Win-Win Partnerships around ODeL: A Path to Sustainability in African Universities
As African higher education institutions are struggling to expand access and improve quality and relevance in resource-strapped countries, building mutually-beneficial partnerships among institutions is a must. This is all the more important as universities are embarking on the use of ODeL to mitigate the challenges presented by the cost of expanding access from a very low base and ensuring at the same time quality education. ODeL, however, comes also with a hefty price tag at the early stages of its implementation and requires a major paradigm shift in the current business model of universities. If donors and governments have financially supported the introduction of ODeL and continue to do so, this will not be always the case in the long run. As it is, the current world economic crisis and the dwindling rent money generated from export of mineral resources and other commodities are negatively affecting education budgets; and more particularly those of higher education. Therefore, universities have to find new sources of income.
With respect to their business model, introducing ODeL leaves no choice for African universities but to rethink the way they do business. This entails among other things the need for strategic repositioning (organizational model), development of new approaches to instructional delivery, student body management, assessment and certification, professional development of faculty, research and development, etc. This paradigm shift is heavy for any institution to shoulder alone without technical support from a network of institutions going through the institutionalization of ODeL with its corollary challenges. Hence,the importance for African universities to enter into partnership frameworks with other universities and institutions at the national, sub-regional, regional and international levels.