Making Content Digital
Via Afrika Publishers is a 65 years old textbook publishing company which is working towards that aim. The establishment started to work with digital content many years ago which is now proving profitable. Michael Goodman, Group Content Manager at Via Afrika Publishers, says “We decided about three years ago, after looking at what was taking place in the world, that e-learning was an important direction to go in. We decided to design a set of e-learning books that matched our printed books and indeed matched the books we submitted to the education department.”
Goodman firmly believes that online learning is the future of education. He adds, “It was a sort of 'build it and they will come' mentality, because there was no call for any electronic books to be submitted.” He says that both students and parents are showing more interest in e-learning. The sale of e-books has risen to 64,000 in 2014 from only 1,000 in 2013.
Need for Co-Operation
However he believes that the South African government must support private enterprises for further development and expansion of online learning. Goodman says “We are seeing pockets of co-operation. Companies are coming up with their own initiatives in supplying tablets and then co-operating with government to implement them in schools. That needs to grow a whole lot. We feel that a very strong public and private partnership is needed to move us towards e-learning completely.”
Via Afrika Publishers has already partnered with Breadline Africa, a non-profit organisation, in order to establish digital education centres for rural communities. These advanced learning centres aim to offer an enhanced learning experience to the students. All of these centres include at least 15 Android tablets that are pre-loaded with up-to-date academic programmes, apps and e-books from Via Afrika.
Using Social Media for Education
These digital learning centres enable learners to consume easily accessible online content and interact with others through various social networking platforms. Obami.com is one such platform that offers academic tools to students and allows them to make connections online. Founder Barbara Mallinson says “We are all very aware of the education crisis going on in South Africa and beyond. Social media was being used in entertainment and for business but no-one was really doing this in education.”
Although Ms Mallinson faced some challenges initially, but she and her team were determined to use social media for the benefit of education and connect students, parents and teachers in a single platform. She says that the pilot study just “went wonderfully.” Mallinson says, “We looked at it again and thought social networking is very useful in many industries but it has to serve a purpose, and so we decided to change a few things and ended up with this idea of social media being applied to a learning management system.”
Obami has seen considerable growth over the past few years across South Africa and the entire continent. Currently around 400 schools and establishments are using the online platform to connect with learners, teachers and other stakeholders.
She adds “Obami was traditionally a primary and secondary platform but we have now opened it up beyond schools...We also found a demand from scholars whose schools weren't using the platform to get on to Obami, so we started our own school of sorts and now have nearly 4,000 individuals on the platform who can access its learning capabilities and content.”
However, there are many sceptics who are still apprehensive and do not believe that e-learning can be the solution to Africa’s education challenges. But educators and publishers are determined to bring about the much needed change through online learning tools and help the African youth learn better.
Article Source: bbc.in/1vVY6NY