Working Group on Distance Education and Open Learning (WGDEOL)

Developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have contributed to advance the boundaries of human knowledge by reinventing the ways in which information is acquired and disseminated. Open Distance Learning may thus take advantage of the development and the availability of improved communication tools to provide a technologically enriched context. As most developing countries aspire towards knowledge-based economies, there is a corresponding pressure on formal education systems to deliver relevant, state of the art, employment-focused education and workforce training. This problem is compounded in Africa given the simultaneous pressures to meet EFA goals and MDGs. 
In this regard, the WGDEOL will focus on the proper integration of technological innovations, as well as socio-cultural implications of the objectives of quality and universal access in its activities. It is recognized that in technology-mediated education and training, technology serves as a means to efficiently transmit the information, and the quality of materials retains its importance.While DEOL cannot be a panacea, it can offer sustainable short term and long-term solutions to the educational dilemmas in Africa. DEOL aims to meaningfully unfold the potentialities and creativities of individuals and nations. It should be seen as actively supporting democratic ideals by opening up access to education and training; being increasingly non-discriminate and inclusive in its approach; mainstreaming marginalized audiences and stretching the established confines of traditional education.
 
What is the Working Group on Distance Education and Open Learning?
The Working Group on Distance Education and Open Learning (WGDEOL) was created in 1997 to help ministries of education, training institutions, and NGOs in Africa improve access to, quality of, and equity in education, and, in particular, to strengthen the capacity of the education system.
and equity in education, and, in particular, to strengthen the capacity of the education system. The lead agencies of WGDEOL are the Mauritius Ministry of Education, Culture & Human Resources and BREDA/UNESCO. A Steering Committee, that also comprises representatives of African Ministries of Education, agencies funding WGDEOL, and DEOL organizations like ACDE, is responsible for follow-up and evaluation of the working group\'s activities. Conventional ways of educating and training need to be reinforced by cost effective and innovative DEOL methods, if the fundamental right of all people to learning is to be realized.
 
What are the objectives of theWorking Group? 
WGDEOL is exploring the present day status and the future applications of DEOL in view of the current paradigm shifts in information network technologies as applied in education.
The activities of WGDEOL are geared towards sensitising all stakeholders ranging from practitioners to policy-makers about the importance of DEOL methodologies and related innovations in the educational scenario. These activities are mainly concerned with harnessing the potential of ICTs and demonstrating their outreach effectiveness through planned activities. Through ICT-oriented activities, and in close partnership with other ADEA WGs as well as international organizations, WGDEOL aims at establishing a space for providing synthesis and coherence to as many DEOL initiatives as possible in the region and developing partnerships and networks with other related organizations while assisting Governments to develop efficient DEOL plans and policies.
 
The Working Group's Strategy 
An important strategy of WGDEOL is to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas to ensure coherence of its activities with those of other Working Groups, which can effectively use DEOL methodologies to achieve their objectives. It aims at working simultaneously on all three strategic pillars that underpin the activities of the WGDEOL, that is research, advocacy and capacity building. To keep abreast of all developments in the sector as well as to provide informed advice on possibilities in the region, it is now concentrating on an emerging strategic pillar - coordination. The focus is also on enhancing teachers\' knowledge and competence in using ICT as it plays a pivotal role in the success of DEOL programs. \"It\'s not the Tech, but the Teach\" that guides the strategy and implementation of planned activities.

In order to be able to provide efficient and cost-effective multimedia training to the target group of employees and job seekers, it is essential to establish a closer cooperation between the respective professionals involved from the user side as well as from the supplier side. 
 
What does the Working Group do?
WGDEOL is committed to meet this challenge, and will invest in the development of value added services for the members of the respective networks with the objective to:

  • Seeking areas of collaboration with other Working Groups to amplify their activities and to meet ADEA programmatic objectives
  • Devising projects to promote MDGs and EFA goals on the African Continent
  • Developing strategies to deliver cost effective programs for capacity building and training of policy makers in Africa
  • Conducting comparative studies on the learning environment and learning strategies of distance learners
  • Mounting small-scale pilot projects on a regional basis in order to promote the application of new technologies.
  • Promoting the use of technology based DEOL for employees and job seekers
  • Facilitating exchange of information and good practice (web site, seminars)
  • Facilitating the development and demonstration of DEOL products and services
  • Supporting quality standards for all aspects of technology based DEOL in general. 
 
Publications
The working group has published several books assessing distance and open learning in Africa as well as the use of ICTs in education in Africa.Published books include:
  • Open Educational Resources Database
  • Selected Distance Education and Open Learning Initiatives in Africa
  • Africa: A Survey of Policy and practice 
  • Technological Infrastructure and Use of ICT in Africa: An overview 
  • Open and Distance Learning in Sub-Saharan Africa. A Literature Survey on Policy and Practices