E-Learning: From question mark to exclamation mark

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After a twenty-five-hour trip because of a re-routing thanks to the French airport strikes, it felt extra nice to land at Kano airport again. It was early in the morning and from the car I could view the sun starting to rise, shining on the acacia trees and colourfully dressed people who were starting their tasks of the day. This was my second trip to Nigeria and I was excited to be back.

Currently, we are implementing an open source e-learning platform in northern Nigeria through the Women for Health (W4H) programme. The W4H programme aims to increase the number of female front-line health providers and support their deployment to rural health facilities where they can have the greatest impact on maternal, infant and child mortality.

Increasing the number of female students entering and graduating from health training courses faces numerous challenges. In a low resource setting such as northern Nigeria, internet connections are often very limited and up-to-date teaching materials are very difficult to access and the availability of power is erratic, often less than three hours a day. Implementing an e-learning platform in a country that suffers from resource limitations seems a bit of a contradiction, doesn’t it?

To tackle the issues mentioned above, Health Partners International  has developed an integrated hardware and software solution that is robust and reliable and is 24/7 online, thanks to a solar power and battery back-up. The system makes use of a low-power server that functions as a local host on a local Wi-Fi network. Internet is only used for back-ups and updating of the system. The operating system and application software used are open-source and there are no licence costs. The W4H programme is rolling out the installation of the e-learning platform across Health Training Institutes in five northern states. Tutors are being trained on how to create online courses using the platform and Information and Communications Technology people are being trained in how to support and maintain the technical part of the system.

elms-corner-pic-v2My role in this programme is to configure the e-learning system, to develop online training courses out of existing material, develop and provide a ‘train the trainers’ course and to support tutors during the whole trajectory. During my first trip last December, thirty-two tutors were exposed to the system. This time, I’m here to deliver an in-depth workshop to sixteen specially selected tutors in course creation and managing the e-learning system.

In December, none of the tutors had any experience in using an e-learning system. I noticed some tutors looking a bit concerned during the two-day training and there were some question marks. I must say, I can totally understand. Any new software programme can often be a bit overwhelming to anybody seeing it for the first time. But the drive to learn amongst the tutors was strong.

During my second visit (which was a three-day training), I saw the question marks change in to exclamation marks! Everything fell into place and at the end of the three days; tutors had individually made an online course based upon their curriculum. They made a lot of progress in understanding the system and the ways in which this solution will help them in organising their courses and improving the accessibility of their teaching material.

By the end of 2016, eleven schools in northern Nigeria will be able to teach their students on a digital platform, renew their teaching materials, and share and document information by means of this educational software program. We intend to continue supporting this project to roll out the system to more Health Training Institutes. Important areas of focus in coming months will be course development and accreditation, the use of assessment tools and creating an e-learning community within the schools. The tutors will definitely take this project to the next level and I look forward to being a part of that.

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Roos Geutjes

Roos Geutjes

Roos Geutjes is an e-learning consultant, specialised in working with Moodle. She is experienced in system configuration, course development and training. She has an MSc in Public Administration from the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands and graduated in Public Private Partnerships. She is now active as an independent consultant specialising in e-learning, management information systems and software support. Roos is currently contracted by Health Partners International for projects in the UK and Africa.

3 thoughts on “E-Learning: From question mark to exclamation mark

  1. I am suggesting this innovation be extended to the southern states especially in this last lap push for the eradication of Polio and for improved health system delivery in the country. But, My worry is in the area of sustainability viz a viz human and resource limitations

  2. This sounds fantastic. Indeed an innovative idea. This will help to alleviate the problem of connectivity. Would be great is this type of innovative projects are brought to countries like Sierra Leone.

  3. Dear mister Ezekiel,

    We share your concern, please allow me to explain to you a little bit more about our approach. Of course, with implementing a browser based system certain resources like computers are necessary. However, we offer a low-cost investment and maintenance solution. We use a mini server as a local host and we only need minimum computer hardware on the user (client) side, like a monitor and keyboard, to get the system functioning. Internet costs will be very low thanks to using a local host on the local network. Internet is only used to update the system. All hardware and software used is open source with minimum maintenance requirements. As an organisation we strive to provide sustainable solutions at all time and in this we think capacity building is an important aspect. Our approach is to work together with an in-country technical person who can follow up the technical maintenance and support, and we provide online and face-to-face training sessions to the main users of the e-learning software to learn how to use and maintain the software to which we provide full access. Training materials can be uploaded at all times, so the system can be kept up to date at all times. We understand that working with a new software program involves a behavioral change and in the end, the usage of the system will indicate its success. That is why we work closely with the in-country project managers to implement our solution.

    I hope this response has taken away your worries but please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or suggestions. I am very interested in what you are suggesting regarding the eradication of polio and to improve health system delivery, and in what way our solution can contribute to these goals. If you are interested, or if this response is triggering more questions, please let us keep in touch.

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