Technology Transformations in East African Higher Education
It started with 40 iPad minis and an idea to teach, serve and conduct research in Ethiopia.
It has now blossomed into a partnership between The Ohio State University’s Global One Health Initiative team and five East African universities to enhance higher education in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.
For 10 days in mid-November, 15 East African faculty members participated in eCapacity Workshops hosted on campus. The goal of the workshops, funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was to provide foundational instruction on e-learning and distance education practices.
Faculty and staff from the College of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Social Work, the School of Communication, and the Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE) presented information on digital pedagogy, online and blended course development, and various eLearning tools and strategies.
“East Africa is just exploding in terms of population, as close to half of the population is young and with the median age of around 18 years old. More and more of those youth want to go on into higher education,” said Cory Tressler, ODEE associate director of learning programs. “The question is, how do you serve them and make the world a better place for everyone? The universities there are looking into online learning and these workshops were designed to help them set a foundation.”
Susan Muriithi, a workshop participant from Kenya Medical Research Institute said, “the time we spent here was not enough. My overall impression was a good one. The resources are great and it’s been a very nice learning experience in my opinion. What I love most about the whole team is that they are willing to go out of their way to give you information, and see through all of the questions you might have.”
The eCapacity Workshops are an evolution of a project that started with an ODEE Digital First Impact Grant, awarded in 2014 to the Global One Health Initiative team led by Dr. Wondwossen Gebreyes of the Office of International Affairs and College of Veterinary Medicine. Through this grant, Dr. Gebreyes purchased iPads to be used by Ohio State and partner institutions in Ethiopia for teaching courses, data collection, and promoting projects such a rabies prevention and control.
“The Digital First grant supported us in developing courses online for training purposes. That engagement allowed us to apply for funding through NIH focusing on health, which is our emphasis on one hand, but also enhance the use of technology to promote training, research and outreach,” Dr. Gebreyes said.
Through the collaboration of ODEE, the Ohio Academy Research Network, as well as others from the health and sciences areas around Ohio State (including veterinary medicine, public health and nursing), Dr. Gebreyes and the Global One Health team received three-year funding from NIH starting in 2015.
The eCapacity Workshops follow an in-person assessment of hardware, software and networking capabilities at partner universities in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. From there, domestic partners refined the workshop information to be presented based on the African partners’ needs and capabilities. ODEE’s new focus offered more professional learning of faculty and staff.
Informal feedback to Dr. Gebreyes has been very positive, as he notes it falls in three main areas. “The foundational training, whether it was about Carmen, Canvas or various other things. Secondly, our audio-video technology rooms we have on campus; it was a very interesting experience for them. And the third was how we do things very ergonomically,” pointing specifically to Campbell Hall’s visual branding and its design to enhance learning.
“The first thing I’m excited to take back is the use of technology. I have seen things being used in a different way than from what I know. You can use everyday things to make a difference in learning,” Muriithi said. “The other biggest resource I have taken away is knowing I can always fall back to the team if I get stuck. Having established that one-on-one connection, I know I can send an email and know who I’m sending it to. Putting a face to the name is one of the biggest resources as what they have you cannot just get anywhere.”
The next step in the project is to develop 15 online courses that will be hosted on Canvas.net. The Capacity participants can integrate this material into courses they teach in person in their home institutions.
“We have this ‘one university’ mindset and everything I’ve done with Global One Health, I’ve felt that in action,” Tressler said. “The foundation of Global One Health is not just medical help but it’s all encompassing, so to have representation from many areas of campus, that’s really powerful.”
Because of projects through Global One Health and the importance of this initiative, Ohio State opened a satellite office in Ethiopia to continue this project’s work over the past year and a half.
And to think, this all started with 40 iPads and an idea to teach, serve and conduct research.