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Virtual Institute for Higher Education in Africa reopens

In January 2017, the Virtual Institute for Higher Education in Africa will reopen its digital doors with a new set of free courses to help African university lecturers face the challenges they meet in their everyday work.

The programme is the brainchild of professors Peter Okebukola, president of GUNi-Africa – the Global University Network for Innovation – and Juma Shabani, who is best known for his long career working on African higher education development for UNESCO from Harare, Bamako and Paris.

They relaunched the institute at the 2016 International Conference on Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Africa, held in the Namibian capital Windhoek from 20-23 September.

An earlier version that started operating in 2005 attracted 6,000 students over a five-year period but then almost collapsed.

Its original 11 modules were based on the Guide to Teaching and Learning in Higher Education on which Okebukola and Shabani had worked together in the late 1990s. Course feedback, however, increasingly showed that it was outdated.

In 2013, a new study by Shabani with a thoroughly updated list of current challenges to African higher education identified the rapidly declining quality of university lecturers as the number one problem across the continent.

It demonstrated that many lecturers were simply insufficiently prepared for new demands brought about primarily by massification, globalisation, the changing role of universities in society and dwindling resources.

“We decided to upgrade the course on the basis of the new findings,” Shabani told University World News. “We got new experts in to work on each module. Some were recruited through a selection process, others through suggestions from colleagues.”

“We increased the number of modules to 19. We added much more video and took in some of the lessons learned from other MOOCs [massive open online courses]."

Some of the themes covered in the modules are understanding today’s learners, curriculum development in higher education, teaching large classes, teaching and learning methods in higher education, tailoring teaching to different learning styles, guidance and counselling, evaluation and empowering women and students with special needs.

“The course content is entirely modular, so learners can follow any of the modules they wish,” says Shabani.

Lagos State University, which also hosts the machinery behind the new programme, has piloted the 19 modules among its own staff. Enrolments from across Africa will start in early October. Actual training will commence in January 2017.

Enrolment will be free to all higher education practitioners. On completion of the full 19 modules, a certificate will be issued to both the learner and his or her vice-chancellor.
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