A Framework for the Integration of E-Learning in Higher Education Institutions in Developing Countries

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ABSTRACT

The aim of this research was to design a framework for integrating e-learning in Higher Education Institutions in developing countries. Data were collected from 266 university students and staff of five universities in Uganda using a questionnaire. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The requirements for e-learning integration were identified as; use of projection equipment; use of e-learning methods to teach and face-to-face method to administer tests and exams; harmonization of course content for e-learning and face-to-face during design phase; incorporation of 3D pictures, audio and videos in classrooms among others. The developed framework was validated for applicability using case studies in all the participating universities. Validation results indicate that the proposed framework, if well implemented can help improve e-learning integration in Higher Education Institutions operating in developing countries. This is because the framework provides a step by step approach to be used during e-learning integration and also identifies the key stakeholders and their roles for successful e-learning integration.

Keywords: e-learning integration, e-learning framework, e-learning, blended learning, developing countries

INTRODUCTION

Developing countries face a number of challenges in their efforts to provide basic needs such as education. For example, there is limited infrastructure (Kituyi & Kyeyune, 2012), limited space and number of facilitators (Aguti, 2002) among others. The recent developments in the Ugandan education system that saw many children of school going age accessing free education at all levels except tertiary and university level have led to surging numbers of students enrolling to study in higher education institutions (Kituyi & Kyeyune, 2012; Aguti, 2002). This has made it very difficult for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to sustainably teach and manage students on the available infrastructure. The alternative option has been distance education. In 2005 for example, Makerere University Business School (MUBS) opened upcountry teaching centers in Jinja, Mbarara and Arua, where students could learn under the coordination of the staff at the main campus in Kampala. This system was praised by the populists. It achieved the object of bringing education services nearer to upcountry students. However, this system turned out to be very costly. For example, MUBS has employed staff to manage the activities conducted at study centers in addition to paying rent and transport costs. This therefore would not be sustainable in the long run, considering the fact that upcountry students pay lower tuition fees.

The advent of e-learning presented a cheaper and more cost effective approach to teaching at HEIs. Subsequently, Ugandan universities have adopted the technology. MUBS for example explored the possibilities of using e-learning to improve learning at the study centers in 2006. However, this did not succeed in the initial stages. The rationality of adopting e-learning for MUBS study centers has largely relied on integration of traditional teaching methods on ground and appropriately using web-based learning management systems, without compromising the university's quality standards of teaching. As Tusubira and Mulira (2006) rightly argue, the introduction of e-learning needs strategies to respond to three major challenges of cost, quality, and demographics. Therefore, one can assume MUBS has failed to implement e-learning across study centers with a fear of compromising the quality of education given to the students. The situation at MUBS is common to most educational institutions in developing countries where there are low levels of computer availability, access, familiarity and Internet penetration. This leads to skepticism about the feasibility of most e-learning projects (Abdon & Ninomiya, 2007) hence failure.

According to Kanovsky and Or-Bach (2001), integrating e-learning in HEIs should be done gradually because it involves several groups of interest like students, lecturers, technicians, policy makers among others. …