E-Learning is what we need to achieve universal access to meaningful education
Since my first year of university studying Business Management, I kept on hearing how volatile our environment is. We were already bewildered witnessing trends cycle becoming shorter and shorter — and it only got faster today, a decade later.
Technology has always been driving societal change. This is no revolution: tech dictates our habits, decisions, and way of living. What was true during Gutenberg’s era remains true today.
Additionally, no one is truly denying that this is happening for our benefit. Would you imagine your life without your refrigerator? Without your phone, and the mobile money technology, or your credit card that prevents you from those queues at the bank?
Education, in its very early moments has been affected by technology, whether to prepare for the new jobs that were created, or to teach students via new technologies. These ranged from radio mass education to televised school programs and, nowadays, MOOCs.
Today’s challenge is to prepare for an era of sustainable development. On our continent in particular, this requires training on improving the existing in terms of skills and resources, and create a better living with no one left behind. Constant changes require us to be flexible and knowledgeable enough to keep pace with the technological development. We need to teach that.
Thinkers from previous industrial revolutions are more relevant than ever: John Dewey in particular, a father of progressive education, wrote “if we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of their future”. This is no insult to yesterday’s teaching — on the contrary! This is a call to teach more of our youth how to seize the same opportunities we were given. How can we do this in Africa ?
Today, it is estimated that more than 5 billion people have mobile devices, and over half of these connections are smartphones. In Africa, 3/4 of the population has a SIM connection, and 250 million have a smartphone. All of these on the youngest of all continents.
This is why e-learning is more relevant in our continent than anywhere else. E-learning is the use of ICT to deliver solutions to enable learning and improve performance: it involves distributing training programs from a distance, allows more graphic and interactive possibilities, and gives more insight to professors on what and how their students learn.
But beyond features, e-learning is a proven tool to improve the existent: it increases the quality and reach of existing curricula, and allows professors and teams to simply do better, and more.
Take gamification for example; That’s a series of features and incentives that help learners focus and stay motivated. Because each learner is different, we can implement various mechanics that will adapt to everyone, making learning more effective, inclusive and sustainable.
E-learning, when done well, also enables remote access: anyone can learn, there is no urgency to travel long distances to get a copy of a physical learning book ; trainers can access all their learning materials easily. Several voluminous books can be stored into their personal devices.
All these new possibilities shall are not a threat to lecturers though: in the process, they win the ability to monitor and control the progress of all their students through one easy platform. They can automate formerly time consuming tasks, increase their revenue, try new things and develop new relationships with their course and students.
Not to worry as well: using and promoting e-learning does not mean one should ban paper. On the contrary: they go hand in hand! Online is the space for materials and scores sharing, it can be interactive or iterative, it can be shaped to fit everyone’s specific needs. In the same space, offline, or paper, is the space for practicing. It is a personal, introspecting medium for learners to reflect on their knowledge.
Achieving access to a meaningful education means deploying more e-learning, all while conserving the good aspects of traditional media. It is not about replacing our method, but rather about widening our perspective, vision, and ultimately impact. It is about giving everyone opportunities that are accessible only to a few.
Yasmine Affoué Diawara, Country Manager Ivory Coast at Chalkboard Education
Yasmine is a creative dreamer passionate about social impact, with over 6 years of experience in several West African countries.
Before she joined the mobile learning company Chalkboard Education as Country Manager in Ivory Coast, she led an education program (Voix des Jeunes) during 3 years, around civic engagement and leadership through media. With thousands of participants from 7 different countries, its broadcast on the national ivorian TV channel was watched by millions and led her to be selected as Mandela Washington Fellow 2018 for the YALI program. Besides professional activities, she launched a social initiative (Champions DNA) advocating for access to quality education, and is leading the Global Shapers community in Abidjan, a World Economic Forum initiative.