New Era (Windhoek)

4 July 2014

Namibia: E-Learning Is a Good Tool

THE government of Uganda through the Ministry of ICT was honoured to host the 9th electronic learning (e-learning) Africa international conference in Kampala between 28 and 30 May 2014.

The conference attracts more than 1,400 participants from over 90 countries.

E-learning Africa, the leading pan-African conference on technology-assisted learning, is always innovative, exciting and entertaining, offering a unique opportunity to the latest challenges and initiatives in education and training. ICT for education can support a number of vital functions such as educational administration, student access to education, and teacher up-skilling.

The internet is an invention of the scientific community; it is a public good that every corner of the world should have access to. Electronic learning (e-learning) is the use of electronic media and information communication technologies in education and it is broadly inclusive of all forms of educational technology in learning and teaching. It is broadly synonymous with multimedia learning, technology-enhanced learning, computer-based instruction, computer managed instruction, computer-based training, computer-assisted instruction or computer-aided instruction, internet-based training, web-based training, online education, virtual education, virtual learning environments (which are also called learning platforms), m-learning and digital educational collaboration. These alternative names emphasize a particular aspect, component or delivery method.

Education is the key to everything and has proven to be one of the most critical building blocks for societal transformation. In 2006, through a partnership between the Namibian Open Learning Network Trust and InWEnt (Capacity Building International, Germany), the Namibia eLearning Centre was launched as an autonomous unit. It offers eLearning training and capacity building nationally and regionally. It was envisaged that it should also act as a digital library that can be remotely accessed, and coordinate the eLearning activities of other Namibian educational institutions.

Out of the growing need to rapidly realise the goals of Vision 2030 and the National Development Plans of Namibia, the Namibia eLearning Centre was founded in 2010. Let's make use of this centre in order to provide students and teachers with access to affordable technology and the skills to use the technology to get better jobs and improve their education.

At the Polytechnic of Namibia the main charge of e-learning activities is to encourage the development of new teaching opportunities with technology. The increased use of e-learning components across the curriculum promotes student familiarity with technology and helps manage course delivery in different ways.

These e-learning components are part of classroom based classes, hybrid classes, or fully online courses. Training academic staff in practices related to e-learning instruction and assessment is necessary to facilitate the effective use of technology.

E-learning can occur in or out of the classroom. It can be self-paced, asynchronous learning or may be instructor-led, synchronous learning.

E-learning is suited to distance learning and flexible learning, but it can also be used in conjunction with face-to-face teaching, in which case the term blended learning is commonly used. Information and communication technology enable the development of new forms of learning, such as flexible and collaborative learning, combining innovative technological tools with student centered pedagogical models.

E-learning includes numerous types of media that deliver text, audio, images, animation, and streaming video, and includes technology applications and processes such as audio or video tape, satellite TV, CD-ROM, and computer-based learning, as well as local intranet/extranet and web-based learning.

In Namibia we have good ICT infrastructure, and several internet service providers currently offer broadband connectivity; in 2011 the fibre optic West Africa Cable System (WACS) landed on the west coast of Namibia, and with a national fibre optic backbone in place, there is immense potential for a nationwide surge, and consequently in eLearning activities. In April 2012 His Excellency President Hifikepunye Pohamba announced free internet access provision to schools, other educational institutions, clinics and hospitals and free use of internet at libraries which are key components for a pro-poor approach to provide all leaners and citizens with access to e-information and e-governance service.

In May 2012, the Minister of ICT, Joel Kapanda, repeated the promise that the arrival of the WACS cable in Namibia would make it possible for all schools to be given free internet access.

This indicates that there is a political will with regard to e-learning in our country.

Namibian education will depend increasingly on good communication and connectivity. There are approximately 1500 schools in the country. If we really want to ensure that all schools in Namibia are covered with e-learning systems, first we need to continue upgrading existing ICT infrastructure and implement policies effectively. Instead of developing a single, all-encompassing central system, we should create an open decentralized system that links together various services and databases.

The implementation of all these strategies will make the Namibian education e-learning society a greater success.

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