NIED and NAMCOL both have past experience and present capacity in content creation and modification. NIED is responsible for developing the national curriculum and subject syllabi and thus has the most relevant expertise regarding subject related content development, standards, and teacher training and teacher resources. NAMCOL’s focus has been on creating materials and programs for out of school youth and lifelong learning. Both NIED and NAMCOL have been involved in digital content creation projects (described in detail in the Current initiatives and Partnerships section above). NIED is currently working with the Commonwealth of learning on e-content creation for grades 10 and 12 in the subject areas of accounting, entrepreneurship, English and physical science. In consultation with NIED stakeholders, it was noted while several NIED staff have trained in using software to develop digital content, the software used was proprietary. Thus, the expense of software licenses was prohibitive to further developing and utilizing those skills on an institutional level. NAMCOL has the most experience in multimedia content development. They have been involved with the Commonwealth of Learning, Mindset, and UNESCO in developing interactive digital media content. Content developed includes computer based modules, radio content, and video content. Because of their mandate to further ODL, they have actively sought to develop these skills. Recently, they developed 2009-2011 multimedia strategy which assessed their current strengths and weaknesses and future goals and strategies specifically in the development and distribution of multimedia content.21 The NOLNet e-learning centre was developed to serve as the national hub of e-learning in Namibia. While they have not been involved actively in content creation, they have expertise in e-learning training and e-content development. They have developed e-learning training program that includes a 20 week course in the following subjects:
e-learning management and
tutoring for e-learning communities.Error: Reference source not found
Given the above analysis of the current context in Namibia and consultation with stakeholders, at this time, Namibia is well positioned to undertake the digital education library project. By developing this library, Namibia has the opportunity to become a model for e-learning in the SADC region. The following sections provide recommendations in project management and implementation, technology development, content development, and funding.
Project Management and Implementation
Research into OER has shown that leadership, commitment and understanding of the open source and open educational resources movements, and institutional governing bodies, and explicit policy development are crucial for implementing and sustaining an OER approach. Both national policies as well as education sector implementation plans (the Tech/Na! implementation plan and ETSIP plan) reviewed above clearly support the integration of ICTs into the education sector, the creation of a digital content repository, and the creation of locally relevant digital content. Namibia is in the process of developing and Open and Distance Learning Policy to guide the introduction of OER approach at the university level and for out of school training.
It is recommended that this policy be expanded to include primary and secondary levels of education. Because the challenges and opportunities are different at the basic education level than the tertiary level and non-formal education, this policy will need to consider needs specific to primary and secondary school. A coordinate policy should be first grounded in the identified needs of the education sector, taking into account not only content and technological infrastructure development but also addressing intellectual property rights and pedagogical approaches to teaching are necessary in order to fully guide and OER approach.
Strong governance bodies and institutional bodies currently exist in Namibia to guide the implementation of an OER approach. Each of these bodies has clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Namibia has developed a comprehensive and collaborative system that requires participation and input from sections of the education sector. In its attempt to promote collaboration in decision making, it has developed several multi-stakeholder committees to guide the implementation of technology in education such as NOLNet and the ICT Steering Committee. This has led to coordinate approach of the implementation of policies and programs in education.
Table 9 summarizes the proposed roles and responsibilities of these institutions for the digital library project based on recommendations from stakeholders and drawing on their mandates and strengths and weaknesses. It is recommended that the overall management of this project would be guided by the MoE, specifically the Division of Library Services in conjunction with the ICT Steering Committee. It is recommended that the operations of this project be managed by the NOLNet e-Learning Center. The e-Learning Center maintains a centralized server intended for e-content storage, has the capacity to maintain and upload content to such as system, and has the capacity to guide e-content development training. NIED will hold the primary responsibility for identifying and developing the course structure of the digital library, content creation areas, and play a role in content development. NAMCOL has the greatest capacity, both in terms of know-how and human resources, to develop digital content. NAMCOL has led the majority of the digital content production projects in Namibia to date; therefore, NAMCOL should also play a significant operation role in content repackaging and development.
Table 9. Stakeholders’ Roles and Responsibilities
Pilot Project Implementation Recommendations
The digital content available is primarily in secondary level subjects. Technology deployment to schools has also focused on secondary and combined schools to date. Given these two findings, it is recommended that both content development and deployment of a digital library be focused on secondary schools. Content development should be focused on defining course structure, adding existing content to this course structure, and identifying gaps where content needs to be created with the goal of creating full courses in priority subject areas. In addition to secondary schools, the MoE is working to deploy community centers, libraries, TRCs, and NOLNet centers with computer hardware, internet connectivity, and training of staff. In this way, teachers who currently do not have access to the internet or computer hardware at their schools can still access materials. Community members, parents, and students can access these materials outside of the school setting. A digital library pilot program should also include these institutions and teacher training colleges to begin to train teachers in utilizing this resource and content development. Furthermore, TRCs and NOLNet centers should serve as print centers for schools to print digital resources in areas where computer access is not yet feasible. A pilot program should also include the establishment of model classrooms to demonstrate effective use of the digital library. One possibility is that once the library is established that its deployment and training be coordinate with the knowledge network deployment on ICT curriculum integration training. Incentives should be established to encourage content creation by teachers. For example, national content creation contest could be carried out. Library deployment should include training with content creation tools.
The deployment of hardware and internet by the NETSS centre has made significant progress. TRCs, teacher training institutions, and NOLNet centers all currently have access to computer hardware and the internet. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of secondary and combined schools have been deployed and the library deployment initiative is well under way.
The technological capacity both in terms of creating and maintaining a digital platform and digital content creation is under developed in Namibia. While Namibia has begun to experiment with digital platform development and use, the lack of consensus on which system to employ has hampered the use of these platforms. Even within institutions, such as UNAM, multiple platforms are used and are not integrated. As part of the feasibility study, a comparison showed the differences in existing and potential functionality of digital platforms alternatives and repository software systems. None of these platforms are being used to the full software capacity. An ideal digital platform would not only serve as a repository for open content, but also have content creation tools, and web 2.0 collaboration tools (blogs, RSS feeds, ratings/comments). The Chisimba software has multiple collaboration and content development tools, but these functionalities are not being used. Greenstone, on the hand, serves mainly as a digital library repository. However, it is better supported in country with a community of users and with several individuals with experience and training in Namibia. It is recommended that Namibia move forward with the development of a unified digital education platform. A significant assessment that compares the costs of upgrading and improving existing platforms versus implementing a new platform should be undertaken. Another proposed platform option is the OLE platform (whose current functionality is also shown Table 7). Assessments should include both software development and capacity building costs. Appendix 6 shows the estimated costs of developing and modifying the OLE platform to meet Namibia’s specifications. A unified platform should focus on interoperability with other systems and functionality that takes into account current use cases and future use cases and functionality.
There is knowledge of and support for utilizing open solutions in Namibia’s education sector. Technology implementation has been impeded in Namibia by the conflict between open source and proprietary solutions, most notably, between SchoolNet and Microsoft in supporting computers and servers to schools. In addition, proprietary software also had a negative impact on local digital content development because NIED could not afford the licenses for the content production software. This experience has greatly informed the education sector’s knowledge of the challenges of proprietary solutions. It is recommended that any further technology employed should be open source.
An inventory of content (Table 8) shows that the majority of digital content available is at the secondary school level. Because both content availability and hardware availability is primarily focused on the secondary school level, it is recommended that a digital library development would continue this focus in the first phase with the intended goal to develop full digital course materials for grades 8-12. The e-learning content training expertise exists to support this project through the e-Learning center in Namibia. NAMCOL has an excellent track record of digital content development and much can be learned from their experiences. It is recommended that both NIED and NAMCOL have further support in developing digital content and additional human resources focused on digital content creation. NIED will play a significant role in identifying existing content, organizing content into useful course structures, and evaluating and modifying identified open education resources to fit Namibian curricula.
There are 3 major components to this project: technology development and training, content identification and digital content development, and deployment and training to educational institutions. A major constraining factor in the implementation of this project is the capacity to support and develop the digital platform. Currently, no initiatives under way or organizations within Namibia can support this without significant investment of outside resources and expertise.
The second components, content identification and digital content development are currently being undertaken in Namibia. Projects by NAMCOL have led to the availability of body of digital content at the secondary level to be included in the library. Additionally, the MoE has recently signed an MOU with LearnThings to use their interactive digital content covering grades 8-12. The e-Learning Center has been established to support e-content development. ETSIP money should be designated for this purposes to begin to fill in the content gaps to create full courses for grades 8-12 at the secondary level. Another possible funding source is the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The Namibian government signed a US$304.5 million compact to reduce poverty and accelerate economic growth.22 They currently have a designated project for textbook procurement and distribution.23 Other previous funding sources of similar projects include the Commonwealth of Learning, the International Development Research Center, and Koha Foundation.
The final component the deployment and training associated with the use of digital library project can be linked with several complementary initiatives. First, Tech/Na! is progressively ensuring access to computers and the internet for schools and educational institutions. Thus, the funding to support the deployment of hardware will not be included in this project. Second, as part of the deployment teachers and educational administrations are being trained in ICT literacy skills through the ICDL program. In addition, the MoE signed a five year MoU with Knowledge Network to train teachers on ICT integration into the curriculum. The training structure is a series of activities that require and utilize ICTs and are guided by curriculum lesson plans. The deployment of the library can be linked to the overall deployment and the Knowledge Network training structures to avoid parallel or duplication of resources. Thus, the Ministry of Education will be a significant funding source through complementary approaches.
The purpose of this assessment was to determine 1) Will the creation of digital education library address challenges of education quality in Namibia? 2) Does this approach complement existing approaches and policies? and 3) What is the feasibility and readiness to begin implementing this approach?
The creation of the digital education library will have a significant impact on the realization of education goals of increasing quality of education and the acquisition of 21st knowledge based skills for Namibian learners. It is consistent with the national vision and policies and is compatible with education sector implementation plans. This project is consistent with designated education purposes and current practice. Considerable resources have been devoted to the ICT and education sector with the intent on hardware deployment, training/ICT literacy, digital content creation, and ICT integration into teaching and learning. However, it has been noted by many stakeholders that a barrier to using these resources is that there is no one unified system to deploy and access these resources.
As realized by the recommendations produced from education stakeholders in the 25 January 2010 meeting as well as consultations as part of the needs assessment, this project has overall acceptance and support by stakeholders. In addition, it will contribute to the improvement of equity in the education system by providing access to quality resources to areas and schools where they were previously inaccessible.
In light of the prevailing contextual conditions, the educational environment, and the readiness to implement new strategies, this project ranks high as far as enabling factors that promote readiness for implementation. The existence of several complementary projects, strong governance structures bodies, detailed policy instruments, and the specific institutions with e-learning mandates further increases the ability for Namibia to successful implement this project.
Namibia has devoted significant resources to the long term planning associated with the education and training sector. There is significant political will to support the effective integration of ICT into the education sector and a long term planning document, the Tech/Na! implementation plan, with specified activities, out come indicators, and a financial plan all associated with ICT integration into the educational sector. This all will contribute considerably to the overall sustainability of the project. However, significant funding gaps exist in technological development and training as well as to support the human resources for content creation.
Thanks to all the Namibian education stakeholders who participated in this consultative process. Special thanks to Mr. Johan Van Wyk (Director ICTs in Education Division of MoE), Ms. Veno Kauaria (Director of Library and Archive Services Division of MoE), Ms. Maggy Beukes-Amiss (UNAM and eLearning Centre) and Mr. Jens Schneider (E-Learning Centre) for their generous time insights, information, and access to resources.
1 MBESC (2004). National Report on the Development of Education in Namibia. Presented at the International Conference on Education, Geneva.
4 Education Training Sector Improvement Plan (ETSIP). http://www.nied.edu.na/images/etsip_%20programme%20%20document%20_%2023%20feb%202007.pdf and http://www.etsip.na/downloads.php
5 Isaacs, Shafika (2007). ICT in Education in Namibia (InfoDev Series: Survey of ICT and Education in Africa: Namibia Country Report). http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.420.html
6 ICT and Education Policy. http://www.tech.na/download/ICTPolicy2005_15March2005.pdf
7 Ilukena, Alfred. ICT Policy for Education: A Tale of Two Countries and Goveia, Jeffery and Alfred Ilukena (2002). Policy Support for ICY and Education: Overcoming Barriers to Communication, Sharing and Change. Journal for Education reform in Namibia. 15: 1-10 accessed http://www.nied.edu.na/publications/journals/journal15/15art4.pdf
15 CIA World factbook Namibia. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wa.html ; Isaacs, Shafika (2007). ICT in Education in Namibia (InfoDev Series: Survey of ICT and Education in Africa: Namibia Country Report). http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.420.html; Heirmstadt, Horst (2006). Information and Technology in Namibia: A Project of the High Commission of India to Namibia.
16 Van Wyk, Johan (2009). Tech/Na! Presentation (Internal Document).