Africa University develops e-learning plans, officials say
Nov. 13, 2006
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By Sharai Nondo*
MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS) - Africa University is on an e-learning threshold to become the pan-African institution it was created to be, school officials told United Methodist bishops.
Throughout the United Methodist Council of Bishops' Nov. 1-6 meeting, information technologists from Africa University provided a glimpse of how distance education would work to reach and provide learning opportunities to areas of the continent.
The bishops saw how the university will use electronic learning methods as well as establish a virtual university on campus. E-learning will enable the university to reach out to several African countries in its initial phases, including Mozambique, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia, according to Nodumo Dhlamini, the university's director of communication technology.
Dhlamini said electronic learning, which is the use of current information technologies in the delivery of teaching and learning, has always been at the heart of the information and technology strategy at Africa University.
"We face the usual challenges of lack of requisite infrastructure, access to computers and connectivity," she added. "This cannot deter us from our goal of setting up distance learning."
Connectivity, however, remains a major challenge in Africa, with governments giving their major priorities to basic provision of health care, water and sanitation and education. Information technologies also are facing strict regulatory controls, she said.
Mozambican Bishop João Somane Machado commended Africa University on its plans for the virtual university and the opportunity for his clergy to continue with their studies and contribute to the overall growth and development of the church.
Representatives from the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry canvassed areas of Maputo and outlying environs to find a location for a satellite link or campus that would enable distance education to begin in Mozambique. The search is still under way.
During an Oct. 30-31 session on a holistic strategy for Africa, the continent's United Methodist bishops spoke of the need for translation of any content into Portuguese and French to cater to the diverse needs of people using those languages.
Ken Yamada, a Higher Education and Ministry staff person, said Africa University was designed to serve the entire continent of Africa. In order to do that, "it was important to devise a strategy whereby the university would go to the people" through satellite campuses in different locales, he explained.
He emphasized the importance of local people having ownership of their institutions. "Students can now access and experience an innovative way of teaching and learning, and the lecturers are assisted by support structures and capacity building efforts," he said.
Bishop Felton May, chairperson of the holistic strategy on Africa committee, noted that distance education will reflect that Africa University is Pan-African.
East Angolan Bishop Jose Quipungo praised Africa University's investment into distance learning. He said he perceives "education in Africa as a total liberating force from poverty."
*Nondo is program assistant in Africa University's Information and Public Affairs Office.
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