From the various posts and articles, I have identified the following list of challenges.
1. Lack of internet access: The vast majority of South Africans do not have access to internet. This is enhanced by three factors: they do not have internet enabled devices, they do not have the finance for data bundles, or there is no significant internet in their area.
2. Underprepared Teachers/Lecturers: The people in charge of facilitating learning do not possess the skills to fully use the online learning platforms. We have many technophobic teachers and lecturers who will do all in their power to avoid using technology or to discredit its benefits. This is not to say that their arguments are invalid, but to say they have a natural resistance and they will probably not change in the near future. We also have another group which lacks the skills required to operate online.
3. Underprepared Institutions: Institutions can be underprepared for online learning in that their policies, visions and missions do not support or include online learning. As a result they lack the infrastructure and personnel to drive the online learning initiatives.
4. Lack of Skilled Personnel: Online learning requires both the technically skilled worker and the online pedagogically skilled individuals. Positions such as Learning and Instructional Designers did not exist in the past (10 – 15 years ago), hence it is not surprising that they are in short supply today. These people are the engine that gives value to online learning.
5. Lack of Finance: Online learning requires a substantial investment. The infrastructure, the skilled personnel for day to day operations take up a huge chunk of an institutions budget.
6. Inconsistent Power Supply: We all know that we have load shedding in South Africa. The inconsistent power supply poses a challenge of damage to online learning infrastructure. In addition, load shedding results in loads of network downtime and thus interrupting online learning.
On a website, Skills Universe, people commented on online learning. One participant commented that they developed interactive online university modules. They have spent a lot of money to ensure a good quality course but they are still struggling to get accreditation in South Africa. The SETA’s did not want to accept the technology and they were informed that “SAQA had not accredited the SETA for e-learning, so they were not in a position to accredit a provider for e-learning.” This shows us that there are still fields in South Africa that is not ready for the challenges and implementation of online learning.
The references on the MOOCS’ website for this course focusses mainly on e-learning. A challenge is that teachers are not equipped to implement e-learning in schools. E-learning courseware is designed for specific audiences but I am not so sure that this is always the case. A bigger challenge for me is that teachers are often overloaded with marking and extra-mural activities and will have to find the time to get trained. Many students and lecturers who are used to the traditional classroom based learning often measure the quality of learning by the information transmitted by a subject expert. I thought that the bigger challenge would be to improve computer and information skills but a bigger challenge is to get students to take responsibility for their own learning.
It was challenging to find statistics on on-line learning and how it increased over the years. South Africa is still in the beginning phase of online learning.