Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Mobile Learning Bridging the Gap in Agricultural Extension Service Delivery: Experiences from Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Mobile Learning Bridging the Gap in Agricultural Extension Service Delivery: Experiences from Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

The Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) is a Higher Education Institution (HEI) in Tanzania that serves local and international students (Sife et al., 2007). It uses traditional method of disseminating teaching and learning materials like other universities in developing countries (McHarazo and Olden, 2000). The printed course materials are delivered to students mainly through face-to-face teaching (Perraton, 2000; McHarazo and Olden, 2000). Also, SUA has a mandate for research, consultancy and to offer outreach extension services to farmers and general public. Outreach services are offered by the Institute for Continuing Education (ICE). ICE deals with the dissemination of research outputs, innovations and proven technologies from SUA to farmers and other stakeholders in the country. To do this, ICE has TV and Radio1.

These methods of disseminating agricultural advisory to farmers and other stakeholders have shortcomings such as low coverage as they cannot reach all regions and districts of Tanzania. According to Mvena et al. (2013), the uptake of research outputs, innovations and proven technologies from agricultural research institutes and universities to farmers has not been impressive in developing countries.

1.1 Statement of the Problem

The advancement of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in education worldwide has resulted in many universities to implement e-learning to reach a large number of its stakeholders. Implementation of e-learning can be achieved if and only if, there are available resources and ICTs infrastructure. One of the key requirements is access to the Internet, which forms basis for e-learning implementation. In Tanzania, Internet coverage and usage is very low to rural communities (Gillwald et al., 2005; Zanello and Maassen, 2009; TCRA, 2015). This low coverage of Internet is affecting farming communities residing in rural areas (Furuholt & Kristiansen, 2007). In spite of this, farmers' mobile phones ownership is about 65% (TCRA, 2015). Hence, mobile learning (m-learning) shows a promise (Gillwald et al., 2005; TCRA, 2015), and their usage have a potential to bridge Africa's digital divide for communities in rural areas. Thus, the specific objective of this study was to build a prototype for m-learning to enhance informal teaching and learning among farmers, extension agents, researchers, and other actors in various agricultural value chains.

1.2 Research Questions

This study answered the question: What kind of an information system can be implemented to enhance access to informal learning among farmers, extension agents, researchers and other actors in rural setting in Tanzania?

1.3 Significance of the Study and Rationale

E-learning has brought a dramatic change in the education sector by providing learning management systems which support and facilitate learning and teaching. However, there is a digital divide between developed countries and developing countries in terms of the development and use of ICTs in education. The challenge is how the available mobile technologies can be used to enhance face to face learning, distance learning and e-learning. Learning and teaching activities in universities should embrace existing and new emerging technologies. Implementation of e-learning in Tanzanian universities faces some challenges, namely: lack of enough instructors, inadequate teaching and learning materials and lack of infrastructure. Also, there is a high percentage of illiteracy among farmers. The appropriate use of ICTs for learning can address some of the above mentioned problems.

ICT based Open and Distance Learning (ODL) can improve learning and teaching to different stakeholders (e.g. farmers), who cannot leave their work and join programmed instruction in residential universities, too.

In Tanzania, there is a big coverage and usage of mobile phones compared to other technologies like the Internet (TCRA, 2015), which provides an enabling environment for the implementation of m-learning. …

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