Customized distance learning: new solutions to education and development challenges in sub-Saharan Africa


Customized distance learning in Africa: meeting
3 January 2017

In today’s information age, customized distance learning, which offers more flexible access to education, is becoming a widespread trend. This has prompted the need to come up with innovative ways to deal with the present challenges of education and development. Against this background, an international seminar entitled Responding to the Challenges and Emerging Demands for Continuing Education Through Customized Distance Learning took place at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) in Hamburg, Germany, on 28 and 29 November 2016. Representatives from the Association of African Distance Learning Centers (AADLCs) and experts in non-formal adult education participated in a two-day workshop to familiarize themselves with new technologies in distance learning so as to strengthen their capacities for action.

In his welcome address, UIL’s Director, Arne Carlsen, underlined the importance of using modern technology in distance learning as a vehicle through which major educational and developmental challenges could be tackled in an optimal and cost-effective manner.

The event was co-organized by UIL and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Research and Development on Education and Training Throughout Life (CIRDEF) at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) in collaboration with the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF). Participants included 11 AADLC heads and senior managers from Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, United Republic of Tanzania, and Uganda, as well as six specialists from UIL, CIRDEF and Solidarité Union Coopération (SUCO). They looked at the great potential of distance learning and education and how it could be mobilized and effectively deployed to address some of the key challenges – particularly those related to education, climate change, food security, and sustainable development – confronting sub-Saharan Africa. A key point in the discussions was that distance learning could help governments and NGOs overcome the huge constraints imposed by geographical distances and terrain, making it possible to provide hard-to-reach communities with basic educational services.

The following conclusions were reached:

  1. There is an urgent need to further document and publicize the mandate, functions and successes of African Distance Learning Centers (ADLCs).
  2. It is important to strengthen and further consolidate efforts and networking within ADLCs and internationally.
  3. Opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and partnerships between ADLCs and UIL on common areas of interest including literacy, climate change and energy should be further developed in the coming years to establish customized distanced learning within a lifelong learning perspective. This will ensure sustainability.

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