Distance Learning Program for Agricultural Education in Southern Africa

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF2 // The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in collaboration with the In-Service Training Trust (ISTT) and the Directorate of Distance Education (DDE) at the University of Zambia is developing a distance-learning program for agricultural education in Southern Africa. The goal is to contribute to sustainable improvement of food security and alleviation of poverty, while protecting resources and environment, through access to knowledge by distance learning. // E-mailing and teleconferencing were used in conceptualizing the project, and in planning and implementing the program. ISTT organized an initial planning workshop on ”Materials development for a distance learning program for agricultural education in Southern Africa”. Thirteen participants, including four women, came from Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They represented governmental and nongovernmental institutions, engaged in agricultural training, research, and/or extension. // The workshop was highly interactive. The discussions revealed the need for distance learning materials in cowpea and soybean for extension workers. Field visits and discussions with resource-poor farmers emphasized the relevance of simple, but scientifically precise distance learning materials. // Participants, using their experience and knowledge in agriculture, farmers’ priorities, and principles of distance learning, produced course curriculum, course outline and drafts for the learning materials. After considering various media, print medium was chosen to effectively reach the target audience. Participants developed a long-term work plan. // Using an e-mail listserv and teleconferencing, resource persons provided guidance to the participants to improve their drafts. Lack of convenient and frequent access to telecommunications was a major obstacle. While developing learning materials through intervention from outside experts might have been easier, the project is deliberately based on participation and partnership to aim at effective and sustainable outputs. // Next steps will be a pretest with selected learning materials, and a follow-up workshop. //

South Africa