Reflections on eLearning Africa

Reflections on eLearning Africa

Overall, our experience at eLearning Africa was an exceptionally positive one. An air of hope infused the entire conference, with eLearning extolled as Africa’s liberator. In his keynote address, Ghanaian, Mac-Jordan Degadjor best highlighted this message when he said, “It is time for Africa’s story to be written by Africans, its history and its future.”

We left the conference with some questions too: What is this whole eLearning thing about? Is it really all that new? Is it going to change the world? And most importantly, is it a magic bullet for Africa’s education void?

The old adage that ‘knowledge is power’ certainly holds true. Those with the knowledge, have the power. The internet effortlessly delivers information to those that have in the past faced massive obstacles in its pursuit. Information is now free. All it takes is a satellite dish, a modem and a device, and presto, high speed Internet is available on the planes of the Serengeti.

In Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon’s construction worker character spends his free time in the public library reading everything from economics to law and in the process earns himself a pseudo Ivy League education. So, this phenomenon of ‘free information is not such a new thing after all — it’s simply the access to it that has improved.

Similarly, if information has always been free, then why in the past did those with access still seek out the ‘real’ Ivy League education rather than the free alternative?

Is the acquisition of information ‘real’ learning? Those in the know might offer Bloom’s taxonomy as an example, stating that ‘real’ learning only takes place with the internalisation of said information. Or the point at which information becomes knowledge. But can you internalise on your own? It’s the discussion, the debate, the sharing, the arguing, the questioning and answering, and most importantly, the re-teaching that really internalises learning. It is not until you have stood up in front of a class of students and tried to teach a concept yourself that you truly understand it or have truly internalised it. So can technology influence the internalisation process? Certainly!

We have free information

To summarise, we have free information and we have a free process for internalising it, so why do we need that Ivy League education? Do we need formalised learning?

In our opinion, yes, because the formalisation is the packaging. It’s the structure that takes the internet’s information and wraps it up into a nice textbook, albeit an eTextbook. It’s the packaging that takes concepts and strings them into a video, albeit one that is delivered on YouTube. It’s the packaging that puts you in contact with likeminded individuals, all with a common goal. It’s the packaging and infrastructure that provides you with a platform for research. It’s the packaging that is available and interesting and therefore able to answer your questions and provide you with dedicated attention. It’s the packaging that provides the structure and pathway for you to learn. It’s the packaging that converts information into knowledge.

Yes, we could drop 30 million iPads with 4G connectivity in Africa and hope for the best, but it’s the structure and the commitment from passionate people, in conjunction with fantastic and expertly distributed digital content that will ultimately, in concert, fill Africa’s education void.

The theme for eLearning Africa 2013 was ‘Tradition, Change and Innovation.’ This is exactly what SACOB stands for: Traditional Education, Modern Delivery