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OU supports online and mobile learning in Africa during COVID-19

African school children using a tablet

OU academics presented new platforms for universities to host their teaching online to representatives from African higher education institutions this week (21 July 2020).

Optimising online feedback to students

Over 500 participants gathered on the Zoom platform for a session by Professor Denise Whitelock, Director of the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology (IET) on how to use online platforms to optimise feedback to students on their assignments in order to promote motivation and engagement.

The session was part of the Pathways for learning: new approaches in higher education project, which in partnership with the African Council of Distance Education is providing two free professional development programmes for university lecturers, instructional designers, technical and professional staff, managers, and heads of department who share responsibility for providing quality distance and online learning.

One programme focuses on the needs of teacher educators and is led by the Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) initiative. The other programme led by IET is aimed at supporting educators from any discipline or professional role to better understand teaching online.

The OU has been committed to International Development for over twenty years and has delivered programmes across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia address areas such as frontline health, teacher education and English language teaching.

Professor Whitelock said: “The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the urgent need for higher education institutions in Africa to migrate online and many have been required to adjust their teaching to provide learning at a distance and online in a very short time.”

“We have responded to this by setting up this new Pathways for learning model which includes innovative webinars and supplementary activities, to demonstrate how to engage audiences online.”

The OU is the leading provider of online learning. It has been at the forefront of educational innovation for over 50 years. The learning is underpinned by rigorous research which has been used to develop these online platforms.

How teaching in Africa has changed due to COVID-19

The nQuire platform, which was developed by the OU in partnership with the BBC, is going to be used in a survey ‘mission’ to research how educators in Africa have modified their teaching to respond to the pandemic.

Using mobile phones to share children’s learning

Another initiative which OU researchers are engaging with is a new Department for International Development-funded EdTech Hub to research supported community learning initiatives resulting from school closures in Zimbabwe. The researchers have received £25,000 to investigate supported community learning initiatives resulting from school closures in Zimbabwe and are exploring the use of mobile phones to share children’s learning.

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