Thursday, 21 April 2016

The E-learning Landscape of Jimma University



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.


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.
Major challenges to the sustained implementation of e-learning in Jimma University include the following:
  • 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.
Based on these findings, the university has been developing an e-learning strategy for the coming three years. There is strong belief that the university will get invaluable inputs from the African Universities Research Approaches (AURA) partnership universities to help us with this challenging situation. We hope that the AURA partner institutions will share their experiences around what they have done and are doing in their respective institutions to develop technology- enhanced teaching and learning. This will strengthen blended distance learning programs like JU’s Health Economics Masters program.

References:

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.




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  3. "I think, e-learning could have a very good future after the humans build up Ethiopia and make it famous, but e-learning needs to deserve the name ""Today's education"". I've jumped into the middle of e-learning and I was frustrated. I've started to use text to speech apps and it was disappointing... Every text to speech tool has robotic sound, sometimes I haven't understood anything. The only text to speech app made me surprised is this app ( http://www.ispeech.org/text.to.speech ). This app really has a horrifically real human voice, but it's the only one.
    Cheers on building Ethiopia! "

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