A Snapshot of Distance Education in Africa.

African countries face tremendous challenges vis-à-vis other geographies and regions. Rapidly increasing demands for all levels and forms of education coupled with local and regional governments’ limited capacity to expand provision of education through traditional bricks-and-mortar institutions leave ODL as a viable option to address and match growing demand for education. It offers one way to increase the capacity of educational systems without incurring the cost of building facilities by allowing learners the flexibility to remain in their communities or in their duty post. Distance education was and is seen as one of the solutions to training education and health services personnel who are working full-time and who are unable to attend and/or afford to register in full-time residential institutions. It is also seen as a solution to the depleting ranks of teachers and healthcare and other professionals, which have been decimated by HIV/AIDS, as distance education can provide effective pre-service and in-service training programs.

An Evaluative Study of a Distance Teacher Education Program in a University in Ghana

"The study used an adaptation of Provus’ discrepancy evaluation model to evaluate a distance teacher education program in the University of Cape Coast, the premier teacher education institution in Ghana. The study involved comparing performance data of the program as perceived by students and faculty/administrators to standards prepared from the program’s design. Performance data was obtained by administering two survey instruments to a random sample of students and faculty/administrators. Discrepancies between performance and standards were reported. The study concluded that although there were some discrepancies between program standards and performance the program is fulfilling its purpose of upgrading the professional and academic performance of a large number of teachers in the public K-8 schools in Ghana.
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Crossing the Chasm – Introducing Flexible Learning into the Botswana Technical Education Programme: From Policy to Action

This paper reports on a longitudinal, ethnomethodological case study of the development towards flexible delivery of the Botswana Technical Education Programme (BTEP), offered by Francistown College of Technical & Vocational Education (FCTVE). Data collection methods included documentary analysis, naturalistic participant observation, and semi-structured interviews. The author identifies and analyses the technical, staffing, and cultural barriers to change when introducing technology-enhanced, flexible delivery methods. The study recommends that strategies to advance flexible learning should focus on the following goals: establish flexible policy and administration systems, change how staff utilization is calculated when flexible learning methodologies are used, embed flexible delivery in individual performance development and department/college strategic plans, ensure managerial leadership, hire and support permanent specialists, identify champions and share success stories, and address issues of inflexible organisational culture. This study may be of value in developing countries where mass-based models are sought to expand access to vocational education and training.

Designing to Promote Access, Quality, and Student Support in an Advanced Certificate Programme for Rural Teachers in South Africa

This paper reports on the re-design of the Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) programme, which is offered by the University of Pretoria through distance education (DE) to teachers in rural South Africa. In 2007, a team re-designed the programme with the goal of promoting access, quality, and student support. The team included an independent body, the South African Institute of Distance Education (SAIDE), and various education specialists. Training workshops for academics and a comprehensive internal and external review process contributed to the quality of the re-designed programme. Interactive web-based technologies were not included because of poor Internet connectivity; however, the authors note the use and potential of cell phone technology for DE programmes. Student support was enhanced by an additional short contact session, a capping assignment, a CD-ROM, and decentralised tutoring at contact venues. The programme was re-evaluated and approved in 2008, and the re-design methodology now guides similar projects.

Distance Learning and Teacher Education in Botswana: Opportunities and Challenges

" This paper reports on a study at Molepolole College of Education (MCE) involving teachers and tutors in the Diploma in Primary Education (DPE) program by distance mode, an in-service program aimed at upgrading academic and professional qualifications of primary school teachers in Botswana. The study sought to understand the level of access and the challenges faced by teachers and tutors. Data was collected through in-depth interviews, survey, and document analysis. Findings showed that teachers should be enrolled in the program at a younger age, and issues that lead to delays in completion must be addressed. The paper recommends that the Ministry of Education (MOE) hire full-time tutors to support teachers at their bases, provide resources for practical subjects, organize workshops to familiarize tutors with appropriate strategies for adult learners, increase the duration of residential sessions, explore the use of alternative instructional technologies, and institute regular customer evaluations. "

Exploring Blended Learning for Science Teacher Professional Development in an African Context

This paper explores a case of teacher professional development in Botswana where a blended learning solution was attempted. The analysis of the implementation environment reveals deficiencies in policy, schools (workplaces), and training providers. The paper concludes with three recommendations: 1) Schools should support ongoing teacher learning in the workplace and should manage ICT resources for use by both teachers and students; 2) Government should support participatory and localised learning and institutionalise ICT access and use; and 3) Training providers should use blended methods and should model good ICT practices. The author also notes that change is needed in the culture of teaching and learning so that ongoing, situated, participatory, and collaborative approaches are accepted. Finally, collaboration between the training providers and the schools is necessary as is a change in beliefs about the use of ICTs in education.

Exploring Blended Learning for Science Teacher Professional Development in an African Context

This paper explores a case of teacher professional development in Botswana where a blended learning solution was attempted. The analysis of the implementation environment reveals deficiencies in policy, schools (workplaces), and training providers. The paper concludes with three recommendations: 1) Schools should support ongoing teacher learning in the workplace and should manage ICT resources for use by both teachers and students; 2) Government should support participatory and localised learning and institutionalise ICT access and use; and 3) Training providers should use blended methods and should model good ICT practices. The author also notes that change is needed in the culture of teaching and learning so that ongoing, situated, participatory, and collaborative approaches are accepted. Finally, collaboration between the training providers and the schools is necessary as is a change in beliefs about the use of ICTs in education.

Harnessing Open Educational Resources to the Challenges of Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

The challenges to teacher educators in sub-Saharan Africa are acute. This paper describes how the Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) consortium is working within institutional and national policy systems to support school-based teacher professional development. The TESSA consortium (13 African institutions and 5 international organisations delivering teacher education across 9 countries) designed and produced a bank of open educational resources (OERs) to guide teachers’ classroom practices in school-based teacher education. Drawing on examples from the TESSA consortium and from the University of Fort Hare, South Africa, the authors categorize the forms of TESSA OER integration as highly structured, loosely structured, or guided use. The paper concludes by outlining success factors for the integration of OERs: accessibility, adequate resources, support for teachers, accommodation of local cultural and institutional practices, and sustainable funding.

Policy Deficit in Distance Education: A Transactional Distance

This paper innovatively extends the application of transactional distance theory (TDT) to evidence-based policy development in Mauritius. In-depth interview data on student persistence from a range of stakeholders is used to understand the implications of distance education (DE) policy deficit. Policy deficit has surfaced as another dimension of transactional distance and student persistence as an appropriate measuring instrument. Transactional distance is salient in the non-alignment of national and institutional DE planning. Associated results are myopic institutional vision, stagnating national plans, poor resource deployment, and ill-understood opportunities for personal development. This research validates TDT as an instrument for policy development and concludes that supporting advocacy plans will help to achieve sustainable distance education in the region. Lessons from the field in Mauritius can be usefully adapted to the sub-Saharan African context (SSA). These preliminary indications require further research and discussion.

Successful distance education programs in sub-Saharan Africa

"This paper explains the purposes, delivery methods, and program characteristics of successful distance education (DE) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This paper investigates the design and delivery systems of these programs and identifies ways the DE programs are working to improve. There are about 150 formidable distance education programs working in SSA. They aim to increase and improve a variety of existing programs, including primary and high school education, college-level and graduate programs, language training, teacher training, and continuing education for
adults. The primary delivery system used by most institutions consists of printed manuals and texts that are distributed to all students. Despite the continued development of information and communication technology (ICT), including videos, online training modules, and web-based training (WBT) systems, traditional DE delivery methods continue to prove as the most reliable, most sustainable, and most widely used."