Western Cape gets ready for eLearning in schools

Minister Debbie Schafer

Ministry of Education, Western cape Government

Note: Next year, the Western Cape Government will begin the roll-out of broadband to schools. This will allow increased access to the cyber-world. 

Contractors have already started measuring up schools for fire-optic cabling as part of this project. They will start connecting the first schools to the broadband network in April/May 2015. The WCED have a plan in place to accommodate this new and exciting development – which will include new or upgraded computer facilities and devices. (Details of this plan will be announced at the beginning of 2015.)

In preparing for this roll-out, the WCED have developed an e-catalogue website – our aim is to populate this website with digital education resources – creating an online catalogue of digital resources that can be used by teachers, learners and parents when broadband comes available.

This will be an important tool for our teachers, learners and parents in the future – it will enhance e-learning and teaching in all subjects across all grades.

Our aim now is to receive as much education digital content as possible from various developers across SA and the world-over.

Next year, the Western Cape Government will begin connecting residents of this province to affordable, high speed broadband.

Our schools are central to the Broadband project as the Western Cape Government has identified e-learning as a key strategic priority to improve the quality of education in the province.

With the roll-out of broadband to schools, schools will begin to enjoy increasing access to the cyber-world.

Our challenge, however, will be to ensure that they also have access to the relevant technological devices and the very latest digital education resources so that we can optimise the use of e-learning so as to improve education outcomes. (The WCED will be releasing further information on the roll-out of ICT equipment at the beginning of next year.)

Currently, the WCED has a number of digital education resources available on its website and in schools, such as the telematics project. However, there are thousands of excellent digital resources that have been developed by developers worldwide that can support and enhance e-learning and teaching in all subjects across all grades.

The WCED is therefore inviting developers of digital education resources to join the department as it expands access to e-learning in the province.

In order to assist with this, the WCED has developed a website – http://wcedecatalogue.co.za – which will host an online catalogue of e-learning.

Our aim now is to develop and populate the online catalogue with digital education resources that can be accessed by teachers, learners and parents.

Developers can use this facility (website) to submit details of the digital resources they are offering.

The facility is now live and today we have the pleasure of inviting suppliers to participate in this important collaborative project.

The aim of the online catalogue is:

  1. To provide detailed information on what is available, by subject, grade and language, and whether it is aligned to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS).
  2. To support local development of digital education resources. (We are hoping that this initiative will also help to stimulate a local digital education publishing industry.)
  3. To make available to educators, learners and parents links to e-learning resources so as to enrich teaching and learning.

The Western Cape is fortunate in having many talented writers, illustrators, animators, designers, film makers and multimedia developers who have plenty to offer the world of education, not only in South Africa, but internationally.

The catalogue will provide an important platform for showcasing this talent.

The catalogue will also provide examples of best practice internationally. The resources may not be CAPS aligned, but will provide examples of what can be done to provide compelling educational content.

The WCED is developing the catalogue in three phases:

  • Phase 1: We have completed the first phase, which provides an online facility to developers to provide details of their digital education resources.

The site invites providers to sign into the site to capture details of their materials, and to classify these materials by subject, grade, language and CAPS alignment.

They can indicate whether the resources are free or the costs involved, and the web address of the supplier. The system will process these submissions via two primary filters, initially to check general relevance and functionality, and secondly to check specific curriculum relevance and CAPS alignment.

  • Phase 2: This will involve publishing the eCatalogue itself online. Teachers, learners and members of the public will then be able to search the catalogue by subject and grade, and will be able to rate every entry.
  • Phase 3: This will include any changes based on feedback by developers and end users.

The eCatalogue will form one of the cornerstones of our eLearning programme, as we prepare for the connection of broadband to schools in the first half of 2015.

This is an exciting and innovative initiative and I look forward to seeing what resources are available that will help improve education outcomes in this province.