The presentation I gave about an hour ago at eLearning Africa 2011 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania:
I was just having a look at the statistics for the Mekelle Uni Moodle and am very pleased to see how much the site has increased in usage over the last year. Great to see students making up a large proportion of the hits. Last year we were seeing more hits from teachers, probably due to their course development and issues with lab opening. The drop is hits during February and March this year is likely due to three factors: (a) one of the labs being closed following theft of some terminals, (b) end of semester exams and (c) subsequent inter-semester break. I hope the site usage continues to increase.
Over the last few months, we have been looking at ways in which we can move Digital Campus away from being a one-off project and into an ongoing programme. Our focus is now on how we can help improve ICT professionalism, creating more career opportunities and better career paths for those who work in IT.
We have been investigating the various options for this and our plans now revolve around Digital Campus supporting (through a partnership agreement) an ICT company based in Ethiopia to provide quality ICT services. Digital Campus in Europe would stay not-for-profit, but we would like to steer clear of being seen as a charity or donor organisation. Although we’re able to source and provide hardware very close to being free, we would only want this equipment to be used in environments where there is a clear support structure in place. I know far too many donated computer labs either permanently locked up or hardware reduced to doorstops because it simply hasn’t been properly maintained.
Digital Campus Ethiopia (for want of a better name) would initially provide the first line of support, being directly based in the client organisation and Digital Campus Europe would initially provide the second/third line support, but also giving training, work experience and internships, with a view to the Ethiopian based company subsequently taking over this role, building into a viable self-sustaining business. This should help offer a higher level of service quality as well as being able to offer better paid career options to local staff.
The challenges are very high, especially in finding a suitable team of staff (or an existing company) to partner with, as these people will be critical to the success (or otherwise) of the venture. But everyone I’ve spoken to recently seems to see it as the ‘right way’ to go.
I’d be interested to hear thoughts and opinions on this approach.
Last night we presented the Certificate in Online Education to another 20 teachers from Technology Institute and Health Sciences. Over the past week we’ve been verifying that everyone has completed the assignments and other requirements. We’re still learning about the best way to deliver the course to get active participation especially when we’re not present in Mekelle. Before coming to back to Mekelle we were a little worried that few teachers had completed any of the assignments or their courses. But actually most had completed what was asked of them, just that we didn’t know – either they’d started to develop a different course to the one they’d first told us about, or they’d created the required activities, but not submitted the links to notify us.
Most of the teachers are now moving onto the advanced course which we started this week. We’re not starting a new basic course this semester, as we’d really like the elearning team to deliver this themselves with our support from a distance, rather than Jaime and I continually running the workshops.
Has been a fun couple of weeks in Mekelle, but hard work and much more to do, as ever. I have a few other blog articles to finish writing and get posted up, so hope to do this over the next few days. With such a short visit, I didn’t get the time to catchup with everyone I wanted to, but hopefully I’ll be back again in May/June time for a slightly longer visit.
This week Alex and I have completed the introductory module of the Certificate in Online Education for teachers of Technical and Health Sciences faculties of Mekele University in Ethiopia. This course began in October 2010 with 1 Face-To-Face week. During the online period from October 2010 to February 2011, the participants had the opportunity to create course Web using tools that are useful in teaching, converting traditional courses and learned to use Web-based components to enhance face-to-face instruction.
All course materials are placed on Moodle and include module content (course outline, lecture notes, additional resources, audio and video lectures, assignments and open educational resources) and communication (forum, chat room, e-mail).
This material is intended to strengthen the current teaching of the courses to the current students in learning activities through access to computer labs on university campuses.
In this version of the Certificate in Online Education, we have included the evaluation of the developed courses based on peer review and on action plan for the future development work.
- Peer Review: participants gave the opinions and constructive feedback on the peer’s course. The completed form was uploaded as submission for this assignment.
- Course Review and Action Plan: each participant completed this form based on the feedback from the trainers, from other course participants and from their students.
Of the 26 participants who started the Certificate in Online Education in October 2010, 20 have completed the requirements to receive a certificate conferred by the Computation Sciences School, University of Alcala, Madrid Spain.
Mekele University has 20 new teachers with Pedagogical and Technical skills for e-learning and at least 20 new courses provided in a blended learning environment, taking the best of the classical classroom training (face-to-face instructor-led learning), and the best of online learning (self-paced learning, follow-up mechanisms on the Web and greater flexibility to meet the different learning styles).
This afternoon Jaime and I finished delivering our updated Certificate in Online Education to over 25 elearning team staff from 7 universities across Ethiopia, who had all gathered at the new ICT and Technology innovation hub (ICE Addis) at the Ethiopian Institute for Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC).
We’d been invited by the on.e elearning team (part of ECBP), who have been setting up eCompetence Centres at many Ethiopian Universities. So was a really good chance for us to work with staff from other elearning teams.
We were really pleased how well the training went, all the participants seemed to enjoy the course. We arrived in Addis last weekend, but have been quite flat out with the training and meetings, so haven’t had much chance to blog. Heading up to Mekelle tomorrow afternoon, so for now will just post up a photo of all the participants – will post some more details in the coming days.
As I mentioned in my previous posting, we’ve been spending some time recently developing a Creative Commons Certificate in Online Education specifically tailored to those teachers new to using online and blended learning. We’ve just released the first version of the course and made it available for download.
You can view the course on our Moodle installation at: http://moodle.alexlittle.net/course/view.php?id=13 (use the ‘login as guest’ option).
You can also download the course in Moodle (1.9) backup format from: http://alexlittle.net/blog/download.php?file=coe.zip so you can install it on your own server to edit/remix/reuse or deliver as-is within your organisation.
The course is still under development, there are many aspects that we’d like to improve, a priority will be to try and reduce the download size, currently it’s around 36Mb, which is likely to be too big for anyone to download on a dial-up speed connection. Any feedback on the course is very welcome and if you use the course materials in your organisation I’d be really interested in hearing about it.
Although this is the first release, we have delivered the content to several groups of teachers over the past 18 months in Mekelle, so it is a product of our experiences running these training courses.
So far, we’ve been delivering the course in blended mode: face to face workshops at the start and end with an online period inbetween. We’re also like to run the course purely online, so we hope to start a facilitated/tutored presentation of the course in the coming months. If you’re interested in participating in this then please contact me.
Our original plan for delivering the elearning training in Mekelle was to develop our own Moodle training content, maybe not all from scratch, but at least the general structure and depth, reusing existing videos and open content wherever possible. Given the time constraints we had before starting the first training sessions, we were unable to complete writing our own content. Instead we licensed the MoodleBites for Teachers and Course Designers courses so we were able to upload this onto the servers in Mekelle. We did reorganise the content slightly to fit in with what we were trying to achieve, but this was far less effort that writing our own.
Using the MoodleBites content gave us good quality and well structured content and activities and has worked very well for us over the training we’ve been giving for the last 18 months. They’ve also been very helpful in providing a facilitator (Anna) for us to help give some alternative approaches and other perspectives on delivering course online for our course participants. They’ve also generously allowed us to use the content for limited groups outside our original license, without any extra payment.
However in the longer term, as we’re looking to provide elearning training and support to other universities in Ethiopia and further afield, it’s unsustainable for us (or the organisations we’d like to work with) to license the content at each new organisation. So we’ve returned to the idea of developing our own content, specifically, writing a Certificate in Online Education (COE) distributed under a creative commons license.
As with most other open content, the real value comes from the facilitation, tutoring and mentoring along with the actual certificate, rather than the content itself. We’re hoping to use our new content for the training we’ll give in the coming few weeks and takes into account the environmental factors (such as limited bandwidth, initial tutor skills/training) which are different when delivering elearning training in European or US organisations.
Our aim with the Certification in Online Education is not to produce a technical training course in Moodle alone, nor to provide solely elearning/pedagogy theory, but a balance between the two. The MoodleBites training, as it’s name suggests, is focused mainly on Moodle, leading to develop the Moodle skills necessary to complete the Moodle Certification. Our COE isn’t designed as preparation for Moodle Certification, but to provide teachers who have probably never written or used online courses a way in which they can begin to see what’s possible to provide effective (blended) elearning courses by using free software tools and Open Educational Resources.
I’ll post again once we have the course published and available for download.
Last week we received the unfortunate news that one of the computer labs we helped set up in Mekelle in Nov 2009 was broken into. Just over 20 computer terminals were taken, but fortunately none of the (LCD) monitors were also taken. Given that the terminals are relatively small, so easily portable, we had thought there was a risk of one or two going astray, especially given that thefts of portable electronic devices (laptops etc) happen at all universities and all organisations around the world.
We’re not sure if the thief (or thieves) realise that without being connected to a server to boot up from, the devices are pretty much useless and there’s going to be an extremely limited market for reselling such stolen devices in Ethiopia. So it’s a small consolation that the thief/thieves are unlikely to profit from the robbery.
It’s far more disappointing they have taken the opportunity for the students to fully use the lab, now being down to half the original number of terminals. However, most students are in the run up to their exams over the coming weeks, followed by the semester break, so they won’t be accessing the lab as much as during the rest of the semester.
This gives a few weeks to get the lab back up and running fully before the start of the next semester (probably in first weeks of March) and we very quickly managed to put plans together for how we can replace the missing terminals. We’re hoping to (at least temporarily) replace some of the missing terminals with refurbished PCs, we’d already been testing this over the past few months, so just means that we will deploy them sooner than expected. We’re also checking the costs of having some (SunRay) terminals we had in the US shipped over as replacements for those which have gone missing.
So, despite the setback, the lab should be back up and running within a couple of weeks.
We’re still in the process of planning out our training programme for our next visit to Ethiopia in a few weeks time. At only 3 weeks it’s going to be my shortest visit to Ethiopia, so sure it will be a very busy time, given what we’re hoping to get done in the time there. For a week in Addis, we’ll be starting our basic certification course for elearning teams from some of the other universities in Ethiopia, we’re just waiting to get confirmation of how many are going to attend. Then we’ll have 2 weeks in Mekelle, for the final face to face workshops for the certification we started in October plus starting a new cohort for the advanced training.
There’s still some way to go before Mekelle University is ready to start delivering the course by themselves. Although they’re keen on expanding the training to include other colleges, it’s not sustainable for Jaime and I to continue to deliver the training over and over.
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had lots of good news from the Technology Institute. Florida, one of the lecturers from the Computer Science department, has taken over as head of ICT and elearning. They’ve managed to take on another team member for the elearning team, plus lab attendants are due to start work this week for maintaining the computer labs. They’re in the process of getting a new computer lab (of almost 70 refurbished PCs network booting from the OpenSolaris server) up and running, so will be great to see this up and running, although we have a few concerns as to whether the server will have the power/capacity to deliver sessions to this many extra terminals.
Health Sciences College have also been busy, installing network connected PCs and projectors in almost 20 lecture rooms.
With all these changes, I’m looking forward to getting back to Mekelle, if only for a very short time. At just less than 4 months, this is also the longest break I’ve had away from Mekelle since I started working there back in September 2008.