Information Communications and the changing educational landscape

Africa’s annual population growth rate continues to increase. This means that those seeking access to education at all levels-primary, secondary and tertiary will increase. In spite of this fact, educational institutions in Africa are not expanding enough to accommodate the increasing number of students who’ll be seeking access to higher education.

Thus, only a small number of students wishing to gain admission to higher education will have the opportunity to do so.

It appears conventional teaching and learning methods are not sufficient to deal with the educational needs of the continent. Coupled with this is the fact that most of the universities are constrained by space, time, and money.

Yet, they have a responsibility to meet needs in tertiary education throughout the continent. Innovative teaching and learning methods are required if Africa is to make a meaningful headway in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

Africa needs to explore the best and most appropriate technology that will permit it to deliver education to the majority of its people who are looking for access to higher education.

The “metaphysics of presence”, the belief that you have to promote a face-to-face environment in order to promote teaching and learning will prevent Africa from using the new technologies to bring learning to all the places that have learners that need it.

That belief will continue to jam students into unwholesome dormitory accommodations, jam students into lecture halls all in the attempt to satisfy the belief that face-to-face instruction is superior.

Fortunately, the information landscape on the continent is fast changing. Africa has awakened to the potential of information technology to accelerate educational and socio-economic development.

Thanks to the effort on the part of national governments and international donor agencies, who are working to ensure that Africa takes its rightful place in the mushrooming global information technology revolution.

The increasing use of computers have made it possible for new methods of learning to evolve as supplements and alternatives to the traditional classroom lecture style learning.

The number of virtual on-line universities have been growing, and will continue to grow over the next few years.

As new models of virtual universities emerge, there is the need to develop a new type of online university that begins as a multi-university collaboration with: each member having its own online privacy spaces for instruction, but shares digital libraries, online lecture halls and the like.

One reasonable and practical solution to these problems is the creation of a centralised and shared service that will offer all of the universities and other learning institutions the training, the tools, and the staff expertise that is needed to assist institutions move in the direction of an educational common model.

Most of the world renowned universities like MIT now have online access to study material and videos of lectures. It is now possible to obtain an Ivy League degree without setting foot on a campus.

The future of Africa will be influenced by our ability to provide higher education to qualified secondary school graduates, to those in the work force who need to have the newest knowledge, to all those in our nation who need to know.

Now we can only find limited places in college and university for qualified secondary school graduates. We are denying the others full use of their talents, denying the nation the benefit of what they could contribute if they had the education they deserve.

The transformation of the economies of Africa into a knowledge-based economy will be realised through the modernisation of key social and development sectors using ICT as an enabling tool.

Online education arguably holds the key to mass education in future. It can provide instructionally effective, highly interactive learning experiences that meets the educational needs of most Africans.

And, it has the potential to meet new educational demands created by Africa’s movement from the industrial to the information age.

Today, we have become a global learning society. As such, our educational systems must become a primary vehicle for assisting learners to become successful citizens of the world – a world that demands new knowledge, new thoughts, new frameworks for problem-solving, and new ways of caring for one another.

Using interactive distance learning strategies as well as traditional or conventional instructional methodologies to facilitate and enhance pedagogical, curricular, research and instructional development could go a long way in addressing the challenges inherent within the African educational system.

Using this approach to educational development in Africa will open up new frontiers to learning; enrich collaborative research between and among African universities, as well as with universities in other parts of the world; promote cross-national, multi-disciplinary perspectives in educational practice, and thereby equip students, faculty, and administrators with tools and resources that would enable them to successfully engage the academic world of the 21st century.

The 21st century is the age of the smart machine, the computer, and the forms of work and power and communication it is creating. With the new educational system that recognises the power of ICT, the expectation is that the smart machine will be the primary driving force of our new initiative.

Let’s use our scarce monies to build up our communication technologies and use those technologies to bring learning throughout Africa, rather than forcing students to leave their communities to come to campuses in the cities.

The time has come for the leaders of African education and training–vice-chancellors, principals, directors of schools to be familiar with the new “culture of communication.”:

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