While e-learning developers and strategists in Europe have met and agreed on more concerted action to represent their views – and wares – to Government (see: Summit urges wider recognition for e-learning below), the continent of Africa seems to have taken a couple of giant leaps forward in terms of applied e-learning.
First, the Arabic world has inaugurated its largest learning content digital marketplace implementation in the form of the Maknaz Project, masterminded by The Saudi National Center for eLearning (NCEL). Maknaz involves the provision of a state-of-the-art National Digital Repository (DR) and learning content management system (LCMS) supporting the design, development and distribution of e-learning content within the Kingdom and beyond.
Maknaz, which supports 22 national universities in Saudi Arabia, provides a secure online platform for faculty members, university students and the general public to share and access a wide range of educational materials. The online repository, based on the HarvestRoad Hive Digital Repository technology, offers both Arabic and English interfaces and has been designed to protect the cultural sensitivities of its target audiences, taking into consideration the need to fit within the Islamic culture and values.
It is integrated with all NCEL’s internal repositories, including Qanatech and the Saudi Digital Library (SDL) as well as with a network of over 36 international repositories, making it possible for Maknaz users to search for contents across all these repositories.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, staff and students at The University of Ibadan are discovering the educational and administrative benefits of delivering learning materials via mobile phones – by-passing ‘traditional’ e-learning. According to the university, making these learning materials available via mobile phones produces a number of benefits for students, teachers and administrators, including:
- The ease with which tests, quizzes and surveys can be distributed and the results gathered and analysed.
- Potentially continuous interaction in real time between the teacher and student, as well as among students, via the forum and chat room options.
- The ease with which notifications of events, dead-lines, timetables and exam timetables can be sent to each student.
- Books can be accessed via mobile phone at some ten to 15 per cent of the cost of supplying hard copies.
Comment: Interestingly, there is one common element in these two projects: the LCMS producer, eXact learning solutions. The Italy-based company worked with UKS in Saudi Arabia to produce Maknaz and with EAC in Nigeria to produce the solution for the University of Ibadan. So maybe there’s more to European e-learning in Europe than just talking.