Monday, August 26, 2013

Oral cultures and online learning

Some of my colleagues in Africa have told me that because they're from oral cultures they find it difficult to express themselves in writing, and this comes in the way of collaborating with people elsewhere. So when I began to work on introducing e-learning in the AuthorAID project, I was worried whether the participants, most of whom would come from Africa, would feel comfortable asking questions and sharing views through writing. We have been conducting workshops in Africa and other developing countries for more than five years, and we usually see a lot of lively interaction. Would the online medium suppress expression because people have to write and not talk?

After facilitating four AuthorAID online courses in the past year, I'm happy to say that has not happened. Instead, I see hundreds of posts in every online course and sometimes I find it hard to keep up!

Edith Wakida, a research administrator at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda, was one of the most active participants in a recent AuthorAID online course, and a forum post of hers led to a recent post on the AuthorAID blog, which is read by many researchers in developing countries. Her advice on the importance of following grant instructions has thus reached not only her fellow participants in the online course but a great number of developing country researchers through the blog.

So I think the online learning format, far from suppressing interaction or sharing, can facilitate greater and fuller expression of ideas and experiences even when the participants are from oral cultures and don't have much experience with e-learning. But creating the right virtual environment for such interaction to take place can be a challenge.

No comments:

Post a Comment