Online Learning and the Future of Higher Education in Africa

In recent years, online learning has taken the center stage especially when balance, convenience and cost minimization are compared with the customary learning method. The need to contain the Covid-19 pandemic further edged online learning as a viable option for educational institutions globally. In a time where educational consumers are now more aware about their power of choice, several critiques about online learning have been proven wrong with enough show of possibilities on learning outcomes and efficiency, further solidifying the new era as a mainstay in the higher education sector.

Full online or blended learning is already happening in African institutions and there is no going back. In fact traditional assessments are already in the past and providers of digital platforms such as zoom, google classroom, SIMA, auto proctor and others are cashing out big. How and where to learn is now the sole choice of the learner and this flexibility remains elastic. Schooling can no longer stop career growth because online learning is not limited by space and myriad of programs can be taken leading to the award of official certificates without physically appearing on campus. Online learning saves time and can be very accessible to millions of learners all at once given a strong internet connection. Learners can also have access to customized learning, meaningful interaction and feedback at their own pace. Online learning can be furnished with diverse content such as videos, pictures, e-books which can be accessed from anywhere thereby making it experiential and tailor fit for the individual. Learners could also perfect digital literacy and time management among other core inherent skills that learning online affords.

As technology continues to shrink space and reduce time, all operating assumptions of higher institutions will no longer hold. Harden (2013) predicts the extinction of over 4,500 colleges and universities in the United States in less than fifty years. It is not very clear what the reality will be for infrastructures, staff, institutional structures, and funding but there’s going to be an effect if eighty percent of Africa’s population can learn and work from anywhere.

However, the future of African institutions looks like this:

  1. Universities will focus more on offering social benefits including travel, fraternity, friends and independence as opposed to academic prowess.
  2. Programs will be more granular, proliferated and skill based.
  3. Occupational drift will be rapid and easy.
  4. Access to university education will be free but paid for during active employment.
  5. The residential college campus will become largely obsolete.
  6. There will be a rise in university partnerships and struggling institutions will shut down.
  7. Many university professors and academics will be replaced with industry leaders.
  8. Research will gulp university budgets ahead of recurrent expenditures.

Finally, governments and institutions that draw back in taking strategic actions as the new era unfolds will be at the losing ends for a long time.

References:

Harden, N. (2013). The end of the university as we know it. The American Interest. Higher Ed. (Winter).

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