Support for and Adoption of Online Learning in South Africa
After reading a number of different perspectives about online learning penetration within South Africa, I can conclude that we are in the right direction. This is despite the fact that, on one end of the spectrum we have schools and higher education institutions who are fully utilizing the power of the internet, and yet on the other we still have institutions battling with the basic needs such as toilets, classroom windows and so forth.
There are organizations that are contributing to the penetration of educational technologies within learning institutions such as Vodacom through its Mobile Education Programme and the South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE). Vodacom, with its financial muscle has a programme for supporting underprepared or non-digitally literate teachers. SAIDE contributes to the development of new models of open and distance education practices, that take forward the values, principles, and goals of the evolving education systems in the Southern African region. It is important to note that South Africa is blessed with many organisations supporting online learning technologies in comparison with its African counterparts.
Moving onto tertiary education, most of the universities have adopted some sort of learning management system which forms the basis of online learning within the institutions. However, I feel that there is not much willingness from institutions to explore the full potential of the online learning systems. The reason could be that academics do not believe in them, or there are too many other challenges that need to be addressed first before one gets the time to explore the LMSes. Whilst other institutions are slow adopters, others continue to pioneer and explore new models of learning. Wits University and University of Cape Town (UCT) have become the first institutions from South Africa to develop Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on the internationally known and respected platform, Edx. I praise this move and I look forward to how this is going to unfold in the near future.
We also have companies that have taken up e-learning to develop their staff members and this has resulted in a number of start-up companies offering online courses. The company I have used for my own development (Project Administration course) is GetSmarter. Getsmarter partnered with UCT to offer high quality online courses, which are interactive and accommodate a large number of students. Other institutions, such as University of South Africa, Damelin and Intec offer hybrid options which include both the sending of physical learning resources back and forth, and in some cases, a testing venue-based written exam.
All in all, I think the future of online learning in South Africa is bright and if you are not on the journey to get e-literate, then you might find yourself in world that you do not understand.