El Cairo, Egypt
The Virtual University of Senegal (VUS) works constantly to provide its students with a quality education, but not in the conventional manner: it uses online classes.
More and more people nowadays have access to further education, because the number of high school graduates has risen exponentially. This means that universities have to be both ready and able to receive them. However, many traditional ones find it hard to keep pace with the growth in student numbers and are having to turn to new teaching methods if they are to offer and guarantee a quality education for their students.
This is why new learning technology was introduced three years ago in West Africa by the Virtual University of Senegal (VUS), an institution established by the government that aims to solve the problem of insufficient further education opportunities in the country. Around twelve thousand Senegalese students now receive distance training via the online courses the university offers.
This new strategy is a response to the large numbers of students that flock to public universities, and it also represents a new pedagogical approach to learning which, in view of its stability, could become international and result not only in students from other countries being received but also in professional further education training being developed.
Moodle, a whole new learning experience for the VUS
Moodle is the LMS that is used across all virtual education and learning processes at the Virtual University of Senegal, and this platform has enabled ‘large dimension’ content to be introduced, because the software is free, easy to configure, and can be used on a mass basis.
Previously, VUS used other teaching and learning technologies that were similar to Moodle, although when Moodle was introduced in its education processes, the pedagogical change was much greater and there was an improvement in the processes themselves.
It was not all plain sailing, however. Virtual University of Senegal had to face a number of challenges when implementing Moodle. In particular they needed to put in place a good informatics infrastructure. Also students ha problems to access course in person or online, and that depended very much on the prevailing economical conditions in Senegal at the time.
“At first, the state collected money so it could grant students scholarships and pay for a computer with internet access for them. Sometimes it took almost six months to collect enough money for the scholarships, and this meant we had to postpone courses or grant loans. The state has now taken those problems on board and it helps us ensure that both computers and internet access are free for our students. This means that today we can develop our pedagogical strategy and run the courses normally”, says VUS Director of Training and Pedagogical Engineering Abdourahmane Mbengue.
Virtual University of Senegal currently has a team that works on design and technical aspects of teaching, with the goal of further modernizing the model, because more and more experience is being gained with Moodle. The university’s special team of developers is working on new plugins that will be adapted for the platform to align the LMS more to their needs.
Virtual classes are provided to groups of 30 students, with a tutor in charge of each group in order to ensure that the learning experience is complete; there are also oral and written forums, applications are added for dealing with mathematical formulas, and new tools are inserted into Moodle to improve it and to make students’ work easier.
* Abdourahmane Mbengue, Director of Training and Pedagogical Engineering, Virtual University of Senegal – VUS (Senegal)
* Eman Helal