eLearning Africa brings together 1,500 education and training professionals from all over the Continent and across all sectors. Every participant has their own story to tell of how they came to be involved in the world of technology-enhanced education and ultimately the eLearning Africa conference itself. In this edition of the newsletter we present the experiences of a first-time participant and speaker at eLearning Africa, Menesia Muinjo, in her own words.
The 8th annual eLearning Africa Conference in Windhoek made me aware of my own direct ICT involvement. Since the Conference, I have made a personal decision to make eLearning part and parcel of my daily life and share its benefits with the rest of anyone close to me, at work and in Namibian Society in general.
I have been doing my Masters in Business Administration (MBA) for over two years now, using virtual classes on my laptop, text, audio and video for my tutorials, presentations and assignments, going online to access my study time table/schedule, tuition fees status, study progress and to link up with lecturers and fellow students. My lecturers are in Germany, Israel and Hungary, to mention but a few countries, and fellow students in India, Ukraine and Namibia. Yet we are able to have live classes, with fellow students listening and giving their input. All I need is my laptop, headphones and 3G to enable me to make use of the Internet. I can have tutorial sessions anywhere in the world, from home – in our lounge, bedroom or kitchen in Windhoek, in hotel rooms in Accra, Ghana, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Brazzaville, Haifa and Stuttgart. My thesis research was realised through ICT: email messages and SMSs. It has been ICT as its best, but until I participated in the 8th eLearning Africa Conference, I did not quite realise that I was indeed one of the Africans who was into ICT usage and innovation at work.
This realisation struck immediately after I read a definition of eLearning in the conference programme, which referred to ICT as using technology to increase the capacity to improve knowledge, problem-solving capabilities and performance. That definition immediately pointed at my own situation, studying to use ICT. This awakening was further enhanced by the exposure to available ICT tools, usage, and innovation case studies, during the Conference’s plenary platforms and various specific sessions.
The conference was a platform where innovation and technology was showcased – at all levels, from schools to businesses. It was a skills market, or a market of ideas. One presenter in the “Wanted: Massive Numbers of African Managers and Entrepreneurs” session told participants that he was planning to realise his dream of having an “Olympics of African Skills” in five years. I actually thought the eLearning conference was a springboard to his idea – if not the Olympics of African Skills already, with its innovation exhibition, display of ICT tools, sharing of ideas and actual case studies of people who benefited from such developments.
Participants shared ideas on how to improve their operations – whether teaching, health or business – by using ICT tools to make operations easier, faster, simpler and more relevant to changing times. They talked about how ICT can change people’s lives – ICT4D – at all levels.
There were talks about how people, institutions and businesses can make use of new media such as Facebook. Prof Dr Johannes Cronje referred to Facebook as a “university cafeteria” where students meet to discuss academic issues, link up with their lecturers and access schedules – free of charge. Students can have such discussions in comfort, wherever they choose to be.
Being a journalist by profession, I refer to Facebook as the integrated newsroom of nowadays – allowing the media and everyone else to chat and follow issues online. Journalists can get news leads from Facebook, and hear so much of what is happening in their environment.
We were told about the need for “hudagogy” which means self-teaching as opposed to pedagogy – the traditional educational set-up. The question was asked as to who taught adults to make use of Facebook. The answer is that we taught ourselves – hudagogy. And we need to continue teaching ourselves.
It was a conference-and-half (interesting, eventful, the best), full of what is called “serendipity”, another new word, in addition to hudagogy, that I learnt from that event. One of the speakers, Tom Wambeke, defined serendipity as receiving something valuable unexpectedly. I was one of the participants who benefited from serendipity – as a participant and speaker at one of the sessions (Video did not kill Community Radio), I learnt so much that I started to share what I was gaining on Facebook.
On my way back to work, I was interviewed on NBCTV’s breakfast show, Good Morning Namibia, to share my experience from the eLearning Africa conference. I was so enthusiastic about doing so. I shared the experience with my colleagues at work and recommended that my employer must never miss such an opportunity, as it can only empower its employees, make them confident and improve their competencies and performance. I shared this message with friends too. I could not stop talking about how the conference awoke my eLearning involvement and outlook.
The 2013 eLearning Africa conference really was an event to remember. And my question is, if I gained so much during my first ever eLearning Conference, what about those who have been there since its inception – who have been attending for 8 years now?