Growth of Online Degree Programs in Africa

Over the last two decades, Africa encountered major difficulties in adopting online programs on their tertiary education systems. This was primarily due to the lack of high-speed internet infrastructure, lack of regional collaboration on education policies, and issues arising due to geographical and socio-economic circumstances. During the 90’s, many countries in Africa were still relying on radio transmitters and telephone systems as the primary mode of interactive communication. And these communication systems are limited only to the advantaged urban areas. Only until the rapid growth of internet access that began in the late 90’s when làm bằng đại học chất lượng African region experienced major improvements in the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) method of education.

The growth of online degree programs in the African regions can be mirrored from the various research studies conducted by several international organizations over the last three decades. To establish the link between ODL and the growth of online degree programs in various Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the continent, we uncovered the facts and figures on these studies. The information we gathered helped us arrive on these key findings.

Open and Distance Learning by UNESCO, 2002

According to the study, the rapid growth on internet access was largely observed in many countries in Africa from 1996 to 1999. The growth was attributed to the commitment of African governments in the development of Information and Communication (ICT) infrastructures. Parallel to the improvements on internet access, many universities began to adopt ODL systems. The so-called shift of learners from single mode to dual mode institutions, also known as virtual universities, was then observed at the turn of the century. According to South Africa’s Council on Higher Education, six campuses with the largest distance education programmes have around 65,000 students enrolled in online courses.

Significantly, online programs including certificate, diploma, bachelors degree, masters degree and other undergraduate and postgraduate courses were taught on various HEIs. These HEIs are the University of South Africa, University of Pretoria, University of Port Elizabeth, Afrikaans University, Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning, Open University of Tanzania, and Zimbabwe Open University.

Trends and Future Directions in Open and Distance Learning Practice in Africa by IISTE, 2014

Despite the existence of many open universities across Africa, many analysts still regarded online education in the continent in its infancy stage. One of the known reasons to the slow progression in ODL market was the lack of highly qualified teachers and human resources with expertise in implementing and supporting the hi-tech delivery methods of ODL, particularly in many remote areas.

The ODL market in the African region experienced dramatic changes when new forms of distance learning that are based on new information and communication technologies emerged in the late 2000s. Globalization created better cooperation among learning institutions and governments in the region. One of the most remarkable impacts of this trend was the enhancements of online degree programs offered by many open universities, one of which is the National Open University (NOUN) in Nigeria. In 2012, it was reported that the open university has been admitting over 30,000 online students each year.

The Africa Market for Self-paced eLearning Products and Services: 2011-2016 Forecast and Analysis by Ambient Insight, 2013

Africa gained continuous support from international NGOs in funding and deploying learning technology in educational institutions. Online programs offered by top open universities like the University of South Africa (UNISA) and African Virtual University (AVU) were upgraded due to the wide scale digitization of academic content in partnership with internationally-recognized private companies. Some of the organizations that showed high interest on investing in education facilities throughout the region were the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Microsoft, Samsung, Digital Links, SEACOM, British Council and Moodle.

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