The Role of ICT in Africa's Evolving Higher Education Sector

Prof. Jude Lubega, DVC, UTAMU

In the past ten years, Africa has seen tremendous growth in the demand for higher education and this can be witnessed by the ever-growing numbers of Higher Education Institutions; HEI both private and public. This situation has been fuelled by several factors which include free secondary education from various governments propelling a surge in the numbers that qualify for higher education, improved society and emergence of the knowledge economy. There are also clear signs of the demand for higher education that is ubiquitous, there are more people on the move within the continent, lifelong learning is more sought after, employees’ skills becoming outdated after 3-5 years at the job which calls for retooling, the emergence of both digital natives and digital migrants.

These factors are propelling the evolution that is happening in the HEI in order to certify the demand which is higher than the supply  Questions like; how to cope with the ever-increasing numbers with minimal expenditure but still providing the quality education are constantly being raised Therefore  there has been a paradigm shift in many African HEI in both educational delivery and its management  This paradigm shift has focused on the ability to deliver education effectively  efficiently and ubiquitously with minimum costs possible.

In order to take care of the paradigm shift and its demands, African HEI have adopted innovative ideas to sustain their supply for quality education These innovative ways include the adoption of Information communication Technology (ICT) to enable educational provision and its effective management. Billy Gates has once asked Universities and colleges, “How can we use technology as a tool to recreate the entire college experience? How can we provide a better education to more people for less money?”. Other organizations such as UNESCO have also stated that African education status requires innovative ways to support it in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals  Further the CISCO system chief Executive Officer once said that the next bigger killer application of the internet will be education  These clearly signify the potential of ICT in solving the current dilemma brought about by African demands for higher education but with less supply of it.

Integration of ICT within HEI in Africa is slowly taking shape with several institutions appreciating its potential to offer a ubiquitous teaching and learning to both teachers and students The integration has taken a form of use of computers and internet  TV radio  video conferencing and mobile learning  This integration of IcT within the edu- cational sector depends on several things such as activity to be undertaken  processes involved  target audience availability and accessibility of resources  However  it should be noted that integration of IcT in education is not only about educational delivery but includes education management  administration  communication finance and security It is therefore important to understand the requirements under which a particular service needs to be en- abled using IcT if there is going to be returns on investments

Why integrate ICT in Education?

This pertinent question demonstrates that for African HEI to integrate IcT in their education institutions  there should be clear reasons that stimulate the adoption Several reasons have been identified as those that have fueled integration of IcT  in the African HEI  These include: effective collaboration  effective networking  easy sharing  of resources  effective accessibility to educational resources  ubiquitous education and empowering of learners  Inte- gration IcT in education teaching and learning has evolved in HEI leading to a new method of educational delivery called e-learning  E-Learning has been defined by several people to mean the use of IcT to support formal or non- formal knowledge acquisition This form of learning is one that should support enthusiasm to happen in class  be engaging  allow exchange of educational resources enriching enhancing allows being extended beyond geograph- ical boarders  that is entertaining  that allows embedding and empowers learners to become better   HEI in Africa are starting to realize that education has evolved and what used to be a traditional classroom is now a flipped class- room  This inversion allows students-teachers to collaborate and engage from anywhere  at their wish and at any time they wish.

E-learning world trend indicate that it is annually growing at rate of $0 4 Billion from 2015 and expected to rise by 2020  Statistics also indicate that there is an increasing expenditure on e-learning in several HEI across the world as compared the traditional education  However  as compared to the entire world Africa still lags behind in the integration of ICT in teaching and learning with just $512 Million revenue against USA’s $27 Billion revenue he advancement in technology  reduced costs of hardware  software and internet connection in the world market is affecting greatly the adoption of e-learning this is creating several opportunities for the HEI as described below.

Opportunities for E-Learning in HEI

Several opportunities have emerged due to adoption of e-learning within HEI and these include: immerging partnerships among institutions in terms of research and training empowered learners real-time supervision and share of resources is possible despite of the geographical barrier reach out to more training opportunities intercontinental educational markets for institutional courses  increased need for lifelong and work place learning and massive education through ubiquitous means It is obvious today that the Massive open online courses (Moocs) are taking the world by storm and are being more recognized within the HEI  African HEI have to tap into the opportunity of the Moocs to contribute to the localization and authoring of content that is suitable for the African setting.

Challenges for E-learning in HEI

Despite that several opportunities exist there are challenges that are serious impediments to the full integration of ICT in HEI  these include unavailability of adequate ICT resources by the institutions uncoordinated ICT integration projects funded by different bodies with own interests student to ICT ratio is still very high  indiscriminate learning within educational institutions ICT illiteracy amongst the population in some of the communities ;attitude and cultural change within the population   curriculum development to suit the e-learning teaching and learning model;focus being done on technology rather than pedagogy   the lack of appropriate ICT skills by the education stake- holders the limited or no access to power in some areas the internet access is still costly and has fueled plagiarism within HEI  preparation planning and maintaining of quality is always an issue if not well monitored and standardizing locally developed content.

Interventions required in African HEI

Adoption of ICT in African HEI can be better implemented once the following interventions are undertaken  these include; waivers on ICT’s for Education  conducting ICT Integration in Education sensitization and awareness work- shops for institutional heads and teachers; strengthening inter sector linkages and collaborations to create synergies for effective integration of ICT in education encouraging institutions to collaborate while purchasing things like internet  collaboratively procure e-subscription to e-resources  develop more localized content within the African setting  improving access and provision of ICT integrated education to special needs people and institutions of learning and adopting open source learning management system for costs saving purposes.

Article By:

Prof. Jude T  Lubega,

Deputy Vice Chancellor, UTAMU

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