Improving Human Capital Development in Africa through Effective Distance Education

M.C. Aniebonam (USA)


collaborative Learning, DistributedTeaching, Distance Learning, Africa, Development,Virtual Environment


The development of high-performance computing and telecommunications tools is creating new media, such as the World Wide Web and virtual realities. The innovative kinds of pedagogy engendered by these emerging media, messages, and experiences make possible a transformation of conventional distance education--which replicates traditional classroom teaching across barriers of distance and time--into an alternative instructional paradigm: distributed learning. This article describes leading edge research in three technologies well suited for distributed teaching and learning in business-related education: computer-supported collaborative learning, multimedia/hypermedia, and experiential simulation. All or any of these methods can be applied in a massive effort towards educating students in emerging economies, especially in the African continent, benefiting institutions where instructional human resources are either limited or unavailable. This work focuses on what technologies are available, and how these could be structured to achieve the educational goals within the constraints of available infrastructures and financial resources, saving institutions and businesses in developing economies from re-inventing the wheel. Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) enhances team performance through tools for communicating each person's ideas, structuring group dialogue and decision making, recording the rationales for choices, and facilitating collective activities. With the teacher's guidance, learners use these groupware tools to develop a shared mental model or to perform work-related tasks. Through advances in the bandwidth of global information infrastructures, CSCL is increasingly capable of supporting affective interactions and the formation of virtual communities. Such "telepresence" enables mentoring across distance and provides a social context that reinforces and motivates learning (Dede, 1997) [1], as well as preparing students for telecommuting roles in the business environment. We would argue in this paper , that effective African economic development in the near future must depend more on adoption of effective educational and technological practices from developed countries, than on structural, economic, political and sociological reforms a combination of which seems to be the solution of choice embraced by African policy makers.

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