| Training ‘vital to boost e-learning project’ - 16.07.2009
Training of teachers and other academics is vital in developing and improving e-learning activities.
This was one of the main recommendations made by lead analyst at the Mauritian Ministry of Finance Christ Paddia while presenting a survey report to the Ministry of Education on Tuesday.
The report was accepted by Minister for Education Bernard Shamlaye at the National Institute of Education in the presence of technical and further education director general Fiona Ernesta, teachers and other officials. A copy was also given to the Ministry of Finance.
In January, two experts from the University of Mauritius carried out a survey in the context of the Small States Network for Economic Development (SSNED). The survey, conducted in five days, identified institutional gaps and proposed ways to improve e-learning.
The project, which came about after talks between Seychelles’ ministries of Finance and Education, and the SSNED, aimed to complement the distance and open-learning policy adopted by the government.
Another objective was to train teachers from secondary schools and post-secondary institutions in approaches for e-learning and use of software, materials and equipment. In February, five teacher-trainers visited the University of Mauritius to gain firsthand experience of the e-learning system used in the country’s training programme.
Presenting the results of the survey and the recommendations by the experts, Mr Paddia said there is a need for more training and expertise among educators.
If an e-learning platform is to be placed in any institution, he added, “we need to provide capacity building to teachers and to the academics”.
“For the e-learning platform to work properly, the academics should be trained in e-tutoring, in how to develop context and how to put in place a program that could be widely disseminated in the schools,” he explained.
He told the audience that all learning institutions should have one qualified technician to maintain the network and provide routine housekeeping maintenance of the computers. He suggested training for teachers and students to maintain their own computer network if qualified technicians are not available.
Mr Paddia said there is a need to restore the internet connections of educational institutions at secondary and post-secondary level to a normal level of connectivity. If connectivity with the external world is slow it is difficult to download information, which disrupts the e-learning process.
He added that the results of the survey show the need for more use of the internet to improve the education system.
“The traditional style of learning is very restricted as the information is limited and available only to some groups of people. However, through e-learning it is possible to download for free from the open websites,” he said.
E-learning is said to be very advantageous to Seychelles as there are institutions on many islands. It will help in the sharing of information among lecturers and students.
Mr Paddia said virtual learning is cheap and environmentally friendly as there is less need to print papers. Instead of paying consultants large amounts of money to come here to conduct training, this can be done via virtual classes on the internet.
Now they have received the final report, the Seychelles authorities are expected to set up a committee to go through the recommendations.
Mr Paddia said they should come up with an action plan shortly and see what policies need to be carried out. Such a plan should normally be phased over a period of one to three years until the institutions can move into a fully-fledged online learning process.
“At this stage, students in the class will be able to interact with external lectures,” he said.
Mr Paddia explained that in using the internet students will not simply be assimilating knowledge, as is the case with the traditional way of teaching. They will be learning how to gain information and put it into practice.
He ended by saying that to ensure the e-learning project is carried out successfully, there should be commitment from policy makers, practitioners, teachers and students.