Tim Unwin
Publication Date
May 1, 2008

e-Learning Africa

This 10-page report, published by e-Learning Africa, summarises information about the status of e-learning in Africa based on 316 responses to a questionnaire circulated in 2007 to people in the e-Learning Africa database. According to the author, this represents approximately 4% of people in the database, and is likely to reflect those who are already most committed to the use of e-learning. The majority of respondents were men working in universities who had some experience with e-learning; the author admits that this represents a privileged sample.

The report states that although the sample for the survey was privileged, it is clear that many different e-learning practices are currently evident across the continent. Relatively few of these are based on comprehensive Learning Management Systems such as Moodle or WebCT, and most rely primarily on the use of the internet for gaining access to information and on email for communicating with colleagues and students. This confirms that e-learning is in its infancy in Africa, but the evidence from those consulted in this survey is that there is nevertheless considerable enthusiasm for the potential that it offers across the educational spectrum - not only for universities and schools, but also for vocational training, for lifelong learning, and for marginalised groups such as street children and those with disabilities.

The challenge that remains to be addressed is to identify the optimal e-learning solutions for different groups of people in African countries with varying levels of access to infrastructure and levels of training. The latter sections of the review suggest that it might not so much be the ‘hard’ infrastructural constraints that are holding back the expansion of e-learning in Africa, but rather the ‘softer’ dimensions of management, training, and the development of appropriate levels of expertise in e-learning design that are the most important factors that require attention.

Many different suggestions were received as to what could make e-learning more effective in respondents’ countries. Among the most frequently mentioned were:

  • availability of hardware (particularly computers);
  • faster internet connectivity/improved bandwidth;
  • improved software;
  • appropriate policies favouring e-learning;
  • provision of technical support for e-learning at a range of scales;
  • lower prices for connectivity;
  • availability of reliable electricity;
  • appropriate content in appropriate languages;
  • awareness raising about the value of e-learning; and
  • improved training for teachers in e-learning at all levels.

E-learning website on August 17 2008.