African universities see the future in MOOC
By Laurence Caramel
The Monde.fr 08.05.2015 at 6:08 pm
Imagine: with just a little money, it will soon be possible to rent a piece of land in an Egyptian village, install a dozen computers connected to Internet broadband, to hire a local teacher as facilitator and to invite all those who want to take a course online (subtitled in Arabic) with the best teachers of the world. Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Senegalese philosopher and Professor at the American University of Columbia, likes to quote this utopian vision proposed by the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in 2013. Not because he supported blindness, but because he sees in the digital revolution a realistic promise for Africa.
Invited to deliver the inaugural conference on the challenges of digital for higher education in Africa, organised on 6 and 7 may by Unesco (United Nations education, science and culture) in Paris, graduate of normal Sup intellectual summarized its hopes: "Africa is going to have to face the doubling of its population. '' The pace at which it will be able to build infrastructure and train teachers will always be lagging behind the increasing influx of new students. The MOOC are a technological innovation which it must prepare to take advantage to meet the dual challenge of the explosion of demand and unequal access to education. »
MOOC to Massive Open Online Course that francophones were translated by Olmcs (massive and open online courses). These four letters have in a few years upsetting the landscape of access to knowledge, desegregating the boundaries between most elite institutions and mass education. Why Africa is to deprive? "The Harvard lecture on justice was followed by a thousand students in the United States. Converted to MOOC for South Korea and China, it has already received 20 million hits,"gives an example Souleymane Bachir Diagne. The issues of higher education in Africa in one click?
A lifeline for systems in crisis
Crisis economic, structural adjustment plans and priority given to basic education in the context of the Millennium goals for development: all fifteen years contributes to higher education the poor relative of African education systems. Lack of infrastructure, lack of teachers, leakage of researchers abroad where they are laboratories that provide real ways of working…
At the same time, high school graduates come knocking more and more doors universities. On the continent, the number of students has increased from 200,000 in 1970 to 5 million in 2014 and staff continue to increase by 9% per annum, twice faster than the rest of the world. The University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar serves 80 000 students to 50,000. 'When it is situation where students are listening out the window or in appalling conditions, it would be better that they can take courses online', says the philosopher.
Read also: "Africa's development cannot be separated from that of digital.
To cope with this influx, private institutions multiply widening inequalities between the sons and daughters of good families who can afford to offer the best training and others. "Ivory coast, there are five public universities for 134 private higher education schools and 38 private", are Denise Houphouët-Boigny, Côte d'Ivoire to Unesco Ambassador.
It gets stuck on the bandwidth
Before be dazzled by the online course on "introduction to probability" given by Sylvie Méléard (École polytechnique) or on 'the economics of the currency' Perry Syed (Columbia University), yet does have electricity and the network.
"Most of the students have not the means to equip. I touched my first computer at the University and whenever there is a power failure, the course would jump,"testifies Senegalese Abass Sagna, today young lecturer at the University of Paris-Evry fearing that"Africans don't put the cart before oxen"focusing too much on the MOOC.
"Mali and Ivory Coast, universities cannot reach to satisfy 10% of their needs for access to the Internet. It's a little better in Burkina Faso,"acknowledges Seydou Sissouma, Commissioner for the human development of the WAMU (West African Monetary Union) in holding an urgent need to organize negotiations with the operators to lower prices for access to the network. The WAMU supports the development of ICT (information and communications technologies) at eight universities in the region. 2000 computers will be installed on each of the campuses and 16 km of optical fibres learned to complete the missing links in the network and expand bandwidth.
Across the continent, digital projects multiply. "The African Virtual University (AVU) was created in 1997, recalls Odette Fokapu-bunch, of the institut universitaire de technologie de Compiègne. There are digital campus in all countries. Cameroon and Senegal have their virtual universities and Ivory Coast prepare." For what teaching?
African MOOC or ready to consume imported?
'African teachers should not turn into simple repeaters of courses given by prestigious foreign', warns Souleymane Bachir Diagne by defending the idea of a production of African MOOC. "Africa must show what she can do. "Being crushed by this virtual excellence: this prospect frightens most academics of the continent. Enthusiastic pioneer in the use of digital teaching, the Professor of medicine Albert – Marc Benhamou wishes to reassure: "1000 MOOC on health will not be a doctor. Digital can make extraordinary things but the pedagogical relationship with teachers remains fundamental. Do not dispossessing them of their role of transmission. »
In universities, the heads of institutions must manage the reservations. This call for competition with foreign stars feeds already grumbling. "Most teachers are evidence of resistance. They are afraid to be stripped of their power and that it will reduce their hours of courses", reflects Ramata Bakayoko-Ly, the President of the Cocody University Houphouët-Boigny. "5% of teachers are ready to compete, 5% will ever want, and remains 90% to motivate", summarizes the Togolese Komlavi Francisco Seddoh, former Director of the division of higher education at Unesco.
Read also: the Moocs: massive, open and African
Several international cooperation projects have been launched to make African teachers are not passive witnesses this 'digital tsunami '.
In 2014, the agence universitaire de la francophonie (AUF) has funded the creation of six MOOC made in Africa. The Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne has created a "MOOC for Africa" program through which it provides to universities to develop their own content. Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal, Tanzania and Ivory Coast already benefited.
The digital revolution offers the dream of upscale and inclusive education. But, as noted, Faouzia Masterton, former responsible of the national laboratory of digital resources of National Education at the Morocco, "the majority of the MOOC emanate private businesses or foreign public universities. Can we seriously believe that these establishments that sell their training for some of them to gold prices, to convert to free to help Africa? Behind the euphoria, it is the unspoken. "In reality, in most cases, the student must pay for certification followed successfully provided courses. Distance education is a huge market and if the States are not involved to regulate it, there are big risks that the dream flies away in smoke. »