Educators offer perspective on eLearning in Africa
In South Africa, the Class of 2013 has drawn widespread media attention for pass rates, distinctions and university exemptions, however educators have expressed concern over limited space at tertiary institutions for undergraduate applicants.
The reality for many hardworking youngsters is that despite having done enough to qualify for university entry, there are simply not enough places available at the country’s public institutions. This places focus on the rate of unemployment amongst the youth.
South Africa’s level is said to be in the region of 36%, while in Nigeria it is understood to be 54% and in Kenya, according to a report in July 2013 by the Guardian online, the figure stands at anywhere between 65% and 80%.
This year a total of 181 921 South African matriculants from private and public schools passed with marks that would qualify them for tertiary education and Bachelors’ degree study.
Tens of thousands of these pupils will have applied to public universities however Dr Linda Meyer, Dean of Studies at Boston City Campus & Business College, says that approximately one in four applications that are made will be accepted.
‘If one uses the example of three leading public institutions in Gauteng – they have approximately 33 500 spaces for undergraduates but receives over 129 000 applications from matriculants who have qualified to study at university. The question is where do those who have not been accepted go? What alternatives do they have?’ she says.
The benefits of having a tertiary qualification are numerous, most significantly it increases the chance of employment.
‘Only six percent of graduates are unemployed with total youth unemployment currently sitting at 36%. South Africa’s graduate unemployment rate compares favourably with those of developed countries. Despite arguments that there is a crisis in graduate employment, the situation is quite healthy. An increasing number of black graduates are being employed in the private sector.’
In Nigeria, the Business Club Ikeja (BCI) is reported to have appealed to the federal government to declare a state of emergency on job creation for unemployed youths. Leadership of the organisation has cited current power supply levels to the country and impact on manufacturing as major challenges.
The Premium Times reported recently that over fifty percent of Nigeria’s youth were unemployed in 2012, according to the 2012 National Baseline Youth Survey, issued by The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Youth Development.
The official statistic provided is stipulated at 54%.
According to African Economic Outlook, youngsters (between the age of 15 and 25) represent over 60% of Africa’s population and the projection for sub-Saharan Africa’s population in terms of youth is that this demographic will be over 75% by 2015.
Alternatives – but no silver bullet
The traditional correspondence study route does offer an alternative, however this methodology is not suited to everyone,’ explains Meyer. Only 45% of intakes at public institutions actually complete.’
What is needed are private higher education institutions which accommodate those who achieve university exemption but also offer the kind of comprehensive support structure that is needed to ensure students successfully complete their chosen field of study and are at the same time adequately prepared for the workplace.
‘Whilst public universities may be subsidised by the government and so are more affordable than private institutions, for many students the chance of dropping out or failing is far higher. This makes private higher education institutions an attractive option for those who are determined to see their studies through,’ says Meyer.
According to the College resource-based learning or eLearning can be viewed as a form of teaching superior to content-based teaching.
A much more open approach improves the student’s continuous education via a shared and collective approach nestled in reflective professional judgments; thus the traditional institutional boundaries are opened and the full spectrum of available educational resources is utilised.
As a result, a student or Faculty member can share cross-institutional (network-wide) cooperation, gaining access to the professional, and the academic skills of the most talented in higher education and training (De Beer & Bezuidenhout, 2006).
The institution refers to a document drafted by Dhirendra Kumar which outlines the pros and cons of online education under specific categories including convenience, less expensive, technology, limited social interaction, technology cost and scheduling, effectiveness of assessments and problematic for instructors.
Richard Rayne is the Managing Director of iLearn, a national specialist provider of ONSITE instructor-led and ONLINE e-learning training methodologies.
He suggests that the benefits of eLearning are well documented and clear to decision makers, which is why there is an escalating demand. “Elearning provides clients with a simple learning methodology that can be scaled with no geographic implication. I don’t believe that eLearning is the silver bullet to all training requirements but is definitely appropriate for environments that require geographic scale, recurring training of the same generic content and perhaps for people who just cannot take the time to attend instructor-led sessions.”
Aside from interest in the need to digitise client owned training content into an eLearning format, there is also a focus on the relevance of an online electronic assessment solution.
The technology is brought in to cover all areas of the education process. With limited space available for would-be students, there is speculation that eLearning will attract more attention.
* Image source: Shutterstock
Chris Tredger – Online Editor