With only a few exceptions since 2010, when the first annual Corporate eLearning Movers and Shakers list was published, this World List hasn’t included eLearning specialists from Africa. With the annual eLearning Africa conference being scheduled for September 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, it seemed like an opportune moment to explore the eLearning sector in Africa – and try to assess who are that continent’s current key influencers in eLearning.
While this list is not endorsed in any way by the organisers of eLearning Africa, the event’s organisers supported the idea of the List by using their extensive network to invite nominations. Moreover, they recognise that the List gives visibility and “status” to the online learning sector in Africa and promotes discussion of this sector within Africa.
The reasons why Africa has been under-represented in each year’s World List of eLearning Movers and Shakers includes the judges’ ignorance of the eLearning scene in Africa. Since many e-Learning initiatives in African countries tend to remain within that region, they don’t attract the attention of those outside Africa.
Then, as research for the African List soon emphasised, eLearning in Africa tends to be more closely allied to the academic sector than it is in the rest of the world – even if its effects are felt in the commercial sector and/or “community life”. Under the parameters for the World List, these initiatives would be devalued or disqualified because they’re not wholly focused on the corporate eLearning sector.
However, it wasn’t long into the research process for the Africa List – and nominations for the places on the List began to come in – that the judges realised the judging criteria for this List would have to be slightly different from the World List criteria.
Several hundred people received nominations to be considered for the Africa List. The judging process was carried out by an independent – and non-African – group of judges from the online learning technologies industry. So, this list represents the views of key people about the personalities who lead the online learning world in Africa. In producing the Africa list, the judges determined that:
- Only Africans and/or those based in Africa were eligible to be included on the list.
- People named on the list are deemed to be influential within the eLearning sector within their country / continent (rather than in a wider, non-African context). So, any person’s influence on eLearning outside of Africa was heavily discounted – to give a picture of the influencers on (corporate and academic) eLearning within Africa.
- The ‘rule’ with the World List of Movers and Shakers is that ‘although academics can be named on this list, they’re considered only in so far as their work influences those in the corporate world’. Yet it became obvious that, within Africa, the corporate and academic eLearning sectors are more closely linked than appear to be the case in many other areas of the world. So, academics are more heavily represented in the Africa List. However, in an attempt to maintain some continuity of principle, people whose influence was deemed to be purely or mostly within the academic sector weren’t given priority in this List.
- The list is compiled on the basis of a person’s perceived current influence on the online learning industry – as a practitioner, commentator, facilitator and/or thought leader – including those who have a significant, if often unseen, influence over the industry.
Subjectivity and Debate
As with all such Lists, the Africa List is unashamedly subjective and fallible because it’s entirely human-based. While the judges tried hard to be honest and objective in their opinions, not everyone who reads this list will agree entirely with the judges’ decision – but that’s the beauty of lists such as this one: it gives ample scope for thought, discussion and debate.
Moreover, since this is the first Movers and Shakers’ List purely focusing on the continent of Africa there are likely to be more points of debate this time around – purely because the List is new. It’ll take a year or two of close monitoring to refine the judging process and establish a benchmark for the value of the various contributions to this sector.
The value of a List
While this list has been published to coincide with the eLearning Africa event, the list isn’t endorsed in any way by eLearning Africa’s organisers. However, these organisers support the list because they recognise its benefit – believing that it gives visibility and ‘status’ to the continent’s online learning sector and promotes discussion of this sector within Africa.
That’s one of the key values of a List such as this one for Africa’s eLearning champions.
The human resources (HR) and learning and development (L&D) professions are characterised – in corporate circles at least – as being “unobtrusive”, almost unseen within the industrial/ post-industrial economic system. Their exponents are rarely accorded the significance, prominence, publicity and prestige of, say, that system’s entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Ask anyone to name five prominent businesspeople and those names will be forthcoming quicker than if you asked the same audience to name five prominent HR/ L&D professionals.
Maybe HR/ L&D professionals fight against being in the limelight. Maybe that’s the way it should be – and anonymity is best.
However, that’s not the accepted view of today’s fame-besotted society – where a great deal of media attention is focused on winning awards and on those participating in such television shows as Love Island, Strictly Come Dancing, X-Factor, The Voice and so on.
While not catapulting those named on them to similar heights of “15 minutes of fame”, lists such as the Movers and Shakers Lists raise awareness among the business and government communities of the existence and value of online learning along with its key exponents and champions. The lists have never pretended to be “objective” although, by their longevity and the discussions they provoke, they could be argued to be “authoritative”.
In any case, they provide a useful list of “who’s who” in the online learning industry.
In the inaugural Africa List, the gender split is similar to that of the World List. This is not a post-hoc manipulation of the list. Rather, it’s a function of the nominations received – with many of the prominent people on the List receiving multiple nominations from various sources.
On the Africa List, women occupy the first three places – and five of the first six places. Moreover, women head each of the list’s four sections except for the ‘Gold’ section, which is headed by Foster Ofosu. This may reflect women’s standing and strong influence in several African cultures. However, the Africa List’s 26 (women) to 74 (men) split is close to the current World List’s 29 – 71 gender split, so it may be unremarkable.
The one African mentioned in the ‘Bubbling Under’ category of the 2018 World List – Maha Bali, of the American University in Cairo, Egypt – only occupies 50th place on this List because, in a purely Africa-context, the judges felt that this accurately reflects her influence within the continent, rather than on the world level.
As ever, the List attempts to represent a “snapshot” of this volatile and still relatively youthful sector. So, congratulations to those whose names are on the Africa List – and to those “Bubbling Under” who just missed out on a place. For those whose names aren’t there this time – don’t despair. There may well be next year!
The Africa eLearning Movers and Shakers’ List is at: https://learningnews.com/news/bob-little-press-pr/2018/africas-movers-and-shakers-in-corporate-online-learning-2018