As new technologies spread and change at an overwhelming pace, they are beginning to transform human activities that have remained constant for centuries. Among those that are most concerned is education. EdTech, or education technology, is a very broad term that can simply mean using a computer to enhance learning in the classroom, just as it can mean specialised apps that teach you a subject on their own, or online systems for submitting marks and returning assessment to students.
EDTECH IN AFRICA
There is great excitement about the potential of African EdTech. This potential is made possible by rapidly increasing access to the internet —over 35% of Africans had internet access in 2017, but this has increased by around 20% already in 2018. The internet and associated technologies can assist education in a number of different ways.
Firstly, Africans with internet access can use online courses, or MOOCs. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. It is like a course that you can take at a university, but conducted entirely online through video, audio, and reading material. They allow a large number of students to take a given course, and they are accessible remotely and at the convenience and pace of each individual student.
Secondly, a variety of learning material is being developed exclusively for mobile phones. This expanding field is called m-learning, and it makes it possible for students to learn languages, improve reading skills or access additional resources for their classes entirely through their mobile phones.
Thirdly, EdTech promises remote learning for students when classes cannot be held, or when they are not able to make it to school. This can be extremely helpful for students who live in difficult areas or have occupations that are likely to take priority over class.
CHALLENGES FOR AFRICAN EDTECH
EdTech is already being deployed throughout Africa, and clearly has considerable potential. For this potential to be fulfilled, however, EdTech solutions must be established thoughtfully. We must take into account the considerable differences in the levels and forms of internet access across the African continent. While most Nigerians have internet access, less than half of sub-Saharan Africans overall are able to get a stable connection. EdTech strategies must therefore be implemented with the end-user in mind.
That being said, this is a largely surmountable obstacle once the possibilities are known and creative people with the motivation to improve education in Africa turn their minds to it!