Technology and technologically facilitated means of working has changed the work systems and operations of the African higher education sector, following an increase in its adoption since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with its various restrictions. The Association of African Universities, for instance, moved most of its physical events – workshops, meetings, conferences, webinars etc, to virtual platforms. Platforms such as Google Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams, were among those adopted. The result has been a tremendous increase in the number of stakeholders the AAU engaged and impacted through these virtual means of collaboration.
On its ZOOM platform alone, 193 webinars and virtual workshops were hosted with a total of 40,163 participants being recorded between 1st July 2020 to 30th June 2021. In contrast, the figures reported in the AAU’s Annual Report for the previous year (July 2019 -June 2020), showed that 28 physical workshops were held with a total of 1,156 higher education stakeholders benefiting from those capacity building interventions. The percentage increase stands at a whooping figure of over 3,400%. This implies that more people got involved in AAU’s programmes and activities, more people benefited and had the opportunity to contribute towards AAU’s vision and goals of transforming Africa’s higher education sector.
Again, the ZOOM platform statistics indicated that a total of 931 all-type meetings were hosted between July 2020 and June 2021 – amounting to 2,377,274 meeting minutes and 103,134 participants. These statistics are only one example of how the Association has made deeper impact and worked smarter through technologically facilitated means.
Also worth highlighting is the fact that physical engagements are equally important as some aspects of the higher education work processes are more hands on and require a face-to-face engagement. Therefore, where possible, the adoption of blended approaches is a recommended option.
Despite all the downsides of COVID-19, it can be said that institutions have also been presented with opportunities that were largely neglected during the normal times – the adoption of virtual approaches of collaboration in general organisational processes. The convenience and cost effectiveness of technologically facilitated means of working cannot be left unmentioned here.
Additionally, E-learning (the innovative use of digital tools, technologies, and practices during teaching and learning) has been magnified and become very critical for higher education institutions during this COVID-19 period. Learning Management Systems (LMS), which enable universities and educational institutions to plan, assess, facilitate, implement, and monitor the learning and teaching processes of both students and teachers have also now been widely adopted more than ever before.
As part of its contribution, the AAU officially launched a Learning Management System, in collaboration with e-LearnAfrica, called the AAU-eLearnAfricaLMS (https://www.elearnafricalms.com/) in 2021. This platform is supporting the efforts of higher education institutions in Africa, through the provision of FREE eLearning tools to make online education accessible. African Universities can easily adopt this platform without the need to invest in e-learning infrastructure. By the end of 2021, the AAU/eLearn Africa online platform recorded a total of 56 Universities and corporate institutions sign-ups, 83 courses uploaded and 53 Professors signed up, excluding corporate executives who are facilitating various courses on the platform.
Online education is rapidly becoming the norm, and many African Universities are focusing on mainstreaming e-learning. Professors are collaborating across universities thanks to advancements in educational technology. New high-growth technologies have entered the online education marketplace, making learning more interactive.
Again, technology has made it very easy to access publications electronically, increasing the readership of such publications, as compared to hard prints.
Many faculty and students have strived to adopt the requisite skills to facilitate their effective use of technology and the various technological platforms due to the enormous benefits technology offers, including the ability to make them work smarter.
African Higher Education institutions have continued to undertake their core duties of teaching, learning, research, and community engagement, through the support of various mediums including technologically facilitated ones. Simple and widespread technologies such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Television and Radio have been used by African higher education institutions to keep educational activities going on. It is significant to note that technology and technological applications require continuous learning processes and therefore individuals and institutions are encouraged to strive to remain up to date to make a deeper/wider impact in their fields of expertise.
Written By: Miss Selikem Agbadi
National Service Attaché – Ghana Institute of Journalism, Ghana
Article Reviewed by Mrs. Felicia Kuagbedzi & Ms. Nodumo Dhlamini (Directorate of ICT, Communications and Knowledge Management, AAU)