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The value of e-learning in the developing world

This post was written by Kayleigh Tanner and first appeared on the Epic blog on 27th September 2014.

As a new member of the Epic team, I’m learning a vast amount about e-learning in a very short space of time. To get myself up to speed on the big industry topics, and to tap into my journalistic background, I’ve turned to the news for a broad, digestible introduction to the subject. After sifting through lots of pieces centred about the potential for UK-based online university education, this article about the role e-learning can play in communities throughout the world particularly caught my eye.

The Advanced Learning Interactive Systems Online project – the Alison project for short – offers more than 500 online courses to more than two million students, with rapid expansion taking place. It focuses primarily on providing vocational training for people around the world who might not have access to traditional universities who would like to develop skills in areas such as learning English, food safety and immunology to equip communities with the essential skills they need.

This could have huge repercussions for the swathes of the world without access to quality face-to-face education, as leading academics can deliver their content remotely through Alison. Already, a deal has been struck whereby 12 million young people in the Arab world will be trained using Alison to allow them to develop skills that may otherwise be unavailable.

E-learning is already establishing itself as a crucial aspect of education and training in developing countries. It isn’t only useful from a practical perspective; it’s also a cost-effective solution which can quickly provide developing communities with the resources they need to improve their skills. The Kepler project focuses on delivering vocational skills to the people of Rwanda, while the African Management Initiative (AMI) has developed Africa’s first MOOC, and will initially provide e-learning content to those wishing to learn basic management skills.

Another thing to consider is the platforms on which e-learning is delivered. A rural village in Africa may have a temperamental electricity supply, so delivering content over smartphones rather than computers could be a better solution. Mobile communications in Sub-Saharan Africa are vastly improving, and with the African economy growing at a rate of around 5% each year and a rapidly developing telecommunications industry, there could be a significant increase in smartphone users.

With this in mind, it’s worth remembering that the e-learning industry is all about innovation and adapting to the needs of the end users, whether this is putting a course on multiple platforms or enabling people to develop essential skills remotely. Even I, a newcomer to e-learning, am realising the potential for e-learning throughout the world, and I can only imagine that its continued use in developing communities is an exciting prospect for thought leaders and developers in the industry.