Ariane Umurerwa is in charge of course development at e-learning company Three Mountains. She’s excited to craft content that fits the Rwandan context, developing innovative yet simple and fun learning materials in Kinyarwanda. In this interview, Umurerwa discusses the actions and initiatives she pushes in her role as secretary of the Rwanda eLearning Network and what she’d like to share at eLearning Africa.
Can you tell us about the origin of the REN?
It all started in Cairo at the 2016 eLearning Africa conference. We were with a team from Three Mountains learning advisors looking for other participants from Rwanda, and we only found David Rurangirwa from USAID and Carolyn Kerr from Kepler University. Given the high ambitions of the Government of Rwanda about ICT in skills development, we were a bit disappointed. Back in Kigali, I conducted a quick survey on the state of e-learning in Rwanda and found that there are around forty learning institutes and organisations in Rwanda struggling in their own way to create some sort of meaningful e-learning. I shared my findings with David, and he suggested approaching those organisations to create a network to support each other. The idea was received with a great deal of enthusiasm, and in August 2016, we had our first meeting as the Rwanda E-learning Network (REN).
Why an REN?
We wanted to create a space where we could openly discuss our failures, struggles and opportunities – and learn from each other. In Rwanda, the government deals with technical infrastructure, but the production of contextualized, attractive, and effective content – beyond loads of PDFs and PPTs on websites – is the responsibility of each individual organisation.
Who are the REN’s members?
For the moment, REN is an informal network of individuals interested in online content development. We have teachers, consultants, and app developers, but also people working in universities, training institutes, and government agencies.
How do you operate?
We have a chairing committee that prepares monthly meetings. We meet on the last Wednesday of each month at one of the members’ venues. We run the network as informally and effectively as possible. A meeting usually lasts two hours: an interesting presentation with some Q&A and then informal networking time with some refreshments. Sometimes we do an outside visit to meet new people interested in our work, hear about the latest developments, and promote our businesses. To communicate, we mostly use our Facebook page.
How can someone become a member?
So far, we have personally invited people to join, but basically, it’s open for everyone. People who want to be invited can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. And when you are in Kigali, don’t forget to check out our Facebook page. There might be an e-learning event that interests you.
What challenges do you face?
To be honest, we can say that the relationship between private startups and government institutions in charge of ICT still has to grow. Also, a network only works with the input from all members. After a vibrant first year, we are now a bit in a low. However, I have a feeling that with eLearning Africa coming to Rwanda, things will change for the better.
What have you achieved so far?
Last year, the network’s writing committee wrote an article called “E-learning in practice” for the SMART AFRICA conference. Our study on the state of e-learning in Rwanda was updated with the help of REN members. Some members have written joint proposals and have done consultancies together. One of our members sets up teleconferencing facilities, and we refer anyone looking for this type of service to our colleague. REN is quite informal and seemingly small, but small steps help to move forward.
How do you feel about eLearning Africa coming to Rwanda?
Last year we set bringing eLA to Rwanda as a goal for the network. We thought 2018 was still a bit early, but we were very excited when, coming back from Mauritius (eLA 2017), David said that the 2018 eLA event would be held here. I couldn’t believe it myself. We were sitting at a round table, and everyone was shooting questions at him: “How did this happen? And why now?”
What do you see as your role during the conference?
I can think of a whole list: doing publicity through social media, moderating sessions, as well as presenting and exhibiting our made-in-Rwanda learning content, products, and services. We want to tell our stories: journeys of innovative digital entrepreneurs and idealistic NGOs looking for appropriate and effective ways to use ICT for development. We want the digital revolution in Rwanda, which all of us are so adamantly striving for, to become a reality.
eLearning Africa 2018
The eLearning Africa 2018 conference will be hosted in Kigali Convention Centre, Kigali, Rwanda on 26th – 28th September 2018.