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E- Learning; Sub-Saharan Africa's Answer to Higher Education

Online learning has the power to knock down geographical barriers to close the skill gap and ensure that everyone in Africa can attain a good education.

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Online learning has the power to knock down geographical barriers to close the skill gap and ensure that everyone in Africa can attain a good education.

Bill Gates wrote in his 2015 letter to his foundation that soon, world class education will just be several computer taps away, regardless of where anyone lives. The great news is that online education and e-learning has the power to knock down the geographical barriers to close the skill gap and ensure that everyone in Africa with access to the internet can attain a good education. As seen in other parts of the world, online courses such as an online MBA program, or an online Master program, can serve as a stand-alone source for official education if the university or college is accredited by the government of the country in which the learner resides, or in the country where the program has been devised. The latter for example, could mean a brick and mortar US college or university which runs both on-campus programs and e-learning programs, both of which are recognized by the US government. In such distance learning cases, there are no compulsory visits to the brick and mortar institutions as they could be on the other side of the world to where the learner actually lives. There are in fact, countless online courses which do not require hands on practical work, so attending regular classes is not compulsory.

The Global Business School's Network's Chief Executive Officer, the economist, Guy Pfefferman, highlights Africa's negligence towards African higher education in the 2000 UN's Millennium Development Goals. He notes that the reason for this shortfall is down to its exclusive concentration on primary education. The fact of the matter is that in the case of Africa, the need for higher education has outstripped supply, and this has led to higher education organizations in the private sector rapidly springing up. Furthermore, the quality of the higher education has turned out to be a massive challenge as the financing has not kept up with the huge rate of enrollment. And while it can be said that throughout many regions of Africa, higher education has been relisted on the agenda for development, Pfefferman puts forward the case that substantial reform is needed for Africa's existing institutions. He notes that radical change is essential if the continent is to provide the necessary skills for employment.

Online Learning

Although it can be said that the term “online” was not particularly appealing some 30 years ago, all that has now changed. The 21st Century is bringing with it high tech internet and computer availability for countless millions across the continent of Africa, and the number of people with access is growing every day.

There are a number of elements which have spurred the increase in enrolling for online courses in Africa. These include:

1. People who are driven to attain an educational goal regardless of being in a poor economic situation. In the past this would have meant that they could not attend a traditional college, but now they have the opportunity to opt for online courses as a form of stand-alone or means of add-on education.

 2. Younger individuals opting for a non-traditional method of studying in order to attain a qualification which will help them with their intended career, or for the purpose of advancing their career while simultaneously advancing or finishing their education via online courses.

3. Mature students such as those from their late 20s onwards who have not had the opportunity to study before due to family or work commitments

There is a rising amount of local and regional companies which provide products and materials for online courses and exam preparations, the classical fields of m-learning. This African provider’s guide illustrates a list of edtech startups in several countries.

The Pros and Cons of Online Courses

It is extremely important to contemplate the advantages and disadvantages of online courses. This will ensure that you will be ready to address the various challenges of e-learning and that you will be able to make the best of all the new possibilities that come with it.

The Pros of online learning

Learning via online courses has the potential to be hugely successful if the learners are motivated, have an independent outlook, are well organised and self-disciplined. Excellent time management skills are also a must. There are three main advantages to this form of e-learning: the convenience, the greatly reduced cost, the technology, and the additional benefits.

Convenience of e-learning

This relates to various aspects such as the duration of the e-learning program, the time of day a student chooses to study, and the location they do it in. There is no need to commute to a college, and so you save on traveling time. E-learning means that students are not faced with any geographical location constraints when they select distance education options. There are also no constraints in the pace of learning, as online courses usually allow you to work at your own speed.

Saving Money By Purchasing An Online College Course

And whether someone is doing an online graduate degree or an MBA or they do not have to worry about travelling expenses to the college or paying accommodation and housing costs at or nearby the college. In addition, individuals studying online courses can continue with their regular job while taking an e-course.

The Advantages of the Latest Technology

Another major advantage is the cutting-edge technology that is now taking hold throughout Africa. This means that you can do an online course anywhere in Sub-Sahara Africa where you have access to a computer.

Other Benefits of e-learning on online colleges

Further benefits of online courses include interacting with fellow e-course students from all over the world. For example, some of the colleges running MOOCS online courses and online MBA courses, have participants from all corners of the planet, and even tiny islands that many people have not even heard of. And the great continent of Africa is so vast, that it is a magnificent way to unite African e-course students as well.

Studying at a traditional college or university outside Africa can mean that there are potential visa and immigration problems. With e-learning, this is something that you never have to face.

The Cons of an Online College

If a student is not motivated, does not have an independent outlook, is poorly organised and not self-disciplined, then they will not find this method of studying amenable to their approach. There are three main disadvantages to this form of e-learning: the financial costs of scheduling and technology, assessment effectiveness, and restricted social interaction.

Limited Social Interaction

Online courses offer very limited chances for e-students to physically meet with and have live interaction with other students or professors. This is particularly the case with e-courses which are self-paced, thereby making it hard to develop connections with other e-learners. In addition to this, with online courses, there is not the normal live socialising like there is at a traditional college campus where there are all kinds of activities and clubs to join.

Technology Scheduling and Cost

Another disadvantage of online courses and m-learning involve computer use. Firstly, learners doing an online MBA, online Master program, or online undergraduate degree, might have to become acquainted with complex new computer skills which are required for their program. They may have to learn how to troubleshoot, which can be quite difficult, and they may need to buy new computer programs which are suitable for their m-learning course. Moreover, mobile learning involving an online undergraduate degree, an online Master program, or an online MBA, may require the student to have a high speed internet connection, and a high level of megabyte usage, and this can be quite expensive in certain regions of Sub-Sahara Africa.

Online Courses with A Different Time Zone

If you are undertaking one of the online courses such as an online MBA program which includes live seminars and lectures, it could coincide with the hours that you work, which would make it difficult for you. You may also have to adjust and arrange your study agenda around the professor's assignment due time and date. And this is very different in America compared to Sub-Sahara Africa.

The Effectiveness of Mobile Learning Assessments

In the case of m-learning, it is not easy to apply the tools which are used in a conventional classroom. Moreover, it is not easy to make a measurement of the m-learning program's results. To that end, there is a question mark as to whether students successfully comprehend exactly what the professor is trying to get across, and that they are learning everything they should be


Edtech Africa summary

In summary, some online courses can prove to be a magic key which can instantaneously unlock an unending spectrum of education in countless subjects to millions of young and mature Africans. Whether an individual wants to take a short course, or build on qualifications they already have, by taking an online MBA, an online Master, or an online undergraduate degree, high quality online courses from reputable universities, colleges and other institutions, are the answer to giving many Africans a wonderful chance at improving their lives by finding employment.

You are welcome to share your thoughts in the comment section.

Jens Ischebeck, African edtech specialist; Website publisher Apps for learning

Written by

Kelvin Mokaya

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