BUIRC 2014 Highlights The Power of E-Learning to Transform Higher Education

On the 30th and 31st of October Botho University hosted the Botho University International Research Conference (BUIRC) 2014. This 3rd annual research conference turned the spotlight on the relationship between tertiary education and communication technology with the theme ‘Transforming Higher Education Through E-Learning’.

The inspiration to hold a conference under this theme arose from the fact that over the last fifteen years, the world has witnessed a dramatic and irreversible penetration of technology as an effective and efficient tool for building student‐centred education. E‐Learning represents an exciting set of tools and innovations that have contributed immensely to the massification of education and carries tremendous potential in terms of its impact on current institutional practices. As governments, employers, students and academics grapple with the pressures of making education a “right” for all their citizens, the role and place of E‐Learning in education and the workplace has raised its profile, giving it pre‐eminence in the field of education.

In her welcome remarks Vice-Chancellor Sheela Raja Ram highlighted that gross tertiary enrolment in Africa is well below the worldwide average and thus E-learning has emerged as an opportunity to improve accessibility and affordability of education across the African continent. Keynote speaker Dr. Patrick Molutsi, the Acting CEO of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), emphasized this point by highlighting that tertiary enrolment in Botswana is well below that of other middle-income countries. He added that it is for this reason that HRDC welcomes any initiative that can increase access to education without increasing the cost of accessing education, such as E-learning.

As the multi-disciplinary university with the largest computing faculty in Botswana Botho was able to demonstrate its leading role in the field of ICT research as several of its academics presented papers at the conference that added different layers to the timely discussions on E-learning and higher education.

Some of the memorable presentations included a benefits versus costs analysis of E-learning as relating to sustainability, an exploration of the impact of repeated exposure to E-learning technology for both students and lecturers and a case study demonstrating how E-technology can be used to bridge the digital divide by providing access to high quality education to people located in remote areas.

The event attracted 380 delegates and 20 presentations from 8 different countries and also included a Microsoft Technology Enriched Instruction Workshop. During these workshops, which are conducted worldwide, participants gain hands-on experience with E-learning tools and insight into how they might change or enhance course activities and assignments by integrating technology into their instruction.