E-LEARNING AT HIGHER LEARNING INSTITUTIONS IN TANZANIA
As it is the case with other African countries, the implementation of e-learning platform in Tanzanian universities is still very low despite of the opportunities that are provided by the open source technology and the conducive environment created by the government. In 2003, the Tanzania government enacted National ICT policy and the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority Act (URT 2003). These two major actions made it possible that by 2007 licenses for two basic telephone service provider, four land cellular mobile telephone operators, one global mobile personal communication service (GMPCS), eleven public data communication companies, nine private (dedicated) data services companies, and 24 public Internet service providers (ISPs) were issued (TCRA 2007). The government has also abolished all taxes related to computers and allied equipment, and reduced license fees and royalty payable by the telecommunication operators (Mutula and Ahmadi, 2002; National Committee for WSIS Prepcom II 2003; URT 2003).
In the case of higher education, among ten universities, only the University of Dar es salaam (UDSM) has managed to implement the e-Learning platform in Tanzania. UDSM has implemented e-learning platform by using WEBCT and Blackboard, which are e-learning proprietary software. While, other universities such as Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Mzumbe University and Open University of Tanzania (OUT) possess basic ICT infrastructure such as Local Area Network (LAN), Internet, computers, CDs and DVDs facilities that form the basis for the establishment of e-learning platform.
UDSM implemented the e-Learning system through the financial support from the Flemish University Council. The major problem that UDSM face in the implementation of TEIL project is the issue of software license. It is from this fact that University of Western Cape (UWC) in South Africa initiated a KEWL (Knowledge Environment for Web-Based Learning) project for developing e-learning platform. Currently the UWC has started another project called KEWL - NextGen project under AVOIR (African Virtual Open Initiatives and Resources). AVOIR is a network of African universities working on Open Source applications. Their primary work at the moment is in developing a next-generation of the KEWL learning management software originally developed at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. The University of Dar es ealaam and Sokoine University of Agriculture are partners in this project. Video conference facility (available at UDSM Computing Centre and Tanzania Global Learning Centre (TGLC) also offers open and distance learning to university students and community at large in Tanzania.
Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) has also started implementing e-learning platform by using Moodle software. Moodle is a course management system (CMS) - a free, open source software package designed using sound pedagogical principles, to help educators create effective online learning communities. Moodle is also a CMS designed to help educators who want to create quality online courses. The software is used all over the world by universities, colleges, schools and organizations.
Another Tanzanian university, the Open University of Tanzania (OUT) provides an alternative to conventional university education and gives opportunity to those who are working full time and those with household commitment to acquire higher education. Although the university has the basic ICT infrastructure (such as Internet, computers, local area network), it still uses traditional way with face to face meeting to impart knowledge to its students who are spread in all regions of Tanzania. OUT has enacted its own ICT policy, which guides on how to use ICT to fulfill the functions of the university that are teaching, research and consultancy. Currently, there are some initiatives to use an Open Source learning management system called Atutor for students, starting with the B.Sc (ICT). If the pilot implementation will be successful then other degree programmes will also be offered through the blended e-learning and distance learning.
ICT IMPLEMENTATION CHALLENGES IN HIGHER LEARNING INSTITUTIONS
Despite of the achievements revealed by some of the Tanzanian universities in implementing ICT for teaching and learning processes, these universities still face a lot of challenges in undertaking such a process.
Lack of systemic approach to ICT implementation: Integration of ICTs in the functions of any organization is a complex process that needs to be fully conceptualized and defined from the beginning. However, this is not the case in many higher learning institutions in developing countries as most of them have embraced the ICT integration process without clear plans to guide the way. The institution ICT policy and strategic plan should be defined to provide a framework for the development and implementation of specific ICT projects. The diversity and competing interests of different stakeholders in the institution should be recognized when developing ICT policy and a strategic plan. The following issues, amongst others, should be taken into consideration: (i) ICT infrastructure already in place; (ii) ICT skill levels in the institution; (iii) number of staff and students in each department and projected growth; (iv) academic management process: curriculum development, assessment methods and administration; (v) cost-effectiveness analysis (including hidden costs) and the choice of proper technologies for the needs of the institution; and (vi) staff development in new technologies
Awareness and attitude towards ICTs: It is important for all stakeholders in the institution to know the existing ICT facilities and services and their importance in relation to their specific tasks. However, according to Tusubira and Mulira (2004), there tends to be some vague knowledge about ICTs, some interpreting them as simply advanced technologies that require a lot of money and very advanced skills. They are not appreciated as a means of creating efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Lack of awareness goes along with attitude. Positive attitude towards ICTs is widely recognized as a necessary condition for their effective implementation (Woodrow 1992). Full involvement of all stakeholders in the implementation process is a key to addressing awareness and attitude problem. Formally organized awareness programmes, visits to similar institution where success has occurred, and short trainings can contribute to raise the awareness and change the attitude of stakeholders towards facilities and services.
Administrative support:Administrative support is critical to the successful integration of ICTs into teaching and learning processes. Administrators can provide the conditions that are needed, such as ICT policy, incentives and resources. The commitment and interest of the top management and other leaders at every level is the most critical factor for successful implementation of ICTs. According to Cameron and Ulrich (1986), a transformational leadership is a leadership that involves a process of fundamental change which is required for the institutions to adapt to changes brought about by the information society3. Dwyer et al (1997) emphasize that for the integration of ICTs to be effective and sustainable, administrators themselves must be competent in the use of the technology, and they must have a broad understanding of the technical, pedagogical, administrative, financial, and social dimensions of ICTs in education.
Technical support: This includes issues like installation, operation, maintenance, network administration and security. This is an important part of the implementation and integration of ICT in education system. In most cases however, technical support is not available, which implies that trainers and students require some basic troubleshooting skills to overcome technical problems when using ICTs. However, in most of the developing countries including Tanzania there are very few technical experts to implement and maintain ICTs (Bakari et al., 2001; National Committee for WSIS Prepcom II 2003). Appropriate strategies should be in place to ensure that integration of ICTs in teaching and learning process goes together with the recruitment, training, retaining and retention of required staff.
Transforming higher education:Many institutions fail to integrate ICTs into teaching and learning because they are using ICTs to replicate their traditional practices, content and control. Their plans appear to be driven by ICTs and not by pedagogical rationale and focus (Ehrmann 1995). However, effective integration requires a transformation process where all stakeholders are involved to re-examine their existing structures and practices, as pointed out by Bates (2000: 13), if universities and colleges are to successfully adopt technologies for teaching and learning, many more than minor adjustments in current practice will be required. Indeed, the effective use of technology requires a revolution in thinking about teaching and learning. Part of that revolution necessitates restructuring universities and colleges – that is, changing the way higher education institutions are planned, managed and organized.
Staff development:Integration of ICT in teaching and learning does not only deal with introduction of new hardware and software, but both trainers and the students have to adopt new roles, and change their ICT behaviors and ways of teaching and learning. As Farrell (1999) points, training and workshops are needed not only to improve the skills of the instructors, but also as a means of getting them involved in the process of implementing and integrating ICTs in teaching and learning. For example, faculty staff require training not just in the choice and use of appropriate technologies, but more fundamentally in how people learn and in instructional design (Bates 1997). Pelgrum (1999) recommends staff training to be a continuous process for regular updates with the development of ICTs.
Lack of ownership:It is critical that all stakeholders contribute to and own the policy and the plan. Institution-wide consultations are necessary in the identification of challenges, and in proposing areas for ICT application. Stakeholders must agree on the projects to be implemented, including their role therein. Employees must see ICTs as tools rather than as competitors for their jobs. A related challenge is getting stakeholders in an organization to think for the organization, rather than the natural tendency of considering the interests of their particular departments.
Inadequate funds:Financial resources form a key factor to the successful implementation and integration of ICTs in education. It is obvious that countries with higher financial resource bases stand a good chance than those with limited resources to reap benefits offered by ICTs. In addressing the problem of limited funds and sustaining donor funded projects, higher learning institutions can do the following: (i) adopt freeware and open source software for teaching and learning activities; (ii) continuously press for more funds from their governments; and (iii) diversify sources of funds to have a wide financial base.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
ICTs provide great opportunity for universities in developing countries to improve their teaching and learning processes. So far most of the universities in developing countries possess basic ICT infrastructure such as Local Area Network (LAN), internet, computers, video, audio, CDs and DVDs, and mobile technology facilities that form the basis for the establishment of e-learning. It is argued that, universities in developing countries should adopt e-learning technologies to improve teaching and leaning processes. Pedagogical, technical and cost issues should be taken into account for each specific technology when integrating ICTs in teaching and learning practices.
1 The strategies, techniques, and approaches that trainers use to facilitate learning.
2 Moving Picture Experts Group. The standard for compression and storage of motion video, for example, videos available though the World Wide Web.
3 A society in which economic and cultural life is critically dependent on information and communications technologies.
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