eLearning Certificate at the University of Botswana
Gaborone (BOT), May 2007 – As one of the measures to ensure high-quality eLearning standards, the University of Botswana has offered the "Centre of Academic Development (CAD) eLearning Certificate", a workshop series on eLearning-related topics. To evaluate the effectiveness of the Certificate in relation to its objective to promote more eLearning, Daniela Gachago and Spoon Mafote, both from the Educational Technology Unit, conducted a study.
What is the Centre of Academic Development (CAD) eLearning Certificate? And what is its objective?
Daniela Gachago: The CAD eLearning certificate, which was introduced in 2003, has been designed to guide, support, and prepare lecturers for planning, development, and implementing eLearning. Workshops offered in the CAD eLearning Certificate cover four areas: eLearning, Information and Computer Skills, Multimedia Production, and WebCT training.
The Certificate is based on attendance and application and is awarded when eight out of the seventeen currently offered workshops have been completed and the participant can provide adequate evidence of the application of eLearning in his/her work. Adequate evidence refers to the use of eLearning in the context of the UB eLearning definition.
You conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of your Certificate and its workshops. What are the results?
Daniela Gachago: The study was based on the three research questions:
What are the reasons staff attend the eLearning Certificate?
Do participants apply knowledge and skills of the eLearning Certificate workshops? If yes, which skills? If no, why not?
Is the way the Certificate is currently offered conducive to changing lecturers’ way of teaching and learning to reach EduTech’s goal – to make Teaching and Learning more learner-centred, collaborative, active, and lifelong?
Results showed that participants mainly attended workshops to acquire urgently needed technical skills like MS PowerPoint or online information gathering. The workshops definitely raised awareness of eLearning at the University but were not the ideal medium for giving lecturers the confidence to apply eLearning in their teaching and learning.
What has been the impact on the design of your workshops?
Daniela Gachago: One recommendation to respond to findings was to redesign the eLearning certificate. Looking at South African examples of innovative staff development programmes, we identified a number of common elements:
Provision of a structured staff development programme,
Combination of skill workshops with online learning,
Promotion of collaboration / development of a Community of Practice (COP),
Peer support and mentoring,
Possibility for research,
Potential accreditation / recognition of prior learning.
The new eLearning certificate course was launched in September 2006 and concentrated on eLearning core skills and contents. Combining workshops with an online course exposed participants to the experience of online learners and familiarised them with the WebCT environment. This also exposed lecturers to more learner-centred methods of teaching and learning and helped their appreciation of these methods.
Linking the completion of online activities and the development of an online course to the attendance of the workshops allowed participants to apply what they had learnt in the workshop to their work immediately.
This strategy also led to the development of a Community of Practice of lecturers with a shared interest and a common goal – promoting eLearning at UB.
The University of Botswana wants to ensure high quality eLearning standards. What recommendations for the future of eLearning at your University can you conclude from the findings of your study?
Daniela Gachago: The University of Botswana’s eLearning team relies on a combination of intensive training, close one-to-one personal support, and monitoring of online courses to ensure high-quality eLearning standards. This approach has proved successful, and although the interest in eLearning is growing rapidly, we hope to be able to acquire the necessary resources to continue promoting this approach in the future.