Growing e-learning in Africa through public-private partnerships
This year, the annual Innovation Africa Summit was hosted in Kenya on the 20th of September 2016, bringing together high-level officials from more than 40 African countries to discuss challenges and opportunities in the fields of education, ICT, science and technology. Some interesting findings emerged at the summit with respect to the growth of online training in Africa; 92% of government decision-makers – working in education – believe that e-learning is instrumental to improving education on the continent, while 57% believe that governments could improve by implementing e-learning initiatives to “bridge the digital divide.”
Though Africa’s e-learning market has doubled since 2011, there are still a number of challenges that continue to hinder adoption of a digitalised approach. These include limited funding for devices, inadequate infrastructure, as well as a lack of stakeholders, teacher support and locally-produced digital resources.
Despite these challenges, respondents were in agreement that technology can aid the delivery of education services in Africa and offer a wide range of benefits. For example, creating opportunities where none previously existed and increasing access to educational resources in remote areas via mobile phones which, in turn, increases the demand for personalised learning.
Still, the question remains: how can we overcome these challenges to leverage the power of online learning in South Africa, as well as Africa as a whole?
One answer is public-private partnerships (PPP). These partnerships can help to create exciting business opportunities for tech vendors and startups working with digital education as these are still untapped and fast-growing markets. E-learning training courses in Africa require the assistance of
governments and the private sector – as well as stakeholders such as universities and industry – to work together to develop locally-relevant content that is easily distributable and accessible using cost-efficient devices. And considering the massive penetration rate of mobile technology across Africa, there’s no reason why educational content should not be tailored for mobile. Furthermore, these models are arguably more suitable for millennials than traditional methods of education.
To achieve this however, government and the private sector will have to collaborate to get more people connected to the internet. A large part of this collaboration would focus on making data available at discounted rates – or for free – to students to access courses online. Another prerequisite is spreading awareness among teachers about the value of e-learning, not only in how it can make their jobs easier, but also in terms of making lessons more interactive and individualised. This would hopefully result in more engaged students enjoying the educational experience.
These solutions are not just pipedreams; Microsoft recently partnered up with the Ministry of Education in Rwanda through its “Partners in Learning” programme to help teachers and schools enhance students’ experiences and skills using technology. To date, the programme has benefited over 1 million students in sub-Saharan Africa.
Like Microsoft, iLearn also believes that digitalising education can create social and economic opportunities because it paves the way to more immersive learning experiences and can improve the outcomes of both teachers and learners.
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