INFORMATION technology now provides several avenues for acquiring education through a number of channels. As the vast web of global and local information networks grows, several new skills and forms of literacy is now available for anyone who wants to reap the full educational benefits of the information age.
With the availability of the Internet, educators now have access to a universe of resources to provide education in various formats. Several ICT-driven learning models such as m-learning (mobile learning), h-learning (hybrid learning), OD-learning (open and distance learning), e-learning, u-learning (ubiquitous learning) and several others have emerged.
This article describes new pedagogical approaches that have emerged as a result of the impact of information communications technologies.
Mobile and wireless technology use in Africa has increased over the years and the use of it has become an integral part in the average African communicative lifestyle. Given the proliferation of mobile telephone use across all sectors of the continent, it is be- coming increasingly evident that mobile technology can be leveraged to deliver flexible educational opportunities to more and more Africans looking for options to further their education.
Mobile technologies have transformed the traditional ways of knowledge acquisition into more flexible, 'anytime', 'anyplace' ways of learning. Devices such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), palmtop, handheld computers, mobile/cell phones, PC tablets, alongside other wireless communication devices are used in .promoting m-learning. Such mobile devices can be used to provide wireless access to educational materials in the form of email, voice, and text messaging.
Due to the widespread use of mobile phones in Africa, m-learning is attracting a new group of learners who have been put off by traditional educational methods. M-Learning is being used to facilitate both individual and collaborative learning, and provides a non-threatening, personalised learning experience.
The use of m-learning has made educational opportunities accessible to students who in the past 2 lacked opportunities due to factors such as work, geographical distance, time, family responsibilities, and lack of adequate financial resources.
Also, m-leaning has made it possible for learning to occur anywhere and doesn't require concentration of building and the reliance of extensive traditional educational infrastructure.
Another educational model that has emerged as a result of the information revolution is blended learning, defined as a combination of multiple approaches to teaching and learning. A typical example of this would be a combination of technology-based materials and face-to-face sessions used together to deliver instruction.
"Blended learning" can also be used to describe arrangements in which "conventional", offline, non- electronic based instruction happens to include online tutoring or mentoring services.
Over the past few years, a number of academic and corporate institutions are increasing resorting to this model of educational delivery. Experts predict that blended learning will be the educational model of choice for most institutions over the next couple of years.
Traditionally, the two learning environments have been viewed separately. This is partly because the two have been- viewed as addressing the needs of different audiences. For example, traditional face-to-face learning has been with us since the days of Socrates when direct democracy was practiced in ancient Greece. It is instructor-directed with face-to-face interaction in a live synchronous environment.
In a blended learning environment, the emphasis is on self-paced learning and learning materials interactions that typically occurred in an asynchronous environment, for the most part. Educators have used the terms "tyranny of proximity" and tyranny of distance" to describe the two learning environments.
Blended learning provides instructionally effective, highly interactive learning experiences that are flexible, equitable and responsive to individual student's learning styles. It has the potential of addressing challenges inherent within higher education in Africa.
Closely related to the above learning model is asynchronous learning, defined by the Webster's Dictionary as something not happening at precisely the same time thus, it refers to learning opportunities that occur or can be accessed at any time or place. Raquel Benbunan-Fich and Starr Roxanne Hiltz define Asynchronous Learning Networks- (ALN) as a Computer-Mediated Communication System designed to support "anytime/anywhere" interaction among students and between students and instructors. It uses online resources to facilitate information sharing outside the constraints of time and place among a group of people.
A number of online learning resources such as electronic mail, mailing lists, threaded conferencing systems, wikis, and blogs in addition to proprietary and open source learning management systems (e.g., MoodIe, Sakai, Blackboard, WebCT) have been used to support asynchronous learning.
These tools have allowed users to interact in a virtual learning environment. Sometimes: these tools are supplemented with synchronous tools such as chats and videoconferencing. Second Life is one known site that has been used to facilitate-this kind of learning.
The massive adoption of asynchronous and synchronous learning tools will facilitate the creation of a literate society, a literate workforce, and a knowledge-based society. Adopting these learning tools will make it possible for educators in physically unconnected places to be connected to global educational resources such as online journals, electronic library resources, and teaching tools.
The expansion and enrichment of our educational system can only happen if we adopt a massive scale new learning technologies to connect teachers and learners to the knowledge they need, wherever that knowledge exits. Such innovations and initiatives will make enormous contribution to the. development of education on a global scale.
Source: The Ghanaian Times