The eLearning Fundi

Random reflections about eLearning in Africa

When they are marketing their wares & elearning challenges

The other day, I attended the mini-conference on ICT and business commerce education. This, as it turned out to be is a meeting between the the education sector (specifically high schools) and the vendors of business applications mainly accounting. Referring to my previous article on marketers and marketing, I instantly had an opinion on arrival of the venue. I however had to contend to the fact that, I had to do what I had to. Even though eLearning is my passion, and how it was used for teaching business in high schools is an important line I would like to see, the presence of more vendors have something special to offer for the high schools was making me uncomfortable.
The first presentation was as boring as ever, it was the key note address for the day, and was delivered by one of the vendors’ representative. All though, most of the issues he pointed out were good, in relation to the way forward for the education sectors, he made a comment to the effect that it has to be the vendors way and no other way for the venture to succeed. This is unfortunate, especially because the vendor has managed to entrench itself in the government’s ICT plans for school. Its ICT curriculum that is bragging about is too tailor made for it products – and NO OTHER, and it seems to be what the government is using. I have no problem with people being trained on using products from a particular vendor. What am worried about is the future of the students going through this kind of training for academic and professional purposes. I believe we should be training more people on the general principles that are used in any similar application, and leave the very specifics to them to choose. For example, what would happen if the learners leave school for workplaces that do not use products from the vendor? Will the learners start being trained on the general principles or on the particular use of an application? Are we really concerned about the employability of our learners?
Other challenges being faced, are almost the same everywhere in any education setting that I have encountered. First, there is the challenge of teaching with technology where questions are raised on where do teaching on using the technology end, and where do we start using the technology for teaching. Simply put, when do we stop seeing the technology but instead see the educational outcomes of using the technology of teaching and learning?
Second, there is the question of what influence on the outcome of the educational process does the technology have? Are we just using the believe that technology in teaching and learning improves the educational outcomes? What is its influence in the learning process? Is there any empirical evidence? Canadians were quoted to have done studies to this effect, I would like to know what they found out.
Third, there is the question we would want to wish away. That of access. We are very much being bogged down by the question of access that we cannot move beyond it to concentrate on teaching and learning.
There are subtle recommendations that like minded people and institutions should collaborate, communicate, use real-world integration models, and partnerships in education. However, I would warn anyone who would want to enter into any form of agreement or commitment with ‘partners’ to be wary of blackmail from vendors and others who would like to hijack the process for their own selfish gains.

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