away, here are some of my photos….
From eLearning Africa Conference in Tanzania:
From few days holiday in Zanzibar:
After a productive few days in Addis, yesterday I arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for the eLearning Africa conference. In Addis we had chance to meet with the Ministers for Higher Education and for Science and Technology, and with representatives from the Ministry of Health, essentially to give them an overview of what we have been doing in Mekelle so far, and present our proposals to them. The response was good, though one issue we’re likely to come up against is how to make sure we find the right people/company to work with in Ethiopia, and that they have the correct operating licenses to be able to supply services to universities (or other governmental organisations).
This is my first time in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam is much warmer than Addis, and the rainy season has just started, so the dirt roads are a little muddy. I also seem to have selected a hotel in the mainly muslim area, a large mosque just behind the hotel (which doesn’t serve alcohol). This afternoon I’ll head up to the conference centre to register, although it’s several kilometres out of the city centre, then the conference runs over tomorrow and Friday, with my presentation being on Friday afternoon.
Will post up when I can over the next few days regarding the conference.
Here is the presentation I gave at the eLearning Africa conference last week. The photos on each slide are all pictures I’ve taken over the course of the project so far, since August 2009.
Giraffes at Chaminuka Game Reserve
Another really good day at the conference, most of the presentations and discussions I attended today revolved around the use of open source software. There are some particular issues with using open source software in Africa, for example the fact that although there is huge amount of help available to support people when trying to implement software, much of the help and documentation is online only – which can make it difficult to access. In one of the presentations some of the audience were still a little sceptical about how you can get something for free – surely there is a catch?
Late in the afternoon, I gave my presentation about the Digital Campus project. All went well and I was really pleased with the response and how many people had questions about the project. I finally met more people from Ethiopia, the Head of ICT from Jimma University and the Curriculum Expert and Pedagogical Editor from the Ethiopia Civil Service College in Addis. I’ve also been approached about setting up some study/tutor partnerships with universities in UK and Canada, so the tutors and students in Mekelle can pair up with tutors and students abroad to share teaching and learning experiences.
Overall the conference has been well worth attending, it’s the first conference I’ve been to for a long time and differs somewhat from the much more technical and programming focussed conferences and workshops I used to attend whilst at the OU. Now need to make sure I get another presentation accepted for the eLearning Africa 2011 in Tanzania.
Saturday was a day free for me, so after being at the conference much of the week, I headed out to a game reserve (Chaminuka) about 30km from Lusaka and had a relaxing day there, by coincidence I met several other people there who had also attended the conference – but we managed to avoid talking too much work.
Dancers at the opening plenary
Brief run down of the sessions I’ve been to today…
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:
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Auditorium at the Mulungushi Conference Centre
After 24 hours travel (London – Addis – Harare – Lusaka), yesterday afternoon I arrived in Lusaka, Zambia for the eLearning Africa conference, where I’ll be presenting the Digital Campus project later this week. The conference starts properly tomorrow and today I attended one of the pre-conference workshops, on policies for successful elearning programmes.
My impressions so far have been very good, having Ethiopia as the only other sub-Saharan Africa country that I’ve visited, Lusaka couldn’t be more different to Addis, everything appears much more up together and organised. The roads and traffic seem far less chaotic, lined with advertisements for various mobile operators. We were even given free sim cards when we were waiting for our baggage – such a contrast to Ethiopia when getting a sim card is quite a tedious process and certainly not cheap.
The conference is huge, but show how small the world is when one of the first people I met here is a PhD student at the OU Business School. I’m going to have a tricky job of deciding which presentations to go to, as there are 10 parallel sessions. The contrast with Ethiopia is made even more pronounced talking to some of the other participants from other African countries where they seem to be much further down the road than Ethiopia in terms of elearning implementation and technologies.
Assuming the wireless stays up and running well I hope I’ll be blogging regularly. For anyone reading this who is at the conference, my presentation is on Friday afternoon (track 56A1).
Earlier this week I spent a few days working Cambridge doing some volunteer web development work for Aptivate. They are in the process of developing a new low bandwidth site for CDAC (Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities), this particular site is aimed at the victims of the Haiti earthquake and is to help ensure that aid and relief agencies are able to communicate well with local communities as they rebuild their lives. The site isn’t yet finalised, so can’t put the url up yet, but will do so once it’s ready.
As an aside, OpenLearn now has a course on “Using Voluntary work to get ahead in the job market“.
Much of the past couple of weeks have been spent making sure I’m ready to head off again to Ethiopia to work on the Digital Campus project. En route, I’m going to the eLearning Africa conference in Zambia, where I’m giving a presentation next Friday. Looking forward to getting back to Mekelle to see how everything it going there, seems like quite a lot of progress is still being made. My plan whilst I’m there is to help support the phd students and the ICT team, but also planning how the project can progress into the next academic year.
Hopefully I’ll be back blogging a bit more regularly over the coming few weeks!