Ethiopia is going through rapid economic development at a time when technological changes are influencing many aspects of human life, including higher education institutions. This context of rapid technological change in the world, and economic development in Ethiopia, means higher education institutions in this country need to carefully examine their educational practices with a technological lens. This context of rapid technological change is compounded by other challenges, such as the ever increasing population of learners from a variety of backgrounds, with diverse needs, motivations, abilities, and learning preferences, who are coming forward now and are eager to participate in a 21st century education. There is, as a result, an increasing demand for more responsive and flexible courses, and the drive to use information communication technology (ICT) in teaching is becoming a necessity for our universities – many of them ill equipped to respond to this demand and drive.
Following this, information communication technology (ICT) is becoming more vigorous and easier to use; and it increasingly permeates many academic activities in universities. According to Pirani and as early as 2004, "The use of technology in education, commonly defined as e-learning, has become a standardcomponent in many courses. Technologyapplications...are also replacing some classroom sessions with virtual sessions or fully replacing classroom courses with online courses." (Pirani, 2004).
Cognizant of the importance of technology in improving educational quality and access, many universities in developed and developing countries have been trying to implement e-learning. Likewise, Jimma University (JU) has been trying to implement e-learning for about ten years. In spite of the huge investment made by the university on expanding ICT infrastructures, we have yet to see real progress in the university as to the use of technology in teaching and learning.
Four years ago a few staff members took training on e-learning but no one has yet started using the e-learning Moodle infrastructure of JU. Just a few interested staff members are currently applying e-learning in the university. The majority of those staff members who took the e-learning training have since left the university due to a variety of reasons. Efforts made in this regard are clearly not satisfactory... The university has offered training to academic staff members, developed the e-learning Moodle and put in place some institutional arrangements for the introduction and implementation of e-learning. However, the re-organization of contents and change on mode of delivery of courses during the modularization process seems to be one of the major factors that has led the university management not to push the colleges to move further forward in this regard.
Other major limitations with regard to the sustained implementation of e-learning in Jimma University include the following:
- Poor follow up and support from the university’s leadership (department, college and corporate level);
- An absence of incentive mechanisms for academic staff members who are champions of e-learning;
- An absence of awareness raising and capacity building trainings; and
- The malfunctioning of e-learning offices.
- Interruption of electricity and internet connections;
- intolerable student-computer ratio;
- deficiencies in e-learning knowledge and skill on the part of teachers and students;
- centralization of ICT related privileges; and
- a confusing structure of e-learning at the university level.
Pirani, Judith A. 2004. Supporting E-Learning in Higher Education Roadmap, July 2004. EDUCASE Center for Applied Research. Retrieved 19th April https://library.educause.edu/resources/2004/7/supporting-elearning-in-higher-education-roadmap
Shimels Challa is the ICT Development Team Leader at Jimma University, Ethiopia.
Bekalu Ferede is the E-learning Coordinator at Jimma University, Ethiopia.
Elias Ali Yesuf is based in the Department of Health Economics, Management, and Policy at Jimma University, Ethiopia.