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e Learning in Timor-Leste, paper by Sara Moreira on e Learning at the National University of Timor Loro Sa'e

e Learning in Timor-Leste, paper by Sara Moreira on e Learning at the National University of Timor Loro Sa'e

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Presented to the Conference 'Transforming Timor-Leste' organized by National University of Timor Loro Sa'e and Victoria University, Melbourne in July 2009, Dili
Presented to the Conference 'Transforming Timor-Leste' organized by National University of Timor Loro Sa'e and Victoria University, Melbourne in July 2009, Dili

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Sara Moreira¹, Prof. Francisco Restivo¹, Prof. Francisco Dionísio²Project developed at Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto(¹DEI - FEUP e ² DM – ISTUTL,SQIG-Instituto de Telecomunicações))
In this paper is presented an unusual scenario of technology platforms adoption: Moodle at theNational University of East Timor (UNTL) [Mor09].We intend to answer questions concerned with thechallenges that technology needs to face whenmaking the first steps in bringing IT to aninhospitable environment, and the depth of theimpact of technology while promoting the digitalinclusion in East Timor.
Main Goals
Main goals of the project were
To enhance UNTL’s capabilities through ICT byproviding the first information system there.
To support the future of Portuguese Cooperationproject at UNTL by analysing the legacybureaucratic procedures and carrying them to thedigital era.
To improve higher education in East Timor, bymaking more contents available for the studentsand promoting their contact with ICT
To understand the issues that lead to the successof a Project of this kind, while redefiningpedagogical and administrative workflows, andits impact in users’ habits.
To create a critical mass for future developmentsin a broader scope.
Work Description
In order to illustrate the path leading to the abovemain goals, we begin by focusing digital dividerealities and we define the potentiality of e-learningtools in bringing education and knowledge to thatkind of places. We then describe the adoption projectitself, concerning informatics issues such as theinstallation and configuration of Moodle, itsresources and the users training and support. In theend, we discuss specific difficulties associated to theproject development and related with the definitionand use of such a system in this context.
Digital Divide Contexts
In the Digital Divide Network, the concept of digitaldivide is defined as "the distance between those whotook advantage of the benefits of digital technologyand those people whose lives could be significantlyimproved by them." This social gap among those whohave access to and use computers and the Internet[Wil01] is not necessarily a problem from developingcountries – it is usually applies to the gap betweenrural vs. urban areas, but it also may be related toother issues such as gender.It is often questioned what is the added value thattechnology can bring to places where there is hunger,poverty or other conflicts. In response, we presentcase studies where technology is introduced tosupport education, build an economy or simply bringnew channels of communication to those who werepreviously isolated. There are many successful casesin bringing technology to remote places whilecreating development opportunities.Focusing in East Timor, which is the firstindependent country of this millennium and stillrecovering from the violent events at the time of independence, the reality is that people have littlecontact to new technologies and computers.Moreover, East Timor is one of the poorest countriesin Asia, lacking infra structures of all sorts, includingcommunication and digital infra structures [AF05].
E-Learning Platforms
Looking to the technology gap as an opportunityrather than as a disadvantage, distance-learning toolsand learning management systems may play animportant role in these environments, beingsimultaneously tools to improve the access toeducation and a motivation to adopt digitaltechnologies.Firstly, a key factor in the case of Timor-Leste -specifically the UNTL - is the fact that Internet accessat this time is entirely inappropriate (in terms of price, speed and quality of service - QoS). UNTLdoes not have a geographically distributed structure.Even if it did, the Internet connection withoutminimum conditions, isolate that institution from theoutset.Another interesting point is that there is no budget forproject implementation. Thus, the software must belicensed with "Free" or "Open Source" official(recognized by the Free Software Foundation or theOpen Source Initiative), preferably running on Linuxwith an Apache server and a system of databasemanagement MySQL databaseThis set of requirements leads to the selection of aplatform based on widespread technology, forexample PHP / MySQL, and a large user base to
support standardized learning objects. There is aplatform that stands out clearly not only in number of sites and users and also shows a robust andappropriate to the situation in question - the Moodleplatform. Although the investment for thedevelopment of a course can be high, resources canbe reused, transferred and adapted. This can lead toeducation and knowledge to those who wouldotherwise not purchased, providing more content tostudents and promoting contact them with ICT.This tool serves not only from the technological pointof view, but also as a representation for training,education, and administrative tasks.
3.3 Moodle at the National University of EastTimor
Moodle was adopted in order to support the future of UNTL after completion of the PortugueseCooperation ten years project in that institution,providing an useful and secure storage for interactiveinformation.We present the definition of the problem to solve atthe National University of East Timor, and thesolution found in Moodle e-Learning platform.The project began with a team of four people with thefollowing main tasks:
Modelling of documents flow at the PortugueseCooperation Project (FUP) in UNTL.
Administrative requirements analysis.
Pre-Installing in an internal server and activatingMoodle at FUP.
Fig. 1 – Teachers data workflow at UNTL.
While adapting current workflow, Moodle wasstructured with the equivalent courses organization:
Fig. 2 – Home Page of Moodle at UNTL.
The next goal was to promote the use of Moodle bydifferent kinds of users. We created a "Fast Moodle”guideline of procedures for teachers and students, andcompleted it with a period of training for them. Soonthe actual use of the platform started with a pilotcourse on Operating Systems (OS) through Moodle.Concerning education, we used Moodle as a tool tosupport classes, where different types of educationalresources and content would be available each week to carry out practical exercises related to OS. Moodlealso served as a channel of communication withinand outside the classroom, as students, highlymotivated by the increased contact with ICT, used itfor several educational activities (such as thesubmission of assignments and discussion on relatedsubjects). Moodle was also used in more fun ways,through chat and blogs.Upon completion of the school year, we evaluated theuse of Moodle through a survey. 11 answers werereceived from a total of 36 enquiries.Most students found Moodle intuitive and agreed thatit improved the learning process. The students werealso confident about the usefulness and use of ICT atall levels.
Future Perspectives
After evaluating the process involved on the projectdevelopment, and based in the problems arisen, it isstated an essay about future perspectives for theUniversity, the country and similar places.Besides all the difficulties faced, the Project hascreated the opportunity to install an e-learningsolution at the UNTL, and has shown that there aremore things to be done, that will need people’sinvolvement. Moodle has not yet become amandatory tool in the UNTL, but in the future thatsituation may change.The Project has shown that it is possible to goforward, even though at a slow pace and it createsexpectations that may challenge others to adoptand improve the project. A good engineering solutionmay play an important role.

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