Will the concept of e-learning in Zimbabwe ever take off? We have a lot of providers trying different approaches but will all of this come together to contribute to better pass rates some day?
There’s so much debate that is generated around this question. That is because beyond its success or failure the concept of digital learning is complex by its very nature.
After years and years of toying with the idea of a “national approach to education that prepares the next generation for the digital economy”, there are several areas that need to be addressed before we march towards that dream. So what will it take to get e-learning in Zimbabwe to succeed?
Resources need to be gathered for the hard and soft infrastructure, the right skills are needed at different levels of such an initiative, there has to be an awareness of the implications of this sort of move for all parties involved in education now and in the future and, of course, there’s the monster called policy that has to support all of this across technology and educational development lines.
So where are the takers for any or all of these areas? Clearly the government cannot handle all of this on its own. If it could the conversation would be different.
Which is why private sector contribution to this effort always show the potential we have to eventually figure all of this out one day. It would take acres of space to talk about each area that needs to be addressed, so I’ll just focus on one area that has seen some changes recently.
Who will offer knowledge to the teachers?
The issue of a national teaching staff that is not aware of the demands of a digital world has to be addressed. We all want our children to be taken through everything that is important and relevant in 2015, but the glaring problem is that the givers of knowledge themselves need to be taught what is relevant.
One e-learning provider, Big Brain Zimbabwe, which has been focused on the distribution of high school learning content through DVDs and social media, decided to solve this problem. What started as a rollout of the Big Brain e-learning platform exposed the absence of digital literacy among teachers who were supposed to lead the e-learning charge.
Big Brain conducted its first Digital Literacy for Teachers (DL4T) workshop last year with the help of Techwomen Zimbabwe. This year the team responded to a call from a group of 36 teachers in Gutu that were keen on going through the two-day DL4T programme.
According to the coordinator, Timothy Shava, the course content covered essentials like the use of the internet for research, harnessing digital tools like Powerpoint for information dissemination, using digital tools for classroom effectiveness and authenticating relevant web-based content.
Big Brain hopes to expand this to other districts where the need and desire exists, as this programme was offered to teachers who were keen on taking part and paying for own their attendance.
This district-by-district approach is just one example of how an aspect of the e-learning puzzle can be figured out with external support. However, it is still too early to assume that it has been a success.
After all, the proof of the pudding will be in the teachers’ abilities to extend their literacy to the pupils who are the main focus at the end of the day. It does, however, show some positive initiative that can be expanded on or further refined for a greater impact.
Image credit: Big Brain Zimbabwe