The Future of South African Education is Online

The onset of the Digital Age has affected the South African landscape in a number of ways. Better connectivity and infrastructure, a boom in online business and an upsurge in e-learning institutions both locally and internationally, are just some of the outcomes.

The way we receive, exchange and absorb information is changing. This change has given rise to an unprecedented opportunity to adapt and transform the environments in which we learn. In terms of school-based education, this adaptation is already beginning to take shape throughout the country.

E-Learning For Learners

Recently Brian Schreuder, Deputy Director-General for Curriculum and Assessment Management at the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) was interviewed by LitNet, on the province’s 20 year vision for e-learning. According to Schreuder, the WCED plans to implement a strategy that has six concurrent streams, namely:

  1. eCulture (building a culture of digital advocacy and communication)
  2. eEnvironment (setting up high-speed connectivity in all schools)
  3. eTechnology (smart classrooms, Slim LABS, teacher and learner devices)
  4. eTeachers (ensuring support and development for all educators)
  5.  eContent (providing access to digital content for all subjects as well as other resources)
  6.  eAdmin (digitising admin systems to make educators’ lives easier)

This digital strategy by the WCED, is part of a “plan to create an enabling environment in which 21st-century teaching and learning can take place using digital resources to enhance learning,” said Brian Schreuder. The plan is a game-changing one – one that will begin to bridge the digital divide at school level not only by equipping learners with digital literary skills but also by training educators.

E-Learning For Educators

The South African Council for Educators’ (SACE) Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) System requires all educators to earn professional development points by performing SACE endorsed activities. One of the most effective ways in which educators (principals, deputy-principals, HOD’s and teachers) can fulfill their CPTD requirements is by completing activities that have been tailored for this target group by e-learning provider, learndirect South Africa. On the topic of why e-learning is the most effective tool for self-improvement and skills development in the educational context, learndirect SA’s CEO, Dan Carter said:

“In developing learndirect South Africa, I have had the privilege of engaging with educators across departments and levels of employment. What I’ve experienced is an educational workforce that is waking up to the opportunities that the digital world presents. Educators are ready and willing to advance themselves by participating in activities like keyboard skills, environmental conservation, leadership skills and even learning new languages. It’s inspiring to see. And I’m honoured to be able to provide a system that works and that sees many first-time educators returning to participate in different activities for their own personal growth.”

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E-Learning In The Workplace

The influence of digital learning of course does not end in schools. E-learning is a powerful tool for career advancement, personal growth and skills development. Employers across the board are using e-learning as a way to train employees and encourage a culture of ongoing development in the workplace. A number of studies continue to show that e-learning can in fact be more effective than more traditional forms of education, particularly in the case of adults. According to the Research Institute of America: 

“e-learning increases retention rates 25% to 60% while retention rates of face-to-face training are very low in comparison: 8% to 10%. This is because with e-learning students have more control over the learning process as well as the opportunity to revisit the training as needed.”

Is it effective in the South African context? HR Pulse suggests that it is. This employer targeted online publication provides five reasons for why e-learning is the best training solution:

Employees interact with technology and digital systems every day from workflow management programs to cloud-based accounting and payroll systems. E-learning is therefore an intuitive and accessible way to get training.

  • E-learning is cost-effective, taking into consideration that it removes the necessity for venue hire, professional trainers and travel costs.
  • The flexibility of e-learning is unmatched because it is self-directed – employees can learn at their own pace, in their own time according to predetermined goals. All that is needed from the organisation is access to a reliable internet connection and the relevant device.
  • E-learning is enjoyable and practical in the sense that most modules include an interactive component where learners play an active role in the learning process. A number of tools supplement the experience, including video, quizzes, animation and online reading material.
  • Geographically, e-learning ensures maximum accessibility. Offices that may be in different regions or parts of South Africa can gain access to the same material and learning experience without any added cost.

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Education’s move from the offline to the online sphere is an intuitive one. Communication, socialising, banking, shopping – activities that were once confined to the offline arena have become part of life online. Naturally, education is following the same progression and with astounding effects.

The future is a promising one – one in which tried and tested traditional methods of education will merge with e-learning to provide for an experience that will be more suited to the needs of a range of different learners. Large corporates are investing billions into online education and with entrepreneurs pouring their efforts into e-learning start-ups, the industry will continue to thrive.

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