Home › Forums › Using Alternative Learning Mode (ALM) in Engaging Students at the University of Sierra Leone During the Ebola Outbreak › Engaging Students with ICT in times of crises
What a thought-provoking presentation from Dr Daniel Stevens! Please access the presentation transcript and recording by clicking here.
Dr Stevens took up the challenge of reaching and engaging students after the University closed due to the Ebola virus.
What ICT and/or learning challenges do we face in our institutions, and what can we glean from the presentation that can help us overcome these challenges?
What I found so remarkable was that the university rapidly introduced new infrastructure and practices starting from a base of zero to ensure that it wouldn’t have to shut down during the epidemic. What there clearly were some organisational challenges and even some strong resistance to these changes they could not be stopped. And now it is probably impossible to go back to the way things have always been done at University of Sierra Leone. What I am curious about which of the changes need consolidation or to be revisited and the nature of the next phase of innovation.
Thanks Nompilo and hello Tony! Daniel’s presentation reveals reality on the ground. We might not be facing the Ebola epidemic but we are facing some kind of epidemic: fast dwindling enrollment numbers due to high tuition fees which exclude a lot of potentially capable youths, irrelevancy of programs offered which are not attractive to the private sector; failure to respond to societal needs etc. All these and more are threats to the existence of our universities. Lessons learned from the presentation is that ICT has become a necessity for survival. Challenges faced are as Tony says, organisational challenges and some strong resistance from lecturers who prefer the ‘traditional approaches to teaching/learning. In my Institution there is a promising awakening e.g. the Moodle platform has been upgraded and lecturers are encouraged to use the platform; the Institute of Distance learning has introduced the blended learning approach for all courses offered. I just wish we could be more faster in embracing the ICT in teaching.
Its good to see you here! Interesting that you identify the rising cost of education as an epidemic affecting student numbers in your institution. Across most of Africa only a small percentage of young people eligible for higher education actually get admitted by universities so I’m curious about how fees could be rising so fast that enrolments to your university are falling. Are there also other factors which affect this?
I’ve also been wondering about the use of online learning and communication as one of the responses of educators across the world to crisis situations. Some of the examples that surfaced from a couple of quick searches included the response of Hong Kong schools to the 2003 SARS epidemic, the use of blended learning by University of Canterbury, New Zealand to mitigate the hugely disruptive effects of earthquakes in 2011, and the deployment of emergency alert systems by US colleages after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.
It is likely that in all of these cases the institutions had some ICT and digital communication capacity which could be mobilised and that the crises were either of smaller scale or shorter duration than the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. Does anyone else know of other relevant examples?
Hi everyone, I was missing in action. Thanks to power cuts. But I am here, at last.
Yes Tony, in Jos, we had very bad violent crises that caused the entire city to shut down and institutions to close for months. At that time, I experimented with mobile learning, exploiting the tools that students already had and the networks (internet connections) they were already using to engage them and get some of more courses going in a meaningful way. We could not use the Moodle platform at the time because the University servers on which it ran were down too. But my example is an ongoing experiment and has not been documented in a journal paper, so cannot pop-up in any google search, yet.
Thank you Tony, hello Jerome! I am taking notes from you my Guru. Yes Tony the University of Swaziland has for a long time been heavily subsidized by Government – at almost 80% subvention. Unfortunately in 2011 we had an economic recession and Govt cut the subvention to 25%. Among other crisis, this has meant that the majority of students that we admit could not get Govt scholarship, and unfortunately many of the students come from low income backgrounds hence cannot afford tuition fees at the university. This move also affected schoolteachers who are eager to upgrade themselves. As a result in some Faculties like the Faculty of Education we currently have departments with an enrollment as less as 5 students. The only alternative for most of these capable but excluded students has been to enroll to the university through the Institute of Distance Education which is flexible enough for them to have paying jobs. To meaningfully reach these masses, the Institute and Faculties need to take drastic steps, which unfortunately has not been fast enough.
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