A Trojan Horse in the Midst of African Universities: Using ODeL to Promote Continuous Professional Development among Faculty
The introduction of an innovation is always a great opportunity for reform in any institution. More often than not it brings about a paradigm shift and by so doing it leads leaders, managers and field actors to interrogate their long-held assumptions vis-à-vis their own knowledge and practices. Even the most change-resistant actors do give in overtime as change becomes inevitable. This is what is currently happening within African universities with the introduction of Open and Distance eLearning (ODeL). As an innovation, ODeL is having a profound effect on traditional teaching and learning practices in African universities.
Ezati and Mugimu (2010) conducted a case study on Continuous Professional Development (CPD) at Makerere University in Uganda which revealed the level of conservatism of some of the faculty. Their findings pointed out that some faculty members “felt that training on teaching and student learning was not important…. At the beginning of the training, they felt that they already knew what to do’’ as they believed that they were sufficiently knowledgeable. However, when the training began one of the faculty confessed that “On the first day I thought we were knowledgeable but after the training I discovered I was lacking important skills to deliver my subject matter to the students effectively.” In their findings, the authors underscored the following areas where training on teaching techniques is needed: eLearning, teachers’ ethics and code of conduct in teaching, research supervision skills, and student support. They concluded by a general observation on African universities where professional development for faculty is seriously lacking unlike at other levels of education. According to them, this explains the “feeling among university staff that professional development courses designed by their university are not important to them”.