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M-Learning in Sub Saharan Africa Context- What is it about

M-Learning in Sub Saharan Africa Context- What is it about

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Published by Martin
Publication at World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013, Victoria, Kanada
Publication at World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013, Victoria, Kanada

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Published by: Martin on Jun 27, 2013
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08/12/2013

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Originally published in: Grimus, M. & Ebner, M. (2013). M-Learning in Sub Saharan Africa Context- What is it about. In
 Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013
(pp. 2028-2033).Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
M-Learning in Sub Saharan Africa Context-
What is it about?
Institute for Information Systems and Computer MediaGraz University of Technologymargarete.grimus@aon.atSocial Learning / Information Technology ServicesGraz University of TechnologyMartin.ebner@tugraz.at
Abstract:
Mobile devices are changing the social, educational and economic situation especiallyin developing countries. Based on recent scientific publications, conference reports andeducational blogs meaningful trends and critical challenges with reference to Sub Saharan Africaare explored in this meta-study. Since mobile phones are increasingly affordable and accessiblethis has become one of the most important topics concerning future education in Sub SaharanAfrica. They are seen as key technology for bringing educational opportunities to even the mostmarginalized populations. The development of and the needs for education in Sub Saharan Africa(SSA) differs arbitrarily from other parts of the world. M-learning is one of the most emergingfields. This publication articulates and summarizes the wider issues raised by using mobile phones to deliver and enhance learning for dispersed population in Africa, Finally the key issuesfor further developments are pointed out to address the future needs for educational strategies.
1
 
Introduction
1.1
 
Background
To tackle educational challenges in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), systemic integration of ICT has been outlined as anopportunity for improving the quality of teaching and learning as well as expanding access to learning opportunities(UNESCO 2011). Secondary school attendance and completion rates in SSA are strongly influenced by poverty,location and gender (EFA, 2011). Mobile based solutions can help to compensate the lack of infrastructure; mobiledevices offer access to educational content by providing access to knowledge through technology and are also one of the primary ways that youth interact with and learn from each other (NMC 2012, p.11).
 
Furthermore access to learning material via mobile phones does not only support formal settings but is often theonly chance for informal learning. While mobile phones become more capable students can get education into their own hands, options like informal education and online learning are reaching students who are not in the position toenter traditional educational settings (NMC 2012).Delivering education in SSA by using mobile phones is widely seen as a chance for change, because mobilenetworks are widely spread, and as learning device, the mobile phone has several key advantages. Especially,distribution channels are already in place and everyone knows how to use the device for basic interactions, peoplevalue their phones and more likely take good care of them. Due to the fact that phones are all the time be carriedaround by their owners, learning can take place anywhere. Furthermore the phones are also shared among familymembers, and people have the option of upgrading their mobiles anytime by switching their SIM cards. (Young,2009, p.3)
1.2
 
Aims of the Study
Much of our current knowledge of m-learning practices is derived from experiences from OECD countries that maynot be relevant developing countries in SSA. The objective of this paper is to explore and identify corresponding andinfluencing factors of m-Learning in SSA because they differ dramatically from those encountered by mobile
 
Originally published in: Grimus, M. & Ebner, M. (2013). M-Learning in Sub Saharan Africa Context- What is it about. In
 Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013
(pp. 2028-2033).Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
learning practitioners around the world. In this publication a detailed look is done to various publications to get acloser insight and better understanding of relevant criteria concerning to SSA.
 
Crucial enablers for mobile learning in the region of Africa and Middle East are named as following: the exponentialgrowth in mobile phone subscriptions, demands in education development, and the potential of new technologies(mobile networks and internet) to address those demands. Barriers are a lack of awareness among decision makers(e.g. government), technical limitations (feature phones) and costs of device and subscriptions, and educationalcontent (regarding technical limitations). (AME, 2012, p. 26)In this research work we want to resume different aspects reported in various publications regarding mobile learningto offer a basis for deeper understanding of the complexity of m-Learning in SSA. Outlined topics are clustered inaccordance of the relevance and help us to address the key fields for future research.
1.3
 
Contributions to m-Learning in SSA
Scientific publications are mainly accessible through dedicated international conference series and educational blogsrelated to UNESCO, World Bank and other organizations supporting developments in SAA rather than in dedicated journals and scientific books. Actual information for this work is retrieved also from blogs of organizations, e.g.World Economic Forum, EduTech-Blog (World Bank-Blog on ‘ICT use in Education Transform Africa’) as well as publications edited by UNESCO, GMSA (Transforming learning through m-Education), and Conference-Reportsfrom WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education), eLearning Africa (International Conference on ICT for Development, Education and Training), mLearn (World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning), andedutech-blog. (e.g. Trucano, 2012a) ‘Specific cultural, technological and organisational affordances of sub SaharanAfrica are noticeably different from those of the ‘developed’ world (Traxler, 2006).
2
 
Current Situation - Education and Mobile Learning in SSA
2.1
 
Education in SSA and Relevance for Mobile Learning
The Education For All (EFA) and Universal Primary Education (UPE) strategies can be seen as enablers towards theMillennium Development Goals (MDG). Underpinning this is the need to monitor and manage school enrolmentnumbers at a local and national level.Fast increasing numbers of students on all levels of education are placing great demands upon the Ministries of Education (MoEST) in SSA. The challenges of teaching in Africa are large class sizes, un-trained or under-trainedteachers with only a limited repertoire of pedagogies, a shortage of adequate materials for both teachers and pupils,and widespread adult illiteracy - besides general poverty and disease (Traxler, 2006; Acosta,
 
2012). Low incomegroups’ access to education is restricted by many factors including the cost of education and expectations thatchildren may undertake child employment as well social barriers. (GSMA Report, 2011)60% of all people in Africa are under the age of 24, many of them knowledgeable about new technologies (even theuse of smart-phones) and becoming very demanding. This group is booming with lots of enthusiasm to explore andlearn any technologies, learn fast and inquisitive. Mobile phones are still a more affordable technology than laptopsor computers and often service providers offer subsidized packages to accommodate them. (Hoefman, 2011)Out-of-school-children and high drop-out rates is troubling the development of education in SSA in many ways.Mobile learning is seen to be a useful option to overcome some of the challenges, by offering the opportunity toreturn to education in a less formal way. Furthermore m-learning will also assist many students which are over-agedwhen enrolling or return to school after few years of absence, by offering modules and content which fits better totheir specific demands. In rural areas, where girls drop-out often after short time they also find new chances for appropriate education.According to UNESCOS’s Mobile Learning Guidelines mobile technologies are able to expand and enricheducational opportunities for students in a diversity of contexts. ‘A growing body of evidence suggests thatubiquitous mobile devices – and mobile phones in particular – are being used by students and teachers around theworld to access information (….) to facilitate learning in new and innovative ways. (PGML 2012, p.2)Due to the fact that mobile phones are the most widely used technology in Africa and more people have access to a phone than to a computer or even good quality educational materials this offers vast opportunities for m-Learning.
 
Originally published in: Grimus, M. & Ebner, M. (2013). M-Learning in Sub Saharan Africa Context- What is it about. In
 Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013
(pp. 2028-2033).Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
2.2
 
Perspectives of Mobile Phone Usage for Education in SSA
Using mobile devices to enhance the learning process as well as the learning outcomes is one of the commonrecommendations to approach the EFA and Millennium Goals. The cell-phone has been argued to be an appropriatedevice for educational delivery in the developing world; mobile learning methods hold great promise for both -formal and informal learning.‘m-learning has the potential to transform the face of education inAfrica’. (Motlik,2008) It is the information and communication technology of the masses due to the fact that amongst the youth of South Africa more than 90% own a mobile phone. Other technology options that might deliver learning are practically non-existent in SSA ‘The cell phone is the single most transformative technology for development’(Sachs, 2009). Learners must be able to gain knowledge whenever and wherever they want to and mobile learningtakes place when learners are motivated. “Learning can unfold in a variety of ways: people can use mobile devicesto access educational resources, connect with others, and create content, both inside and outside classrooms”(PGML 2012, p.2)Traxler draws attention to the contrast of ‘the near-universal ownership and access to simple mobile phones,comprehensive, energetic and competitive mobile networks and poor infrastructure, including unstable mainselectricity and poor broadband connectivity...’ that there is not
one
single point of view on learning and education.We have also to think on different impacts on communities, informal learning, mother tongues and indigenousknowledge (Traxler, 2011).
3
 
Impact of General Issues
After studying a number of different scientific publications and reports the following categories can be carried out.Each research work was put into exactly one category to prepare a short overview about the main issues.
3.1
 
Mobile Networks and Subscribers in SSA
The first category is about the infrastructure. Publications are pointing to an occurring dynamism in emergingeconomies, where infrastructure largely didn't exist, especially outside urban centers, which is different from what people may find in Europe and North America (Trucano, 2012b).Over the past ten years, the number of mobile connections in Africa has grown an average of 30% per year (GSMA2011). In Africa at the moment there live more users of mobile phones than in the USA. It has become a big business for mobile network operators (MNOs), who expect a billion subscribers in Africa in the nearest future.Subscribers might also represent a market for educational content, which forces interest in using mobiles to supportand deliver learning in Africa amongst a wider world of agencies, corporate and ministries (Traxler, 2011). Lack of access to electricity has been overcome by many Africans, who charge their phones using generators available inlocal shops as well as solar panels and car batteries.Fierce competition in SSA has driven down prices and increased penetration
.
Operators have reduced their prices onan average of 18% between 2010 and 2011, making mobile connectivity more broadly affordable to the masses.96% of subscriptions are pre-paid with voice services, however the uptake of data services is increasing rapidly.Internet access has been significantly boosted by improved mobile coverage and the launch of GPRS, EDGE and 3Gtechnologies (GSMA 2011).The increasing availability of network access means that the growing capabilities of mobiles are available to moreand more students in even more locations. In SSA it is common to own multiple SIM cards and swap them in andout of their phones as necessary to take advantage of favorable in-network and off-peak pricing structures.In opposite barriers are still the lack of electricity, illiteracy, language, privacy issues, gender, and concerns aboutsecurity (e.g. phone theft).
3.2
 
Policies and Strategies in an Increasing Digital Age
The second category is deadline with policies and strategies. Especially education has become one of the biggest public enterprises in many countries in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), where the rate of population growth is higher than that of rate of educated teachers or distributed educational resources.
 
In the light of the discussions about 21
st
 century skills emphasis is laid on and can be figured out in national strategies and curricula, highlighting the role of digital skills and the role of ICT in learning and teaching.

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