Capacity building and skills development are integral to harnessing the transformative potential of the ongoing development and increasing sophistication of information and communication technologies (ICT). Over the last two decades, explosive worldwide growth in mobile service penetration, coupled with increasing availability of Internet access, has significantly extended opportunities to access information, communicate and collaborate, and to improve economic and social circumstances.
Ensuring that digital skills keep pace with technology is extremely challenging given the dynamic nature of ICT, reflected in the rapid development of networks, modes of service delivery, technology speeds and devices. Today multiple services are delivered on smart devices using converged networks. While traditionally separate networks delivered telephony, television and Internet services, now all of these services can be performed over an IP network.
This network convergence has led to the emergence of triple- and quad-play packages – video chat, video and photo sharing, social networking and other applications – which are becoming increasingly popular. A growing number of people are now using over-the-top (OTT) communication services and accessing Internet,
watching videos/TV and interacting with others on personal smart devices. This article elaborates on capacity building through distance learning among the other forms of capacity building like workshops, bootcamps, etc.
Digital pathways for distance learning
In the digital era, the demands of the typical student in higher education include the use of ICT in teaching methods, flexible timing and location to complete studies, and real world applicability of courses. Such demands lead to pressure on universities and other higher learning institutions to introduce new processes and resources, while teachers may be expected to modify teaching methods in the absence of any additional training.
Paula Alexandra Silva considers ways of accommodating and adapting to today’s students’ learning expectations: namely, to be taught anything, anywhere, anytime. She explores capacity building in the context of distance education, using case study evidence from her own experience of teaching the same module with two different approaches: entirely online, and with a blend of online and face-to-face sessions.
She reports successful results from both approaches, with the support of commonplace software solutions rather than any formal e-learning technologies. She uses this result to encourage teachers to experiment with such approaches, employing simple software tools, even with no formal training.
A key recommendation for the teacher is to identify course goals prior to choosing technologies, since the technology should be regarded as a facilitator. One potential negative implication of reliance on distance learning is the lack of human interaction which may foster isolation. It is important to note that Silva identifies the synchronous class time which occurred in both approaches as extremely valuable to both teacher and students, particularly in relation to creating opportunities for review and feedback.
Furthermore, she highlightscommunication, collaboration, problem solving,critical thinking and creativity as key competenciesfor success in today’s job market. As such, teachershave a responsibility to ensure opportunities existto develop such skills in the context of the newonline distance learning environment.As higher education institutions seek to integratetechnology, pedagogy and content knowledgeinto effective online teaching environments, moreresources are being devoted to the professionaldevelopment of staff. However, adjunct facultystaff – the section of the professional academicworkforce outside the tenured system – presentparticular challenges for building online teachingcapacity. In contrast to permanent full-timeteaching staff, adjunct staff typically are offeredfewer opportunities for professional development.
Education in the future: smart learning
The digital transformation, heralded by Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data analytics, is already bringing innovation to learning methodologies and tools, through “smart learning” practices. The amalgamation of smart devices and intelligent technologies offers a powerful means of enhancing and extending the learning experience. successful utilization of AI, analytics and big data will facilitate the development of smarter learning systems which accommodate individual learning needs.
Authors differentiate the characteristics of smart learning environments from common digital learning environments, in terms of learning resources, tools and methods, teaching methods, and learning and teaching communities. Using this context they then examine a series of smart learning initiatives from Malaysia, Peru, Rwanda, Spain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The analysis of these initiatives illustrates smart learning systems and practices in action in many different guises, including personalized mobile learning initiatives, designing learning through gamification, curation of e-content, and the use of communities of learning to enhance the pedagogical impact.
The examples demonstrate that, while moving from common digital learning to smart learning environments may be challenging, smart practices add new dimensions
to the learning experience by prioritizing the individual learner. Further advances in this area will be achieved through efficient planning and the dissemination of effective international smart learning practices and examples. The authors of this article commit to undertake further research to create a framework for international smart learning practices, including practical and affordable examples.
Designing effective capacity building programmes
Advances in ICT can potentially expand educational opportunities from non-existent to lifelong learning possibilities. Similar revolutionary change is possible in other sectors, providing powerful impetus for substantive improvements in the social and economic welfare of disadvantaged groups, communities and countries. However, while the opportunities afforded by ICT may be relatively straightforward to identify, the implementation of sustainable initiatives often presents major challenges.
As such, in designing capacity building programmes, it is particularly useful to build on
previous experience and to engage in collaborative efforts whenever possible.
- Joyline Makani, Martine Durier-Copp, Deborah Kiceniuk and Alieda Blandford, “Strengthening Deeper Learning through
Virtual Teams in e-Learning: A Synthesis of Determinants and Best Practices,” International Journal of E-Learning &
Distance Education 32(2) (2016).
- Tore Hoel and Jon Mason, “Standards for smart education-towards a developmental framework,” Journal of Smart
Learning Environments 5(3) (2018): 23
The author is the Membership Admin (Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana)