No Data, no credibility: A Case for an Effective M&E System for ODeL Learning and Teaching
Over the last two decades, African countries, with support from the international technical and funding agencies, have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in formulating and implementing Internet-based Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policies and programs in their bid to improve teaching and learning in schools and universities. One of the latest examples of such faith in using ICT to enhance access and quality of education took place in 2014 in Kenya where the government rolled out a’’Laptop Project” whose cost is estimated at USD 600 million. The project consists of equipping all the 20,000 primary schools in the country with tablets fully loaded with learning applications. At the university level, the African Virtual University and other initiatives have also been investing heavily in promoting Open and Distance e-Learning (ODeL) to offset the cost of putting up expensive physical infrastructure such as lecture halls and hiring and training thousands of lecturers to meet not only an ever-increasing demand for higher education but also to improve the quality of teaching through Massive Open Online Coursers (MOOCs) and Open Educational Resources (OERs). AVU is currently implementing an African Development Bank-funded project called the “AVU Multinational Project” that aims “to strengthen the capacity of the AVU and its network of institutions to deliver and manage quality ICT assisted education and training opportunities in selected African countries”. Currently, 27 higher education institutions in 21 countries are benefitting from the estimated USD 27 million project (phase 1 and 2). However, this investment in ICT seems more like a leap of faith in the capacity of ICT to improve education than a fully thought-out and systematically planned introduction of ICTs for specific results. In a study published in 2015, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) revealed that in most African countries, measurement of the ICT impact is more of a recent phenomenon as there are still many countries where data on ICT integration in education is being systematically collected and analyzed. Indeed, effective monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems are sorely lacking as illustrated by the paucity of data and its poor quality when it is available. Therefore, little is known about the nature of the African ICT programs and projects in terms of their scope and focus, costs and more importantly their impact (effectiveness and efficiency) on teaching and learning environments and learning outcomes. As a result, and as things stand now, any claims on successful ICT integration in education in many African countries is to be taken with a grain of salt in the absence of robust M&E systems to back up the data used to make the assertion.