Unlocking the transformative potential of blended learning in African universities

Black Student Using Laptop
Adeniyi Emmanuel
Adeniyi Emmanuel

Adeniyi is the ACU's Regional Engagement Lead for Africa.

The transformative potential of e-learning in African universities is undeniable. As educational landscapes evolve, e-learning is emerging as a catalyst for expanding access to education and fostering innovative teaching methodologies.

In this context, the Partnership for Enhanced and Blended Learning (PEBL) West Africa project has successfully pioneered efforts to build sustainable capacity for blended learning across 12 universities in Ghana and Nigeria. Blended learning mixes traditional classroom teaching with online learning activities, using technology to enrich the educational experience. It is a flexible approach that lets students learn partly in class and partly online. This matters because it opens education to more people, breaking down barriers of distance and time. Blended learning boosts educational quality and efficiency, preparing students for the digital world we live in.

At a landmark networking event held in Lagos, Nigeria, on 13 November 2023, stakeholders from participating universities gathered to reflect on the impact of the PEBL West Africa project and explore opportunities for ongoing collaboration beyond the project’s scope. This event served as a platform for partners to discuss current trends and policies in blended learning, setting the stage for a broader dialogue on educational innovation.

PEBL West Africa has yielded significant learnings that extend beyond individual universities. A key focus for the future is the establishment of a “community of practice”: a collaborative platform where educators can share insights, best practice, and resources to advance blended learning in the region. This community-driven approach is essential for sustaining the momentum of the PEBL initiative and fostering a culture of continuous improvement in teaching and learning.

Looking towards the future, African universities envision a comprehensive integration of blended learning into their educational frameworks. The long-term vision is to leverage technology to enhance teaching effectiveness, improve student engagement, and expand access to quality education. However, achieving this vision requires addressing various institutional and national hurdles.

Key institutional and national challenges that must be overcome to fully harness the benefits of blended learning include:

Infrastructure: Adequate technological infrastructure is essential for delivering seamless e-learning experiences. Universities must invest in reliable internet connectivity, computer labs, and digital resources to support blended learning initiatives.

Capacity building: Educators need ongoing professional development to effectively integrate technology into their teaching practices. Training programmes like those offered by PEBL West Africa are critical for building the skills and confidence of academics in utilizing blended learning approaches.

Policy support: Clear and supportive policies at the institutional and national levels are crucial for blended learning to move into the mainstream. This includes developing guidelines for course design, assessment methods, and student support services in blended learning environments.

Access and equity: Efforts must be made to bridge the digital divide and ensure that all students, regardless of socioeconomic background, have access to e-learning resources. This may involve providing subsidized devices or implementing innovative strategies to reach underserved populations.

In conclusion, the PEBL West Africa project has paved the way for educational transformation in Ghana and Nigeria through its commitment to building capacity for blended learning. By fostering collaboration, advocating for policy, and addressing critical challenges, PEBL partner universities are laying the groundwork for a more inclusive and innovative higher education landscape in West Africa.