learning landscapes in southern africa


The establishment of a multi-stakeholder e-Learning Centre: Namibia's experiences (Invited Presentation)

Margaret Beukes-Amiss, University of Namibia
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Namibia, a widely dispersed country with a very small population of only 1,9 million, realises the importance and benefits of new technologies just like other developing and developed countries. Namibia is on the verge of applying and using new technologies in most domains, especially education, as one of the strategies aimed at addressing vision 2030 in particular and MDGs in general.

Making headway with a recently launched ICT for Education policy, and tremendous progress on the implementation plan of this policy, e-Learning technologies and implementation at institutional level, as well as country level are receiving considerable attention.

However, various public and private institutions are already implementing individual strategies towards use and application of e-Learning technologies and capacity building. Consequently the introduction and existence of an e-learning center (eLC), with the aim of supporting all educational institutions in their endeavors with e-Learning could immensely cut down on huge technological start-up investments and avoid duplication of efforts.

With all institutions at different levels of the implementation of their e-Learning strategies, and the University of Namibia, and Polytechnic of Namibia, as well as other stakeholders each using their own Learning Management Systems, and running their own in-house e-Learning courses, a fact-finding mission by InWEnt was just in time.

InWEnt, a capacity building institute with a strong focus on developing countries, already trained several Namibians through its eLDI -- e-Learning Development and Implementation course, and through its alumni members started to work on the establishment of one common e-Learning Centre (eLC) to cater for all stakeholders.

In January 2005, InWEnt, on a fact-finding mission to Namibia, visited all educational institutions and private stakeholders to be able to assess and get a better understanding of the current state of affairs with regard to e-Learning initiatives. A report with several recommendations to all stakeholders and distributed to all stakeholders, led to a planning and decision makers workshop on 1 & 2nd of June, organised jointly by the Ministry of Education and the Office of the Prime Minister.

During this workshop, supported and facilitated by InWEnt, all stakeholders came together to effectively plan the aims, functions, vision, and mission as well as long term plans, of a common e-Learning Centre for Namibia.

The two-day workshop which culminated in a workshop report, capturing all major decisions and concerns, led to the establishment of 4 task teams, each with a particular mandate. The 4 task teams are Governance and management, Policy, Business Plan and Technical Audit.

Each of the task teams had to consult all stakeholders again and decide on strategic decisions such as establishment of an eLC as a separate entity, NGO, or already existing entity such as NOLNet, Namibian Open Learning Network Trust, already representative of most stakeholders and an open invitation to non-existing members from development agencies and partners. Also, a technical audit was needed of existing equipment and infrastructure available at all stakeholder institutions that could together help the eLC to come off ground. Specifically, the policy task team had to bring all e-Learning activities of the envisaged eLC in line with the ICT for education policy implementation plan. Finally, the technical audit team already reached consensus on the use of a common Learning Management System (LMS) by all stakeholders, Kewl.NextGen as part of the two-day workshop in June.

To date, the eLC of Namibia is established under the auspices of NOLNet and operating as the e-Learning Standing Committee of the NOLNet Management Committee. The assistance and support from InWEnt, led to a signed MoU between NOLNet and InWEnt. The first training cycle of 40 members of stakeholders', to bring all on par in terms of e-Learning training courses, offered by InWEnt, already started, and they are: Instructional Design, Content Development, E-Learning Management and Support and Tutoring of Virtual Leaning Communities (VLC).

InWEnt's existing support and future support in terms of the signing of an overall MoU, that will guide both entities, will immensely help Namibian educational institutions to use the eLC for all e-Learning training activities, hosting and availability of all e-content at all levels, and most importantly the use of one common LMS. This could lead to the sustainability of such an entity with a focus on regional collaboration, i.e. to become a SADC wide e-Learning Centre. Furthermore, eLC Namibia, InWEnt, COL, and other cooperating partners could work together and focus on overall improvement of the country's e-Learning endeavors and place it at the forefront of such new technologies, and most importantly achieve the anytime, anywhere education notion.

The establishment of the NOLNet eLC for Namibia was a national achievement, in that all stakeholders are jointly responsible for the future of the eLC and would ensure large scale take-up of e-learning activities, and was successfully brought inline with the ICT for education policy in Namibia