U of S works with Mozambique on distance ed.
By Don Kossick
In what officials call an exciting new development, the University of Saskatchewan’s Centre for Distributed Learning (CDL) is piloting a distance learning project for the international Training for Health Renewal Program (THRP).
THRP is a five-year-old joint international development initiative of the U of S and the Health Ministry of Mozambique, working with communities in that African nation.
The health program, based at the Training Centre in the southern Mozambique town of Massinga, has already succeeded in engaging many people there in community health training activities. Program officials say it has done so well that there is now demand throughout that country for continuing education programs to strengthen the training of health workers and community health activists.
One way to meet this demand is through the development of distance education.
This spring on an invitation from THRP, Centre for Distributed Learning assistant professor Kathleen Matheos visited Mozambique and presented at a national workshop on how distance education could be developed. She met a positive response on the critical need for distance education in that country.
The Mozambique health minister says 15,000 health workers there are in serious need of more training, and cannot be reached by conventional education courses.
After her experience in Mozambique, Matheos says, “I felt that it had practical implications. There was enough opportunity and time to find out what people wanted, and their ideas for distance education in health.”
“ My strongest message was be clear about what outcome you want for the learners,” Matheos adds.
She was struck by her trip to the Mozambican village of Tevele saying: “I saw how almost with nothing, things could be done to build good community health practices. The villagers worked together with dignity and compassion for one another.”
Flowing from the spring national workshop where Matheos presented, the Massinga Training Centre was charged with developing and piloting a distance education course involving community health workers. The pilot project will use distance learning techniques over one year to teach midwives in remote areas of southern Mozambique to be maternal child health nurses. Distance education is well-suited for training the midwives since they are the only primary-care providers in their communities and they can’t leave their communities for extended periods of time.
To help develop the pilot project, Cypriano Dyeja of the Massinga Centre came to Canada and spent the month of July with the Centre for Distributed Learning, working on the preparatory steps to train trainers, and on the teaching materials for piloting distance education courses.
In his time at the Centre, Dyeja learned the basic techniques of instructional design, produced a template for a distance teaching module for the pilot program, and developed a management plan for setting up and running the course.
He also developed an audio-tape presentation that shows ways of training in instructional design. In Mozambique this information will be valuable in the training of trainers, so they can do the outreach work needed to deliver the distance education courses.
THRP officials note that Mozambique has a variety of hurdles to overcome in distance learning – such as having to deliver courses where written language skills don’t exist. Many midwives have not had the opportunity to learn reading and writing skills.
Martin Gonzalez, Administrative Co-ordinator of the Centre for Distributed Learning, worked with Dyeja on the planning and management of distance education and instructional design.
“ Many projects do not work because there is not enough attention given to planning ahead of time. I think they are on the right track The challenge will be to have the stakeholders buy into the plan and understand responsibilities and the general outcomes they want”, Gonzalez says.
He adds Dyeja is dedicated to learning about distance education: “For someone to come that far, and have the drive to learn really had an impact on all of us. We really felt the connection with Cypriano and want to continue the relationship to see the project through.”
Gonzalez feels it is also important for CDL to learn from Mozambique. “It is important to get this experience from Mozambique, where they have so many challenges. It is amazing to see what they can do with very limited resources.”
Murray Dickson, of the THRP program, reports: “Cypriano was extremely please with the training he received on instructional design. It was practical and purposeful, and he feels it will be put to good use in Mozambique”.
“ We hope that this bridge of learning and sharing will continue, with the possibility of someone from the Centre for Distributed Learning coming to work with our Massinga Training Centre as we move into the implementation stage of our pilot project”, Dickson adds.