In 1997, while still working in Oklahoma, I attended a best practice site visit at the Colorado Community College system. The president of the system opened our visit by saying, “We have had requests from schools in your state to bring in classes….we are coming and there is nothing you can do about it.” I don’t think we really knew at the time how true his statement was and how eLearning was going to impact our lives from that point forward. We were thinking about how our neighbors might impact our enrollments, but mostly our American neighbors. I am not sure we were really thinking about the shrinking globe. Now we are seeing tremendous changes in eLearning worldwide.
I have written before on my own blog about the changes coming in the world of eLearning on the African continent. We know a lot is happening with eLearning as we see blog posts and articles each and every day on MOOCs, instructional technology, and a multitude of other eLearning topics. ELearning has been a rising star for a while and continues to ascend, but rarely in the past have we thought of Africa as one of the most exciting places in the eLearning area. The Africa Market for Self-paced eLearning Products and Services: 2011-2016 Forecast and Analysis report reinforces Africa’s status as a rising star in eLearning. This report has many interesting items, and it provides a forecast for eLearning to grow in Africa at a rate of 15% annually over the next four years, with growth rates in individual countries at the following:
- Senegal: 30%
- Zambia: 28%
- Zimbabwe: 25%
- Kenya: 25%
All of this is fascinating, however, another star may be rising in the educational technology sky. It also important to note that every single institution has to have this type of software for managing finances, student registrations and other administrative computing tasks. A recent post “Through Kuali We Invest in the Future” from South Africa’s Northwest University could be another sign of exciting things happening in higher education on the continent of Africa. Kuali, an open source product, was announced in August 2004 as an initiative to build a financial accounting system “for higher education, by higher education.” Vivantech, a commercial provider of Kuali support and implementation services provides a succinct overview the Kuali ERP system.
The Northwest University post includes the type of forward thinking we continue to see from institutions and companies in Africa. Mr Attie Juyn, chief director of Institutional Information Technology, said:
More is involved here than just the two Kuali systems in which the NWU is interested; in the end we are concerned with the long-term benefits of the NWU’s involvement in the Kuali initiative
The long term benefit according to the post revolves around:
- appropriateness of systems
- cost savings
- building of support capacity
I would suggest that the forward thinking institutions such as Northwest University who are willing to try Kuali, other alternative products and spend time now investing in services which provide a path to the future, will position themselves as leaders in the eLearning marketplace. If as in the Northwest example, they are able to reduce costs for ERP / administrative computing, it will allow them to push more resources toward academic computing that supports eLearning. Institutions who do this well will be in a strong position to compete with institutions worldwide, including those in America.
Kent Brooks has been the IT Director at Casper College since August 2011. He served as the Dean of Distance Learning/Chief Technology Officer at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus Oklahoma for the 14 years prior to moving to Wyoming. He is an active blogger on his own site at http://www.kentbrooks.com and has been a guest blogger for Moodle News. Kent’s work interests include the acquisition of technology and training resources for rural under served communities. More specifically his work interest and focus is on the “open” or “free” software movement and its impact on delivery of technological services in education.
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