There has been a lot of confusion and uncertainty created in the education of our future leaders, that is the young generations that are currently stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year. As the Ministry of Education Arts and Culture explores various options to providing these learners with some form of teaching during this difficult time, it is clear that this situation has resulted in a dire need for change in the education system in the country. One of the proposed solutions is the adoption of e-learning, at least for the Secondary Phase learners, that is Grades 8-12. But are we, as a nation, ready for such a leap?
- It seems that, throughout the world, where e-learning has been introduced in higher education, students may struggle with:
- lack of discipline to self-study regularly
- lack of face-to-face interaction with their lecturers and other students
- poor internet access, affecting students' participation in online learning
- access to technology that enables students to participate in online learning in the first place
- staying engaged with their learning material
- staying motivated to learn.
In a country like Namibia, where more than half of the learners come from disadvantaged backgrounds; where many schools do not have computer labs, reliable internet access or even electricity; where learners live in remote areas without network coverage, it will be unfair to expect teachers and learners to be able to adopt e-learning from the word "go".
Learners and teachers who are not used to using technology on a daily basis in their classroom or home environment will find it difficult to adjust to the new model of learning and teaching that the government would like to adopt.
However, given sufficient training and time, e-learning has great potential to become part of the blended teaching solution, offering learners benefits such as:
- customised learning experience
- ability to learn at own pace, rereading content to grasp concepts taught or fast-forwarding through the material already learnt
- learning critical thinking, problem-solving, research and analytical skills
- flexibility to adapt in the fast-changing world we live in.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for innovative solutions to teaching that once adopted will be here to stay. It is important that all stakeholders, including the educational publishers, engage in open communication with the Ministry of Education Arts and Culture about the challenges ahead of us and how to overcome them, and are on board with the choices made.
Sufficient time for conversion of materials for digital delivery is crucial as is compliance with the copyright laws and regulations the digital delivery of materials entails. The transition to online learning should be gradual and planned well in order to make it accessible to all and thus allow all Namibian children to reach their full potential, regardless of where in the country they are.