I had the pleasure of being immersed in the online learning landscape in Africa, during the 3 day ‘E-learning Africa’ conference in Abidjan in Ivory Coast. On the African continent there is a revolution taking place in education as inhabitants in remote geographies are gradually getting connected to the internet and as such gain access to worldwide online learning resources.
The most striking example I heard was a speech by 15 year old Sudanese Mahid Abdulkarim, who spoke in a charismatic way about how he could not attend school anymore during the civil war in his country. It was simply too dangerous to go to school due to violence in the streets. Eager to continue his education, he found his own courses and materials online and used the very limited internet connectivity to continue his secondary education. He is currently a member of the Sudanese Organisation for Innovative Education Systems (SOIES) and his message to the adult world is this: ‘make sure there are good educational resources available online for my generation’.
There are many obstacles to improving education in developing countries and connectivity is one of them. Having said that, online learning is promising and a project that sparked my optimism was an e-learning tool developed by the German government agency GIZ, where thousands of Ivorian teenagers participated in an online game about HIV prevention and reproductive health.
The game –designed for smartphones- was designed in a way that is attractive to teens and they participated massively in order to get a high ranking and gain online status. A creative way to decrease the # of HIV infections; unfortunately more boys than girls participated so the next challenge for educators is to reach a higher proportion of girls with these types of e-learning.
I had been invited to facilitate a workshop on live online learning, together with Alice Barlow-Zambodla from South-Africa and we had fun showing e-learning professionals how to engage participants by making learning sessions (more) interactive and engaging.
In our virtual classroom, we use the ‘4 minute rule’ to keep participants engaged.
This means that all speakers are limited to 4 minutes, because engagement tends to drop dramatically after that amount of time. I always thought it was easier to maintain engagement in a F2F setting, but I noticed at this conference how many participants grasp their smartphone and distract themselves from the session they are in, once the speakers breaches this 4 minute rule. Obviously, this trend has consequence for any type of training, workshop or conference format. For professional speakers and facilitators, Conficius’ old saying is more relevant than ever:
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