DEFINING AND USING AN E-LEARNING PLATFORM IN THE NATIONALUNIVERSITY OF EAST TIMOR
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 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.
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].
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