Memorial to collaborate on enhancement of African Virtual University
by Kristine Hamlyn
Memorial University is bringing its reputation as one of Canada’s leaders in distance education to Africa as part of a $650,775 US project with the African Virtual University (AVU). Skilled staff from Memorial’s Marine Institute (MI) campus and Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT) will soon travel to Africa along with representatives from the University of Ottawa under the lead of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) to teach members of the AVU how to successfully set up and run their own distance education operations.
The partners will be responsible for developing a series of capacity enhancement activities with the intention of providing the participating universities with a comprehensive set of skills they will require to design, deliver and manage their own Open, Distance and eLearning (ODeL) Programs. This is to be achieved through both workshops and professional development to be delivered in both French and English.
The Marine Institute’s executive director, Glenn Blackwood, said the opportunity brings together the complementary strengths of MI and DELT.
“MI’s extensive international experience in various sectors including distance education in our fisheries and marine sectors complements the breadth and expertise of Memorial University’s Distance Education and Learning Technologies,” he said.
To date the Marine Institute’s international office, MI International, has managed more than 120 projects in over 40 countries including considerable experience in Africa.
The project will specifically address the need to expand access to internationally accredited degree and diploma programs offered through African institutions.
The AVU describes this need not as related to an absence of programs on African university campuses but the lack of availability of these programs in modes other than those that rely on traditional classroom/residential based delivery methodologies.
“Our almost 40 years of history coupled with our current capacity, and knowledge in distance learning means we’ve worked in various modes in the field and have a lot to offer the AVU,” said Ann Marie Vaughan, director, Distance Education and Learning Technologies. “This project gives us, MI and the University of Ottawa the chance to showcase our individual strengths and it is a great opportunity for the university and the province to focus on the needs of Africa and help in their economic and social development.”
With funding from the African Development Bank, this project will impact 10 Partner Institutions (8 Anglophone and 2 Francophone) located in Southern and Eastern Africa and 9 Francophone Partner Institutions from West and Central Africa in the ACEP program. The UNDP will finance the participation of 2 institutions from Somalia.
The AVU network consists of 55 learning centers in 23 countries across Africa.