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AFRICA: First virtual higher education consortium unveiled

16 African universities joined forces to set up virtual education platform in efforts for facing the overcrowding situation in universities, promoting life learning programmes and offering training for producing market-ready graduates as well as establishing  joint projects in higher education.  

AFRICA: First virtual higher education consortium unveiled 

Wagdy Sawahel

18 December 2018

Source : IsDB Alumni & Science development network (IsDB A-SDN)

16 African universities joined forces to set up virtual education platform in efforts for facing the overcrowding situation in universities, promoting life learning programmes and offering training for producing market-ready graduates as well as establishing  joint projects in higher education.

“I perceive the African University Consortium for the Development of Virtual Education (AUCDVE) as a game changer on a South-South level.”, Béchir Allouch, Professor and Expert at the Virtual University of Tunis (VUT) , told IsDB Alumni & Science development network (IsDB A-SDN) ” AUCDVE will be our common platform for the benefit of all of us.”, added Allouch who is also the President of the Tunisian Association for E-Learning.

“The coordination of the consortium by the VUT, created since 2002, will allow synergies for the benefit of the more recent African virtual universities so that they evolve more quickly.”,indicated Allouch who participated in the consortium launch.

“Instead of entering into a logic of competition, it is a logic of sharing, co-learning and win-win that we aim to establish.”, Allouch stressed.

Echoing these sentiments, Simon Peter Ngalomba, lecturer in the department of educational foundations, management and lifelong learning in the School of Education at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania told IsDB A-SDN that “It is the undeniable fact that virtual education is here to stay given the ICT revolution across the globe.”

“AUCDVE will be a tenable option for large section of African students as well as working class who hardly find time to attend full-time study programmes at residential universities to pursue their studies as it offers flexibility to complete assignments anytime, anywhere.”, Ngalomba pointed out.

This new African virtual initiative was put in place by virtue of an agreement concluded by African virtual universities on the fringes of the closing ceremony of the “African Days of Virtual Education http://www.uvt.rnu.tn/documents/docs/pgm-affiche-caudev.pdf ” held in Hammamet, Tunisia in the period  from 1-2 November and organized by the Virtual University of Tunis (UVT) with the support of the Francophone university agency (AUF).

Consortium

“AUCDVE will strengthen cooperation in the development of virtual education and innovation for the benefit of higher education in the African continent.”, emphasized Allouch,

“This consortium will promote common experiences, the federation of resources and the mutualization between universities dedicated totally or partially to virtual education in Africa.”,Allouch added.

Examples of the AUCDVE university members are Virtual University of Tunis, Virtual University of Burkina Faso, Virtual University of Senegal, Virtual University of Ivory Coast, Chad Virtual University and Mauritania Distance Training and Exchange Center along with Network of Universities of Science and Technology of Africa (RUSTA) and its components: Panafrican Virtual University of Technology Ivory Coast, International Distance Learning Center Togo.

The objectives of the consortium are to improve academic excellence and quality as well as the development of e-learning and higher education on the continent., according to Allouch.

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“The consortium is expected to help provide better responses to needs and challenges that are common or country-specific.”, Allouch pointed out.

Challenges

 

Allouch indicated that “In my opinion, resources and funding should not be a problem toAUCDVE”.

“The main challenge for the AUCDVE is that it will have to help meet the specific needs and challenges of members while meeting common challenges.”, Allouch indicated.  “It will work on the common while reconciling with the regional and the national.”

“African virtual universities are not in the same stage of development and do not operate in similar contexts.”, Allouch pointed out.

In some countries, the main problem is massification. In the case of Tunisia, for example, the current stage is that of post-massification, which presents challenges of a different nature, according to Allouch

“The consortium will also have to build its place and prove its credibility not only as a facilitator but also as a think-tank and strategic body for policymakers to guide policies for mainstreaming ICT in African education systems.”, Allouch concluded.
Expanding further, Ngalomba said ” other challenge to AUCDVE as a tool for virtual education is to change the attitude among populace that virtual education’s quality (output) is equal to normal/traditional/residential university education.”   “To make it effective, faculty and students involved in virtual teaching-learning need to be trained on how to utilize online/digital interaction tools for optimal output.”, Ngalomba suggested.

Public-private Partnerships

Asked about technical challenges that will face the consortium including poor internet penetration and lack of ICT infrastructure capabilities and ways to deal with it?, Allouch said”The technological infrastructure and the expertise developed at the UVT as well as the other university members of AUCDVE will be made available to the consortium and will support its activities.”, Allouch indicated.

“It will also be necessary to take into account the phenomenal evolution of the equipment of the citizens in digital terminals (smartphones, tablets, PC,..) and the continuous reduction of the costs which makes the use of virtual education in our African continent more and more natural.”, Allouch pointed out.

Despite a slow start,  Sub-Saharan Africa’s digital development is now moving forward as it isseeing an accelerating migration to mobile broadband capable connections and smartphone adoption continues to see rapid growth along with mobile subscriber penetration reaching to about 44% of the population, according to 2018 report entitled ” The Mobile Economy – Sub-Saharan Africa” Bringing universities together with telecom and internet operators, in a logic of social responsibility, can lead to partnerships where everyone acts in his core business while contributing to a joint educative offer that can overcome the obstacles of infrastructure and connection.”, Allouch suggested.

“The partnership recently established between the UVT and Orange Middle East & Africa is in our opinion the best example”, Allouch explained.

“UVT – Orange Middle East & Africa partnership will allow young people in Africa, with their personal terminals and very competitive data packages, to use our educational resources free of charge while being able to access, very easily and with preferential conditions, to our offer of small private online courses with tutoring and later to joint diplomas with their local universities.”, Allouch emphasized.

“The way is still long.”, Allouch said.

“This will first require a rapprochement between our African universities, with a logic of complementarity and true partnership to guarantee to the African learner wherever he is a quality training, accessible easily and at the least cost, while taking into consideration the local context and specificities.”, Allouch concluded.

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