Shifting Paradigms in Maintaining the Quality and Relevance of Professional Services in Teaching and Learning
Africa is currently at the confluence of many challenges in education. Its youth bulge, the inadequacy of training facilities for teachers, the conflicts that prevent learners from attending training institutions as well as the relatively new problem of access to and usability of ICTs in Education are all issues that it has to grapple with. In diverse manners, distance education offers many potential solutions to these problems. However to be effective, distance education as a solution provider needs to rely on trained and committed individuals that can truly help the continent to harness the powers of ICTs in education. The introduction of ICTs in Education and thus the contribution to the advancement of distance education in many countries, has been relatively slow and not without resistance in Africa. Recently in a UNESCO conference on Higher Education, Policies and Research: Quality and Future Challenges for Eastern Africa (May 2017), it became clear that a paradigm shift was required to effectively use ICTs in education. The paradigm shift in ODeLPD involves adopting perspectives, models, and methods that differ from traditional, face to face approaches. In this endeavor, tutors may show little familiarity and technological competencies needed for course implementation. This may introduce vulnerabilities that make traditional teachers uncomfortable. Targeted professional development can help resolve many of these dilemmas.
However, we need to ask one small question: What do we expect our learners (ODeLPD professionals) to accomplish? Those wishing to become distance education practitioners need to embrace two changes: (i) the adoption of distance education (DE) and the realization that it is very different from traditional teaching, as well as (ii) the informed adoption of technologies in open, distance and electronic learning (ODeL) situations. Both imply a change in attitude and skills that will lead current educational practitioners, especially those not in favor in distance education to relinquish their habits and adopt new teaching practices. This shift cannot happen overnight and requires continuous professional development as well as support to the existing and emerging distance education practitioners. Specific competencies or learning outcomes have to be delineated.
Professional development is the process by which a person maintains the quality and relevance of professional services throughout his/her working life . However, what are the learning outcomes that should be in ODeLPD programmes? How are these determined?