eLearning for National and International Agricultural Development:Progress and Challenges Buenafe R. Abdon PhD Student University of Tsukuba, Japan 22nd APAN Meeting National University of Singapore 17-21 July 2006
Outline • Agricultural challenges • Role of eLearning for knowledge development and information sharing in agriculture • Progress • Challenges • Suggested directions
Agricultural Challenges • Population growth • Increased market complexity and commercialization of agriculture • Continuing economic inequalities • The need to raise productivity without adversely endangering the natural resource base McCalla, 2001
Knowledge Dissemination • All of these problems do have workable solutions, yet the global difficulty is getting the appropriate information to farmers. Leary, 2006 • Knowledge — and related information, skills, technologies, and attitudes — will play a key role in the sustainable intensification of agriculture and success of rural development investments” Alex et .al., 2002
eLearning If education and capacity-building are critical steps for entering into the new global economy, e-learning should be considered a critical facet of basic development, an alternative medium of capacity-building and a means to people's empowerment Sehrt, 2003
eLearning • One form of distance learning, a type of educational situation in which the instructor and students are separated by time, location, or both. • eLearning typically involves the use of the internet to • access learning materials; • interact with the content, instructor, and other learners; • obtain support during the learning process • Allows participants to acquire knowledge, to construct personal meaning, and to grow from the learning experience.
eLearning Benefits • eLearning provides learning opportunities in subjects not offered locally or where local offerings lack quality • Ideally suited for individuals who lack time for classroom courses. • Experiencing an online class gives students the skills required for lifelong learning.
Does eLearning Work? Research now shows that traditional classrooms and virtual classrooms are about equally effective overall. It’s not the medium that makes the difference; it’s the way in which the designer and the instructor use the features that are available. Clark, 2005
Progress • Most eLearning programs in agriculture currently being undertaken in the world are in the pioneering phase. • eLearning in Canadian, European, American and Australian agriculture falls significantly behind the current adoption rates in non-agricultural sectors. Leary, 2006
Formal Education • year-to-year growth rate of 24.8% • estimated that 2.6 million students had enrolled in online courses by the end of the 2004 calendar year. Allen & Seaman, 2004 • Online Agriculture Degrees - http://www.worldwidelearn.com/agriculture-degrees.htm
Informal Education • 50% of North American farmers take advantage of the informal educational opportunities available through the internet through such services as e-mail (85%), searching information on agricultural products and services (78%), and news on agriculture (77%). • Not yet as prevalent in developing countries but evidence that developing country farmers and agricultural professionals are equally eager to learn in this way. • Agriwatch.com-http://www.agriwatch.com • ITC's eChoupal project -http://www.digitaldividend.org/case/case_echoupal.htm
Non-formal Opportunities Non-facilitated • AVRDC - http://www.avrdc.org/ • RDN Virtual Training Suite - http://www.vts.rdn.ac.uk/ • DFID - http://www.livelihoods.org/info/info_distancelearning.html • IRRI - http://www.knowledgebank.irri.org/ • Open Academy for Philippine Agriculture - http://cms.openacademy.ph/index.html Facilitated • Pilot courses offered by CG Centers, UN agencies, Universities • APRTC- http://www.sdlearn.net/APRTC/index.asp • SDLearn.Net - http://www.sdlearn.net
Challenges • Organization • User attitude • Cost • Content/Pedagogy • Technological Barriers
Organizations • As a whole, the organization must make some decision of the degree to adopt elearning. This may be informal like fostering an environment for interested instructors to move resources online, or it could be a formal strategic, enterprise-wide initiative. http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/elearningadoption.htm
Instructional Designers • Major problems lie in educators’ inability to bridge the technical divide. They must figure out how to present the material in an appropriate, user-friendly design so that elearners can translate that information into applicable solutions on the farm. • “Many extension agents and faculty lack the instructional design competencies to develop courses and programs using distance education delivery strategies” (Raulerson et al. 2004, p. 1005). • How to address need for “hands on” training.
Trainers/Instructors • Lack of time and skills needed in adopting new technologies • Concern about the loss of the teacher/student relationship • Lack of both formalized reward system and technical support • Financial rewards • Major increases in administrative work • Marketing for programs
Students/Farmers • Digital divide • Lack of computer literacy • Internet connections and phone lines are unreliable • Bandwidth is narrow • High cost of computers and connectivity • General skepticism about the effectiveness of eLearning • Difficulty in understanding the instructor as a "facilitator" rather than as a "teacher"
Suggested Directions • Pressure on development organizations • Technical and pedagogical support to educational institutions/agencies/instructors • Blending eLearning with traditional training • Reform of reward systems and administrative practices • Strong information campaign targeting potential learners • Continued investments in narrowing the digital divide. • Public funding for agricultural eLearning • Focus on knowledge intermediaries and agricultural professionals