The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Gondar is hosting representatives from the United States International University Africa, Kenya (USIU), Arizona State University, USA, Mastercard Foundation Regional office, Addis Ababa. The reason for the trip is for the University of Gondar to fast track its incorporation into online learning which has recently been coined e-learning.
Over the past six years, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program has undertaken a number of initiatives to support the goals of underrepresented groups in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. It is the first time in the history of the Foundation that the Scholars Program has been able to provide talented individuals with disabilities and disadvantages with a once-in-a-lifetime education. At its conclusion, this special program will have provided 450 bright young people from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea with a fully funded university education.
However, the Scholars Program is also concentrated on a different area of instruction that will provide educational opportunities for many more people who are unable to attend traditional classes.
Its e-learning effort is a progressive program that the Scholars program and the University of Gondar is prioritizing. In order to guide the Program through various phases of training and certificate programs, the Scholars Program office has been able to collaborate with Arizona State University, which is situated in the United States. The program had allowed 15 University of Gondar staff to become e-learning champions who have worked towards e-learning pedagogy certification in three departments.
Online learning is a new way of learning that has become increasingly popular over the last few years. It involves taking classes, either in person or online, that are interactive and allow students to access materials and participate in activities like discussions and surveys. Students can use a variety of platforms, such as video conferencing, emails, and forums, to learn and communicate with instructors.
The team who came from abroad have shown their delight in the work that has been done in the University of Gondar and they passed along their optimism on the positive developments. After overserving library services in the College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dr. Aster, who represents the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program regional office applauded the university for its current ICT infrastructure. “ICT and server connectivity is one of the preconditions for sustaining online learning, and it looks like the University of Gondar is far ahead in this regard.” Stated Dr. Aster.
However, there were some concerns about the overall acceptability of the new mode of learning. Dale Johnson, Director of Digital Innovation at Arizona State University, shared that there needs to be a national dialog to get the country and government on board. “The positive signs at UoG are promising and a lot can be done to strengthen online learning at this institution. However, there needs to be a national policy from the Ministry of Education that will allow for such education,” said Dale.
Nonetheless, many who were in attendance believe that nothing can stop the current trend which will bring a seismic shift in the education sector. Dr. Molalign Belay, who is the co-director of the Scholars Program at UoG, shared that projects such as the e-learning initiative are important activities to create the proper human capital who will be the country’s next virtual teachers.
Online learning in Ethiopia is a relatively new phenomenon that has been rapidly gaining ground in the East African nation. With over 100 million people, Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most populous countries, and internet connectivity is becoming increasingly available throughout the country. As a result, more and more students, teachers, and organizations are turning to technology for educational assistance. In recent years, the Ethiopian government has been actively promoting online learning initiatives in the country and maybe in the months and years to come this can be a reality.