Western Cape fast-tracks eLearning “Game Changer”
The Western Cape Government (WCG) is making rapid progress towards introducing and supporting eLearning in public schools across the province. The WCG views eLearning as a “Game Changer” that will improve opportunities and help to address major challenges in education delivery in the province.
The WCG and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) are fast-tracking the game changer programme over three years to 2019.The overall objective is to enhance teaching and learning using digital technology, focusing in particular on mathematics and languages.
eLearning has tremendous potential for enhancing teaching and learning. The digital revolution is already affecting every aspect of life, including education. The WCG and the WCED are committed to working with schools and partners of all kinds to realise this potential. Digital technology has improved access to quality learning materials as well as resources for ongoing teacher development.
Digital technology has the potential of improving every aspect of schooling, from teaching and learning to assessment, school management and parent support. A key benefit of eLearning will be reducing the gap between poor and well-resourced schools, by improving access to the best education resources and support. Key components of the programme include connecting almost every school in the Western Cape to a high-speed, fibre-optic, broadband network, or Wide Area Network (WAN). The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is also installing Local Area Networks (LANS) in schools that will connect to the WAN and provide Wi-Fi coverage to every classroom.
The WCED plans to connect 1 278 schools to the WAN, while seeking alternative connectivity for 191 schools, for example, remote schools that cannot be connected to the fibre-optic network. The WCG’s service provider connected 871 schools by October 2016 to the WAN, representing 68% of the schools currently targeted for this network. The department plans to install 178 local area networks, or LANs, in schools during the 2016/17 financial year. Their service provider installed 114 by October 2016, representing 68% of the financial year’s target.
The department plans to install eLearning technology in 7 277 “smart classrooms” as part of the game changer programme over the next three years.
The WCED has already completed 4 267 smart classrooms to date, with further 1 061 nearing completion by the end of October 2016. This brought the total so to 5 328, representing 73.2% of the target.
Other key components of the eLearning Game Changer programme include an eLearning portal, or “ePortal”, that provides access to digital content aligned to the curriculum.
The WCED has designed the ePortal to encourage teachers in particular to develop and share digital resources, and to participate in driving the introduction of eLearning in schools. The ePortal site includes simple tips on how to make educational videos, with examples of videos already made by teachers. The portal’s web address is http://wcedeportal.co.za. The WCED is aware that some schools are already providing leadership in eLearning, while others have the potential of doing so. All schools will benefit from the programme. For these reasons, the department has identified three types of schools for support, with varying roles and responsibilities. They are:
Universal schools: Teachers and learners will have access to digital resources via the WAN, computer laboratories and wi-fi access points.
Enhanced schools: These schools will have more resources to introduce, develop and experiment with eLearning concepts
Model schools: These schools will provide leadership by demonstrating best practice in diverse contexts. They will help the department to build a culture of eLearning in all schools.
The WCED has established six streams to drive the eLearning initiative across the province. They are:
eCulture, to encourage and support the adoption of eLearning as part of everyday teaching and learning practice
eInfrastructure, to ensure that schools have the connectivity needed for eLearning
eTechnology, to ensure that schools have the technology needed in classrooms for eLearning
eTeachers, to ensure that teachers have the training and support needed for eLearning
eContent, to ensure access to digital resources needed to enhance teaching and learning, and to encourage the development of these resources
eAdministration, to facilitate school administration using digital technology