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.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Ravi for the post and the great work you are doing in AuthorAID. You have truly created opportunity for many people across Africa to take part in courses they would never have gotten the opportunity to take part in!

    Online program in my opinion is a very perfect medium of expression for people who are not able to easily talk (call them introverts)! Personally, I express myself best through writing as opposed to talking...there is no opportunity for me to be shy when online so I can say what I need to say without intimidation.
    I am actually honored to read that I was among the active participants in my just concluded AuthorAID class. I simply felt compelled to open up and share my experiences after reading classmates posts; live examples are credible scenarios for others to learn from!

    I am so very grateful I took part in the AuthorAID online course, it was training ground for a bigger program! Right now I am in my first semester of a 2 Year online Masters program in Research Administration(MRA)at University of Central Florida. Quite familiar now with online studying although the difference is the platforms programs are a good experience!

    Edith Wakida Rukundo