learning landscapes in southern africa

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Assessment of the effectiveness of the CAD eLearning Certificate at the University of Botswana

Daniela Giannini-Gachago, Anne Munene- Kabanyan Marilyn Lee and Spoon Mafote, Educational Technology Unit (CAD), University of Botswana
 
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The introduction of eLearning in higher education has brought a challenge for institutions to train their faculty to equip them with the necessary skills needed to embark on eLearning activities. The University of Botswana (UB) first introduced eLearning in 2002 to enhance instruction and students' learning. eLearning at the University of Botswana has been defined as the "appropriate organisation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for advancing student-oriented, active, open, collaborative and life-long teaching-learning processes". (Educational Technology Unit, n.d.a)

To ensure that international standards of quality in eLearning are met, EduTech decided to follow a four-step approach to provide (1) extensive staff training through workshops, (2) one-to-one Instructional Design support (3) frequent monitoring of the eLearning design, development and delivery process and (4) assessment of the quality of the eLearning courses after course delivery through an external reviewer using a specially developed assessment instrument.

This study focuses on measure (1): the "Centre of Academic Development (CAD) eLearning Certificate", a workshop series on eLearning related topics that has been offered since 2003.

These workshops are conducted by the Educational Technology Unit (EduTech) in collaboration with UB staff. The four areas covered in the workshops include: Online Learning, Information and Computer Skills, Multimedia Production and WebCT Training. After completing a minimum requirement of eight workshops, academic staff are required to produce a portfolio that demonstrates how they apply the skills and knowledge they acquired from the training before they are awarded the CAD eLearning Certificate. By July 2005 around 600 lecturers and support staff from UB and Affiliated Institutions have been attending one or more of these workshops.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the CAD eLearning Certificate and its individual workshops in relation to its objective, to promote more learner-centred, active, collaborative and lifelong teaching and learning. The study employed both qualitative and quantitative data collection strategies.

Results showed that the majority of lecturers participated in four or less modules. Around 16 % of the participants have been able to meet the requirements and were awarded the CAD Certificate by July 2005. Main reasons to participate in the Certificate were to acquire technological skills and the use of eLearning in Teaching and Learning. A high number of respondents also indicated the completion of the Certificate as a reason to participate in it. Workshops were perceived as useful and well done. Course Design, PowerPoint and Introduction to eLearning scored the highest ranks, followed by Management Information Techniques and Online Information Management. A majority of 74% of respondents claimed to have applied skills and knowledge acquired in the workshops, mainly the use of PowerPoint, search engines and information management techniques. Only 13% had developed online courses. Non-completion of the Certificate is mainly due to time constraints and the heavy teaching load of lecturers.

The study provides recommendations on ways to improve the CAD eLearning Certificate. It is suggested to offer online learning and collaboration in addition to face-to-face workshops and continuous mentorship to best support lecturers and build a community of practice between staff active in eLearning at UB. The parallel development of an online course could also help in the immediate application of knowledge and skills acquired.