Experiences from University of Botswana

Coming from the background of Adult Education, and being influenced by principles of Adult learning I find myself compelled to pursue an alternative pathway for an effective and innovative eLearning for adult learners in the wake of COVID 19 pandemic. Hence, my determination to explore and discuss critically challenges of eLearning faced by distance education learners. I hope to sensitise and influence eLearning policy makers and Academic managers at the University of Botswana on the best eLearning support and approach for distance learners who are faced with challenges of making use of online learning.

Though my journey as a learner in both research and in publication has just started, I have already experienced the joy of sharing my knowledge with others. More importantly I have come to understand that my passion in writing and research is defined mostly by my experiences, for example, work-related, family and others. My interest in this writing workshop has been inspired by my desire to share my experiences of how the global pandemic, COVID 19 has affected Distance Education learners of the University of Botswana. I have facilitated modules for these learners for the past 3 years.

I have discovered that distance learners at the University of Botswana encounter multiple eLearning challenges related to internet availability and accessibility. Learners are disadvantaged by the digital divide factor, for example, locations where they are; unaffordability of IT gadgets; unreliability of internet; having to share places with others hence disturbance during classes.  This seems to affiliate with evidence by Zalat, et al (2021) who reported that the main barriers to eLearning are insufficient, and unstable internet connectivity, inadequate computer laboratories, lack of computers or laptops, and technical problems.

The challenges facing distance learners are compounded by internal practice of teaching and learning management, and the eLearning management who seem oblivious of the real circumstances of these learners.  Little or no acknowledgement is paid to the fact that these learners are disadvantaged by the digital divide factor, and therefore require flexible eLearning support structures and approaches. Hence this piece on eLearning challenges encountered by University of Botswana distance learners.

Technology has changed the way higher institutions organize teaching and learning globally. Although the emergence of eLearning predated the COVID 19 pandemic, the pandemic has accelerated its demand. The pursuit of a knowledge-based society has also led higher education institutions to invest in online programs, thus increasing educational access and mitigating the effects of the pandemic. However, due to poor infrastructural development and poor internet access, the adoption of eLearning has been a challenge to learners in Africa, with such challenges being very notable in African universities.

Furthermore, research has shown that e-learning has been under practiced in the past particularly by developing countries (Mpungose, 2020). However, the current COVID-19 pandemic has made it compulsory for the entire world to rely on eLearning for education. Nevertheless, learners, especially in Africa are overwhelmed by e-learning challenges they continue to face in their everyday learning. On the other hand, for example, learning practitioners at the University of Botswana fail to recognize barriers, and challenges of e-learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Distance learners at the University of Botswana are expected to join eLearning lessons and submit online assignments without fail.

By writing this academic paper I intend to communicate with relevant community of scholars, academic managers, IT practitioners and learners, the challenges of eLearning in an environment like the University of Botswana. My paper will be helpful as reference for both learners and scholars when they explore this area of teaching and learning during COVID 19. I hope to present a sound argument on the importance of establishing a new policy for an inclusive e-learning. This will call for administrative changes aligned with the demands of innovative, flexible, and effective eLearning approaches. Arinto (2016) notes that teaching approaches in e-learning settings are resistant to educational innovation as they are often tied to the traditional ways of teaching and learning, which are prone to inflexibility and inadaptability. While Arinto discusses Issues and Challenges in Open and Distance e-Learning from the perspectives of Philippine, I find the paper relevant to what I intend to communicate in my piece.

Goitsemang Mmeko

My name is Goitsemang Mmeko. I hold a Master’s Degree in Adult Education, and currently work as a research administrator for the SFA Research Network (Botswana Hub). My key areas of interests are in Community development, sustainability, and Research Management.