Invitation to join the Webinar on Wednesday, 3rd of June, 2-4pm (Johannesburg time zone).
DIGI-Face and CERM-ESA participate in the discussion:
What happened at the DIGI-FACE Kick-Off Meeting? And how did the participants perceive this event?
You will get some impressions of this enriching event by checking the following videos on the Kick-Off Meeting:
Hereby we would like to thank zazu.berlin for the great production of the videos!
The Digital Initiative for African Centres of Excellence (DIGI-FACE) is a cooperation project between a network of German and African Universities under the leadership of the University of Kehl in Germany. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) funds this initiative with support from the German Federal Foreign Office (AA). The kick-off-meeting of the DIGI-FACE project was hosted by the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth in cooperation with University of Kehl from 2nd -7th of March 2020. CEMEREM was represented by Prof. Jan C. Bongaerts (CEMEREM Project Leader, TUBAF), Prof. Kiptanui Arap Too (CEMEREM Project Coordinator, TTU), Dr. Nicholas Muthama (CEMEREM Project Manager, TTU) and Mr. Kibwana Zamani (ICT Manager, TTU).
At the onset of the kick-off, the delegates were taken through the overall aims of the initiative by the lead persons notably, Prof Ewald Eisenberg, representing project lead partner Kehl University in Germany; Prof Bernd Siebenhuener, German academic from Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg and Prof Paul Webb, Project Leader of the East and South African German Centre of Excellence for Educational Research Methodologies and Management (CERM-ESA). Professor Michael Samuel from the University of KwaZulu Natal, the moderator of the event, took on the collaborative approaches to capacity development and digitalization was brought into perspective. The Deputy Vice-chancellor, learning and Teaching, Prof Cheryl Foxcroft from Nelson Mandela University officially opened the meeting and emphasized the need for CoEs to make provisions for students to learn in digital spaces.
Other sessions that followed after the aforementioned preamble included the delegate’s reflections on their motivations; on-line learning experts presentations that shed more light into the digital classrooms; practical sessions of designing an interactive online session; Centres action steps, collaborations and partnerships; business plan; delegates visions and recommendations. The sessions were not only in-depth but quite mind-boggling in terms of reflections on the core challenges such as geographical complications, equipment deficiencies alongside proposed methodologies for accomplishing the DIGI-FACE project.
DIGI-FACE will have interesting and new impacts on CEMEREM in the future. CEMEREM delegates were satisfied that they could bring this issue as their contribution to the attention of the DIGI-FACE project leaders. As such, DIGI-FACE means new developments for CEMEREM, such as new possibilities for online teaching, online study and learning documents for students, online coaching, online supervision of student projects, capacity building for teachers, etc.
CEMEREM will study these new developments and as the DIGI-FACE project moves on, CEMEREM will implement them for the benefit of TTU, the German partners, CEMEREM itself, the CEMEREM staff and, least but not last, the CEMEREM students and the outreach communities.
CEMEREM is grateful to DAAD for the invitation, the opportunity to learn about DIGI-FACE and very committed as we are looking forward for the next steps.
A ‘Kick-Off’ Meeting was held from the 3rd to the 6th of March in South Africa to launch the innovative “Digital Initiative for African Centres of Excellence” project (DIGI-FACE). This event, which brought together pedagogical, media and technical experts from DAAD’s African-German Centres of Excellence, was jointly organised by the University of Applied Sciences Kehl (lead agent) in cooperation with one of its DIGI-FACE consortium partners, namely Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
DIGI-FACE is funded by the DAAD with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office. The project aims at supporting and improving the digital skills of all members and alumni of DAAD’s African Centres of Excellence and its network via the development of e- and blended learning modules and digital tools. The participants at the Kick-Off Meeting comprised 60 delegates drawn from Centres located in South Africa, Niger, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Mali, Namibia and Germany.
Key ideas shared
Professor Cheryl Foxcroft, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching at Nelson Mandela University, officially opened the meeting. She emphasised the need for all universities to prepare for student learning in digital spaces. Prof Ewald Eisenberg (University of Kehl), Prof Bernd Siebenhuener (Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg), Junes Arfaoui (Frankfurt School of Finance & Management) and Prof Paul Webb (Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth) outlined the structure, objectives and activities of the DIGI-FACE project.
Inspiring presentations and inputs from lecturers and experts with great experience in implementing professional e-learning formats on digital platforms stimulated the participants’ expectations. Prof Michael Samuel, the moderator of the event from University of KwaZulu Natal, gave a mind-expanding presentation on collaborative approaches to capacity development and digitalisation through constructive disruption.
Dr Dorothee Weyler, the DAAD programme manager of the African Excellence programme, explained the background of the project from the DAAD perspective. She noted that the DIGI-FACE programme was created to help achieve the overall goals of the African Excellence Programme more efficiently and effectively. These goals include improved teaching and learning and the creation of a better research environment for greater impact via digitalisation. She pointed out that DAAD’s interest goes far beyond the platform that is going to be established. The project has great potential to open its content and outcomes to other users, learners, researchers and projects beyond the African Excellence programme. Consequently, the DIGI-FACE project is a pilot example to show what is possible when using digital components to produce (open) short courses that will be useful for other university staff and students across Africa, beyond this project.
Alexander Knoth, Senior Expert for Digitalisation at DAAD emphasised that DAAD wants to avoid “digital islands” and instead supports the creation of digital ecosystems that bring together different skills, knowledge and experience. The aim is to give students the opportunity to get to know different cultures and languages via intercultural communication, not only through international mobility, but also through “virtual mobility”.
Prof Johan van Niekerk from the Noroff School of Technology and Digital Media in Norway gave insights and perspectives from an online focused university. He pointed out that a professional production team is not absolutely necessary for the production of technology-supported learning content. He noted however, that there is still a great need for human resources to produce appropriate content. Mike Swanepoel, who leads digital transformation at Nelson Mandela University, encouraged the delegates to address current challenges and accelerate curriculum and classroom design in the future based on mobile and digital learning technology. He emphasised that educators need new skills if digital transformation is to succeed and stressed that transformation is not only about digital technologies, but also about people and their mind-sets. Both Johan van Niekerk and Mike Swanepoel emphasised that the main challenge is to produce content in a way that the material has added value and a relevant benefit for the end user. Simply filming normal teaching activities does not make for a successful online-course – a clear script and concept that provides for meaningful online activities, support and assessment is vital.
Hands-on activities and practical sessions
Following the presentations, hands-on activities and practical sessions enabled the delegates to experience how digital content can and should be developed in an exemplary manner. They developed scripts, short videos and quizzes for an online course in small groups and, with the use of a Padcaster and sequencing tools, they discovered that producing e-learning material is not that complicated. These activities included pedagogical inputs and advice, which allowed the participants to reflect on how to use which tool and scenario to prepare and produce e-learning modules and materials in a worthwhile and proper way.
After the practical sessions, the delegates discussed their own visions and action steps, the challenges and responsibilities of digitalisation, and how DIGI-FACE and digital transformation can be implemented in the Centres and throughout the African Excellence network. Delegates from each Centre reflected together on the profile, skills and needs of their target group in order to identify centre-specific approaches. Upon having outlined the different responsibilities at each Centre for this project, they will report to their universities and create teams that will contribute to DIGI-FACE.
Project leaders and coordinators, pedagogical experts, multi-media and ICT heads of the Centres, as well as representatives of the Alumni association, worked in transdisciplinary and transnational groups. They pooled their experiences and needs to define how the project could contribute significantly towards improving higher education and research activities both within each Centre and between the African-German Centres of Excellence. The heterogeneous nature of the groups ensured that meaningful ideas and fruitful ideas on how to enhance cooperation, build networks and provide opportunities for exchanges via digital solutions.
The Centres welcomed the project’s activities and recognised many positive points and benefits. They believe that DIGI-FACE will enable the Centres to reach more students and a broader public, facilitate cross-national cooperation, enhance the skills of lecturers, staff, alumni and students and will strengthen network activities. The delegates were highly motivated in terms of contributing to the project. They indicated their willingness to integrate existing courses as e-learning material into the platform and look forward with curiosity to the announcement of training courses.
Planning for project sustainability
Following presentations on the results of the group work session, the consortium representatives from the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, Nilly Chingaté Castaño and Junes Arfaoui, sketched out ideas and the basis for the project’s activities for developing a business plan. They pointed out the imperative of implementation of DIGI-FACE in a sustainable way in order to cover the costs of operating the platform, investing in innovation and developing content by the Centres beyond the funding period.
To this end, the delegates met in groups independently of their Centre affiliation to work in-depth on various topics of the project, including digital content and skills, training and the production of generic courses, as well as how to create a specific sustainable business plan for the project. They also discussed aspects of the successful management of the project and the necessary digital infrastructure.
The final kick
During the closing session of the Kick-Off Meeting, Dr Weyler presented the upcoming DAAD “African-German Network for Research, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer” (AGRIT) programme to the delegates. This programme aims at enhancing the research capacities of the African Excellence Programme and generating synergies together with the activities and digital tools of DIGI-FACE. After a short introduction by Dr Weyler, the delegates discussed in groups how this programme could be integrated into the African Excellence programme and DIGI-FACE.
The motivated involvement of the delegates and inspiring inputs resulted in better understandings by all of the architecture of the DIGI-FACE project, and an appreciation that the development of the project is a co-determined process involving all of the African-German Centres of Excellence.
After the official closure of the Kick-Off Meeting, everyone enjoyed a joint dinner together and a pleasant excursion on the following day – both which strengthened personal relationships and enabled fruitful informal exchanges.
Workshops on developing digital and online competencies will be held in East- and West-Africa during 2020. These workshops will include project leaders, academic leaders and multimedia- and ICT staff of the Centres. The format of these workshops depends on national and international travel restrictions and health advisories.
As part of the Kenyan delegation, Susan, John & Raymond had the distinct pleasure of attending the much-awaited Digital Initiatives for African Centres of Excellence (DIGI – FACE) Kick-off Meeting held in South Africa by the world-renowned university, Nelson Mandela in Port Elizabeth. The meeting brought different scholars whose vast experience in pursuit of higher education was not only inspiring but an open door to insightful thought on the direction higher education needed to take, chiefly digital in nature, in order to stand the test of time for African Centres of Excellence (CoE). Precisely, the project aim is to develop and put into action digital learning strategies across Africa. A big part of DIGI-FACE is to enhance digital capacities of lecturers and academics and that the training of trainers (ToT) is a very crucial pillar of the project.
The kick-off meeting took place on March 3-6 with delegates drawn from universities in South Africa, Niger, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Mali, Namibia as well as Germany. Pursuant to achieving the goal, the delegates consisted of the Centre of Excellence Project leaders, Project Coordinators, Curriculum developers and the IT personnel. This was a brilliant mix in order to make the matrix of content development and dissemination complete.
At the opening session the delegates were taken through the overall aims of the initiative by the lead persons notably, Prof Ewald Eisenberg, representing project lead partner Kehl University in Germany; Prof Bernd Siebenhuener, German academic from Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg and Prof Paul Webb, Project Leader of the East and South African German Centre of Excellence for Educational Research Methodologies and Management(CERM-ESA). A quick rejoinder on the collaborative approaches to capacity development and digitalization was brought into perspective by Professor Michael Samuel from the University of KwaZulu Natal who also doubled up as the event moderator. The meeting was officially opened by deputy vice-chancellor, learning and Teaching, Prof Cheryl Foxcroft, Mandela University who emphasized the need for all of us to make provisions for students to learn in digital spaces.
With the elaborate intro, the sessions that followed included the delegate’s reflections on their motivations; on-line learning experts presentations that shed more light into the digital classrooms; practical sessions of designing an interactive online session; Centres action steps, collaborations and partnerships; business plan; delegates visions and recommendations. The sessions were not only in-depth but quite mind-boggling in terms of reflections on the core challenges such as geographical complications, equipment deficiencies alongside proposed methodologies for accomplishing the DIGI-FACE project.
The project’s aspiration for the future could have consequences that undoubtedly would bring positive change and especially education without borders. The goal for the meeting was not only a means of documenting the problems faced by CoEs, nor was it an opportunity for CoEs to complain about the situation that they face, rather it was a critical discussion with actionable points aimed at reducing these challenges and possibly eliminating them entirely with guidance from a knowledgeable partner.
The discussions proposed scholars to take up the opportunity to create content on their own terms, with assistance from IT and Multimedia experts within the Institution, but with an eye for great and reusable content to a student, market to generate revenue for the Centre’s sustainability. The market out there consists of students willing to assimilate new information faster, with a lowered barrier to entry such as cost and time, and the reduction of time spent by students closing the physical geographical gap courtesy of antiquated forms of education.
Content in this context indicates the use of video, text, and interactive media as a delivery mechanism. By integrating open source software such as Moodle, specifically built to handle demands of heavy course material, it is by no means an end to itself, but rather the first step that scholars can take in order to achieve their personal goals and of the institution. Another valuable resource was H5P.org which utilized the power of HTML5 to create, share and reuse the content in a browser. The H5P platform is particularly useful since it can be integrated with MOODLE for added functionality.
As the conference progressed, we came to the understanding that many CoEs already have course material ready for digitization but lack the channels to take their course materials online. On that note, the question of sustainability arose on numerous occasions. Naturally, other questions were derived from this such as, would the funding partner, DAAD, provide sustainable solutions to the CoEs or would the CoEs be equipped with their own means of sustainability mutually beneficial to both students and CoEs. These were just a few questions out of the many that came up. However, they were not all to be answered conclusively in this first meeting but rather at an ongoing basis customized to each CoEs needs. Furthermore, evaluations carried out at the end of the meeting could have captured more concerns from the delegates. At the close of the meeting, we were treated to a delicious dinner and thrilling excursion that cemented our continental bonds as well as giving us a chance to appreciate the beauty of Port Elizabeth and South Africa at large. Honestly, it was a great life experience and a real eye-opener for us all.
In conclusion, the flow of events throughout the meeting was pretty seamless under a powerful organizing team notably Prof. Eisenberg, Prof. Webb, Mike Swanepoel, Merlin Kull, Ayanda Simayi just to mention a few. DIGI-FACE is headed for imminent success. We say a big ‘THANK YOU ‘to DAAD under the auspices of Dr Dorothee Weyler.
By Gillian McAinsh, Port Elizabeth
An international project kicks off this week at Nelson Mandela University to develop and put into action digital learning strategies across Africa.
The Digital Initiatives for African Centres of Excellence – or Digi-Face – aspires to open up educational access by linking geographically separate participants with user-friendly tools and technology.
The kick-off meeting from March 3-6 in Port Elizabeth has drawn delegates from universities in Niger, Senegal, Kenya, Mali and other African countries as well as Germany.
Prof Dr Ewald Eisenberg, representing project lead partner Kehl University in Germany, said the plan was to roll out Digi-Face over the entire continent.
“Sometimes there are thousands of kilometres between a supervisor and student, which makes learning complicated. There also may be unrest, or difficulties with travel,” Eisenberg said.
He listed e-learning (electronic) and m-learning (on a mobile device) as well as blended learning (a combination of traditional and digital) as possible solutions to the challenges of education in Africa.
“Blended learning is the most useful because we can adapt the various learning scenarios to what people really need,“ Eisenberg said.
However, despite high demand and motivation for e-learning, a Kehl University survey showed that very few African universities were able to access this due to lack of basic equipment and a stable internet connection.
This gap has to be bridged because, as Mandela University Learning and Teaching deputy vice-chancellor Prof Cheryl Foxcroft noted at the conference, “increasingly, if students cannot learn in digital spaces then we are not doing our job”.
Project Leader of the East and South African German Centre of Excellence for Educational Research Methodologies and Management Prof Paul Webb, also based at Mandela University, said it was important to build capacity in Africa so that all its universities could use the relevant tools.
“Our role is also to train trainers on aspects of using apparatus and digital assets provided by the project within their own areas of expertise,” Webb said. “We want to make life easier, not more difficult. And no matter what we do digitally, it depends on the content, in other words, it depends on human beings!”
German academic Prof Bernd Siebenhuener from Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg said Digi-Face would offer a variety of modules across five areas or “work packages”.
“The idea is to develop skills for everyone at the universities, not only the IT people, and that is why we will offer a range of courses. Digi-Face is for everyone,” Siebenhuener said.
Although Digi-Face has an open-source policy where access to resources is free, this week’s conference also is looking at how to generate revenue to ensure sustainability.
The German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD) – with funds from the German Federal Foreign Office – is the sponsor of Digi-Face, and Mandela University is one of the leading drivers of the project in Africa.
Mandela University will produce at least six generic modules for post-graduate students and academics on research supervision and online learning and teaching for all 11 of the DAAD funded Centres of Excellence in Africa.
Members of the Digi-Face Steering Committee (from left to right): Prof Andreas Pattar, Nilly Chingaté Castaño, Junes Arfaoui, Prof Paul Webb, Merlin Kull, Dr Susan Kurgat, Prof Ewald Eisenberg, Prof Bernd Siebenhuener, Prof John Chang’ach
Le programme Africain Excellence du DAAD à travers le Centre d’Excellence de la Gouvernance Local en Afrique (CEGLA) offre, dans le cadre du Master en « Décentralisation et Gouvernance Locale » (DGL), trois bourses d’étude pour suivre la formation au Centre Africain d’Etudes Supérieures en Gestion (CESAG) à Dakar, Sénégal.
La bourse est destinée aux étudiants/professionnels détenteurs d’un diplôme de licence en sciences sociales (économie, droit, gestion, géographie, histoire, sociologie, politique…) qui voudraient continuer leurs études dans le cadre dudit Master en DGL au Centre Africain d’Etudes Supérieures en Gestion de Dakar au Sénégal.
Pour plus de détails, veuillez consulter l’appel a candidature pour la bourse Master au CESAG.
African-German Cooperation towards Decolonising Higher Education: CERM-ESA Approaches and Lessons Learnt
Please find an article reflecting on CERM-ESA’s approach to cooperation in the German-African context that you might also find interesting with regard to your own Centre.
This paper looks into decolonisation as a guiding principle for
North-South academic cooperation towards the United Nations
2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development adopted in 2015. The
purpose of this article is to examine the German Academic Exchange
Service (DAAD) funded African-German cooperation within the
East and South African-German Centre of Excellence for Educational
Research Methodologies and Management – CERM-ESA – and reflect
on its conditions and its contributions to decolonising higher education.
The article draws on relevant literature and reflects on
CERM-ESA activities, face-to-face discussions with CERM-ESA
faculty and students. The findings have practical implications for
North-South cooperation partnerships aimed at decolonising higher
education in Africa.
To read the full paper, please click here