E-Learning for advancing development holds tremendous opportunities, yet it is still in an infant stage. Glovico’s founder Tobias speaks with Senior Project Manager e-Learning at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH Volker Lichtenthäler about his views on the subject.
What exactly is it that you are doing in your daily work?
The GIZ works on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Its worldwide operations are dedicated to human resource development, advanced training, and dialogue. As part of our Human Capacity Development projects we draw back on the use of new learning media, such as computers, networks, mobile devices and multimedia applications.
What occupies most of your attention at the moment?
I am responsible for the further development of the GC21 E-Academy (www.gc21-eacademy.org). With this new portal GIZ strengthens as well as upgrades its unique online programme for development and makes it available to a large number of experts and executives from all over the world. In order to extend the sustainability of our online trainings we also use social networks and m-learning. Cell phones and mobile internet empower people to benefit of information, who otherwise could not access this knowledge because of their living situation. Mobile technologies have become a decisive factor for development. They assist work in the health sector and sustainable economy, they facilitate financial services and improved knowledge management. But most of all, they support learning processes.
Which developments are you expecting in the coming three years in the area of e-Learning?
Mobile learning is just taking off the ground. Especially in Africa, I expect significant advancements in didactics and technology within the next years. However, m-learning needs to be integrated in existing structures, concepts and projects. Blending different learning modalities is therefore another ongoing challenge. One path to follow in achieving success in using virtual worlds for learning is social learning approaches. In fact, the M-Learning-Portal of the E-Academy (www.gc21-eacademy.mobi) shows how mobile services can be developed by means of cooperation. Apart from supporting international network building within our community of partners and course participants the mobile learning platform targets the sustained securing of the specialist knowledge taught in our capacity building programmes and offers learning content generated mainly by users themselves. Synchronous online training is another important trend in e-learning. The number of webinars, e.g., we are organising, is steadily increasing.
Which subjects are particularly suitable for such learning and which target groups have the highest affinity to study online?
Obviously, the e-Learning readiness of our participants has been an issue for design and delivery mode. Especially for people who live in remote areas, connectivity still is a big issue. They have limited bandwidth and limited wireless capabilities to access learning materials. However, this is changing as more people use mobile devices to access the Internet and to communicate with others. This allows us to address more and different participants. Nevertheless, our main target group are “high potentials” in developing countries.
So far, most applications and projects have shown that e-learning and m-learning is particularly useful for informal learning and that it works best when added or linked to existing systems. Therefore, the first deployment of technology-enhanced learning in capacity development programmes works out best for providing information to support the traditional curriculum, rather than replacing it. And this applies to our learning programme. It enhances chances and opportunities of the online or blended learning scenarios and it focuses on managerial aspects thus fostering the transfer of knowledge and professional practical competences.
What do you consider the most inspiring project in this area in Africa at the moment?
There are many inspiring projects going on. Projects related to improve financial services and knowledge management systems, projects targeting sustainable business development and environmental issues and many more. A few weeks ago, I met a colleague from Arusha in Tanzania working at the Tanzania Training Centre for Orthopaedic Technologists. Partnering with us and the University of Don Bosco, El Salvador, they were able to establish a fully accredited blended learning course in Spinal Orthotics.
Are you studying anything online yourself and if yes, what?
In fact, I participated in the Masters programme in Open and Distance Education of the Open University/UK. This was an amazing and very encouraging experience. Last year I obtained a Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Development Cooperation from the Technical University Kaiserslautern, which follows a more traditional distance education approach. However, switching on my mobile phone usually means learning for me, be it a research of geographical data in Wikipedia, checking on Portuguese grammar or following colleagues by twitter. It’s all about learning!
Thanks for your time, Volker!