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E-learning not a silver bullet

Traditional teaching should happen in conjunction with technology solutions that benefit the process of learning and teaching rather than trying to replace it, writes DUNCAN ALFREDS.

“I don’t believe that e-learning is the silver bullet. It is only a tool – albeit a powerful one. A silver bullet in a gun in the hands of a person who does not know how to aim has no value. Likewise, e-learning can only be of value if it is incorporated into an effective education system,” Kobus Van Wyk, who is head of e-Learning at Mustek, told Fin24.

The advice comes as a warning to the Gauteng Education department which has tasked EduSolutions with delivering technology worth R200m to schools in the province.

The programme forms part of Gauteng MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi’s R17bn programme to make schools paperless by introducing tablets and other technologies to boost education.

“E-learning is more than simply giving technology to learners – it is about how electronic tools are used to assist the learner process. It should also not be seen as an alternative to traditional teaching and learning, but rather should be used in conjunction with these methods,” said Van Wyk.

‘Box dropping’

Van Wyk was responsible for the Khanya Project which was tasked with equipping schools in the Western Cape with computer technologies.

In the decade that the project ran, he spent a budget of R1bn and trained 27 000 teachers to use technology in the classroom.

Van Wyk also warned that a simplistic approach to e-learning would not be sustainable.

“‘Box dropping’ must be avoided at all costs… issuing of tenders to deliver technology to schools, and then it’s the end of the matter. Rather, projects should be well planned, taking all factors into consideration, including ongoing technical support and long-term teacher professional development.”

EduSolutions has come under scrutiny because of allegations that the company was involved in a failure to timeously supply textbooks under its contract with the government.

Holding company African Access Holdings has denied all allegations directed at EduSolutions as the firm prepares to meet its October 31 deadline for the delivery of 61 000 tablets.

While Van Wyk applauds the expansion of e-learning in SA, he urged government to partner with industry to guarantee the success of e-learning projects.

“By and large, technology skills, as well as project management skills to deliver large-scale projects, are absent in schools and education departments. And one should not expect to find those skills in institutions of education – their purpose is to educate, and they are staffed by professional educators, not technology experts.”



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