eLearning Africa 2010
JP Bosman – A perspective
. The most important “take away” messages from the conference are:
•Academics and professionals from African universities and companies
have an important and unique contribution to make to the global
discourse on e-Learning for education and development. The African
perspective on issues like mobile learning, health and rural education, and
e-learning in developing, resource scarce contexts is a crucial part of the
global debate on the future of learning and technology.
•“Homegrown in Africa” – this should be the approach to new
technologies and ideas. One should not always look to the West, North
and East for new developments and products. The unique contribution
from African institutions and researchers can lead to innovative and
creative solutions to global issues, especially in the fields of health and
•The concept of “developed”, “developing” and “development” should
be deconstructed. Proponents like Prof John Traxler (University of
Wolverhampton) are asking new questions around the ideology of power
inherit in the distinction between developed and developing. What does
“developed” mean? Is it a point that one can arrive at?
•Mobile learning should be the focal point of implementation and research
into e-learning. Almost every third presentation (and two full conference
streams) included mobile learning as a strategy for education in rural and
resource scarce environments. In Africa, access to education, the economy
and services will mainly be through cell phones. Schools and universities
should build and plan on this trend.
•The focus should always be more on the humans than on the machines.
Although they must not be exclusive, the relational, personal and communal
side of learning should be served by technology and not be secondary for the
sake of the “newest technology”.
•Medical education (especially around HIV, TB, tropical diseases and training
of nurses) is often the focal point of e- and m-learning projects and funding
in Africa. The usually rural (“off the grid”) nature of these learning contexts
invites innovation and the adaption and development of technologies
(especially around cell phones) that will make a difference in the health of
the most vulnerable of communities.
•Open Source software and Open Educational resources are a given
(from the conference perspective at least) if we think about the future
of e-Learning in Africa and it’s role in education. Almost all the
presentations focused on the innovative use of free or low cost
software that would be affordable in resource scarce contexts. This
includes the rural focus, and especially the focus on the use of low-
level cell phones.
•South Africa has a special responsibility to provide leadership and
partnership to fellow African institutions. On the other hand, South
Africa should not be overly confident as education in SA is in a crisis
and we should continue searching for relevant solutions to our