Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Keynote and ideas from the Online E-Conference on Agricultural Learning Repositories Task Force (Phase 2)

This phase of the E-Conference was about "understanding and expectations from learning resources for agricultural & rural communities". The session was moderated by Nikos Manouselis from the Agricultural University of Athens. The participants provided feedback on what they saw as their target communities and what would be the appropriate learning resources for them.
Here are some of the ideas raised:

Sugunasri Maddala saw the users fall into three main categories:
  1. Those pursuing Agriculture and allied subjects as a field of study leading to the award of a Professional degree
  2. Those practicing Agriculture - the Farmers
  3. Others - People working in Government departments, NGO's, Bank employees, Journalists, politicians and even general public. Certain kinds of learning resources, if not all, serve the 'orientation' purpose.
In terms of the kind of resources that the learners are looking for, Hugo Besemer replied that:
Applicability is everything, and requires unexpected resources: if learners have to learn how many bricks and tiles and concrete they need for a shed or to pave something there appear to be interactive websites (commercial) that tell the whole story. ... Schools are competitors for each other so they may want to share parts of lessons but not complete lessons or curricula. Teachers express interest in using tests from others, but a server with tests is not very successful because it is hard to find relevant ones (finding should take less time than making your own)
Jan Beniest, from World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), addressed the issue of granularity. He said that:
As to 'granularity', this is a big issue and people have different opinions on this. Some indicate that our audiences require mostly 'cut and dried' materials that are ready for use such as complete courses, programmes but since quite often training departments opt for a training-of-trainers approach, the idea of having a lower order granularity has gained prominence in recent years since their reusability adds value to such resources. The main thing here is that our resource persons (teachers) for our training are the Centre scientists whose main responsibility is to conduct high quality research and as such capacity building is not their main job and to get them to co-develop learning resources is often challenging.
Many participants commented that CD-ROMs or DVDs were appropriate delivery mediums for these learning resources given the extremely important issue of connectivity or the lack thereof!
Ajit Maru from the Global Forum on Agricultural Research pointed out that the three main obstacles to the widespread adoption and use of digital learning resources by the learner communities were: Access to ICTs and Cost of Connectivity, Cost of Content Generation, Inadequate Institutional Support.

On the same issue, Janet Poley, President of the President, American Distance Education Consortium, commented that:
Connectivity is necessary but far from sufficient - it has to be a lot more than phones are NOT the answer - phones have been with us forever and they are important - they have little to do with anytime, anywhere knowledge and learning. Grassroots re-orientation and senior policy-maker re-orientation to work on the systems......this is a huge international issue - some of this is very technical and some small and very knowledgeable task forces should be established built from some of the major ongoing the same a strategy for local level dialog - use of digital tools etc....I don't mean the existing web 2.0 tools - most aren't really collaborative worktools. We don't need to be adopting tools marketed to use - we need to reject tools as needed and/or refine those that can be saved.
Jan Beniest and Thomas Zschocke (Head of the Human Capacity Building Section of the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, Germany) were also the invited keynote for this phase, sharing their experience with setting up of the CGIAR On-line Learning Resources.

All in all many important issues came out of this discussion on who are our users, what are they looking for, in which format can be best reach then and, if we are not reaching them, what are the obstacles we need to tackle.

No comments: