Saturday, 9 December 2017

Year 2017 in retro….

The end of 2016 marked a landmark battle to keep the Centre for Innovative & Lifelong Learning intact amidst attempts to integrate it in the newly created Faculty of Information, Communication and Digital Technologies. That was the best of all battles I fought with the management of the University since 2014 when CILL was established. 

The year 2017 however was the year of a complete turn-around when I was appointed as Pro VC (Planning & Resources), an appointment which came as a big surprise and completely unexpected. Although I never doubted in my own ability to take up this challenge, the aim behind me sending an application was completely different. I recall my good friend telling me "if you get interview, then it’s a chance to go and tell them what we do at CILL, and what is our vision of a university for the future”. This is what we did and we convinced them it seems…..

April 2017 – when I took over office I kept thinking why there were only two applications for this post, when many of us at this institution were certainly eligible. One thing that I realized though, the challenge was huge, but my previous experience in management and leading CILL and ex-VCILT for 8 years had given me something, which I even did not realize that I had. I knew in fact a lot about how the university functions, and I always used to say – ‘to change the system, you need to be in the system”.

I used to be a rebel thinker and a constant challenger of the traditional ways of doing things (i am still one) which had started to turn the university in a archaic system. I  practically became a non-conformist. I had a different perspective of what the University should be and how it should operate for the 21st Century. I still have one which is quite different from the current reorientation but its worth saying  there are many similarities. I had started to develop my own ideology and philosophy of organisational culture and values that would transform the institution into a better institution, according to me. So now I had become empowered at a higher level to do a number of things that I could not do at the lower level. Of course, I still have a boss (VC) and another colleague Pro VC to convince, but so far so good on a number of things for which I am given the latitude to act.

So what has been achieved in 2017? I will summarize mainly in bullet points covering the most urgent ones, which were pending since more than 3 years and which have been facilitated under my responsibility this year –

  • Decrease in postgraduate fees overall at the university to position the University as a preferred destination for both local and foreign students.
  • Approval of the University Technology-Enabled Learning Policy that remained stagnant since 2015.
  • Establishment of a framework for the University to engage in the Graduate Training Employment Scheme. 
  • Approval of the Internationalisation Strategy for the University to ensure the visibility of the University outside Mauritius (supposed to be approved in 2015).

These four key elements above will hopefully set a solid foundation to ensure the digital transformation of the University as well as ensuring the long-term sustainability of the institution. 

The focus for 2018 will now be as follows:
  • Transforming UoM in a value-driven organisation and developing a values-led culture among employees.
  • Development of an Open Educational Resources Platform for free dissemination of knowledge and content on a national and regional level.
  • Implementation of the technology-enabled policy and upgrade of the eLearning Infrastructure.
  • Capacity-building to train techno-preneurs through the BSc Digital Innovation and Enterprise which is based on a unique innovative pedagogical model.

Friday, 6 October 2017

UoM eLearning Africa 2017 Participation

The University of Mauritius conducted a one-day pre-conference workshop on Wednesday 27th September on Interactive Materials Development using a version of the Rapid eLearning Method conceived by CILL. 32 participants were registered and 19 were present for the workshop. Participants came from a variety of countries over Africa including the US and Europe. Among the participants were a Pro-Chancellor of a University in Nigeria, CEOs of NGOs, academics of Universities and technical support staff from institutions in the African Education Sector. Dr Santally, Pro Vice-Chancellor participated in the Core Dialog session on Thursday 28th September on Foresights and Trends in Higher Education where he made a presentation alongside another speaker from UK. A summary of the session is as follows:
The traditional model of education has been disrupted by a variety of factors, including globalization, the Internet, budget cuts and increased competition from the private sector. What does the future hold in store for us? Using ‘foresight tools’, this session will examine a range of probable, possible and preferable futures. It will also discuss emerging technologies and new trends in eLearning, assessing their potential impact on African education.
The title of the talk was “Trends, Challenges and Scenarios for Higher Education Institutions: Case Study of the University of Mauritius”. That was a very rich session in insights and questions/comments from the attendees. He was also part of the panel discussion on “ICT in Higher Education and Research in Africa” and in another UNESCO panel titled “Follow-up to the 2nd World OER Congress: Moving OER into Policy and Action in the Indian Ocean Commission Members”. He made a presentation on research work undertaken at the University in OER. Specialists from UNESCO (Mr Joe Hironaka), and Prof Daniel Burgos, Deputy VC Universidad Internacional de La Rioja (UNIR), Spain and Sophie Touze from the Open Education Consortium, USA. The key challenge is how to build sustainable educational model around Open Educational Resources.

Mr Halkhoree, Director CITS was also part of a panel of technology in education where he covered the historical evolution of ICTs at the University of Mauritius. The session was titled “How Context Differs across Africa and How It Affects Higher Education”

A summary of the session is as follows:
The local context affects both education in general and the development of eLearning in particular in every African country. Each country faces its own set of difficulties and challenges. Each one has developed different initiatives to add value, as they set about implementing new schemes. In every African country, however, partnership and collaboration are important keys to success. With case studies from Morocco, Mozambique, Sudan, Eritrea and Sierra Leone, this session looks at how collaboration – between institutions, with the private sector or with the Government – has been an important part of implementation in widely differing contexts.
Mrs Sandhya Gunness from CILL also participated in a panel along high profile panelists from our parent Ministry and foreign panelists. The title of the session was “Education in Schools in Context”.
A summary of the session is as follows:
How is the implementation of education policy affected by the local context? Presenters at this session will examine the experience of Zambia, Uganda, Mauritius and Malawi to assess how teachers, planners and administrators are responding to some challenging problems. The session will consider several case studies, giving participants an opportunity to gain insights into the implementation of ICTs in schools, the provision of support for children with learning difficulties, the use of blended learning to support teacher training and the need for increased integration of digital literacy, leadership and awareness of policy goals.
The local and international panelists were overall high profile, and the sessions were very rich in terms of quality exchanges especially when they were held in small breakout rooms. eLearning Africa 2017 provided excellent networking opportunities and avenues for initiating collaborations both at individual researcher and institutional levels. Another positive element for Mauritius is that the local researchers in the related fields from different institutions were retained among the speakers of the event.