University of Eastern Finland to Develop Learning Environments in Eritrea

Development News
Finland funds EIT ICT expansion
ICT4EEDU – a project funded by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to strengthen the capacity of information and communication technologies of higher educational institutions in Eritrea

By University of Eastern Finland (UEF),

The Strengthening ICT in Education in Eritrea project run by the University of Eastern Finland School of Computing enhances the use of information and communication technology and develops learning environments at Eritrean Institute of Technology, EIT.

The selection of courses offered for the EIT staff will be expanded during this February. This week, a course focusing on the production of digital educational materials was launched, and next week will witness the beginning of a course focusing on the technical aspects of learning environments and the distribution of digital materials.

The courses will focus on how to make and distribute videos for educational purposes, as well as on various environments intended for mobile learning. Furthermore, a course on educational technology will introduce well-established educational robotics tools that can be used to support the teaching of computer science, for example.

The course participants come from the different colleges of Eritrean Institute of Technology, and one goal is to motivate the participants to pass on the skills they learn within their own units. It is also hoped that the activities carried out by the project will change teaching methods in a more student-centred and practical direction.

Reliable Internet access is a challenge

The Strengthening ICT in Education in Eritrea project was launched in 2015 with a planning visit to Eritrea. The visit witnessed the implementation of the first intensive course on which University of Eastern Finland researchers trained their Eritrean colleagues in the adoption of user-centered planning methods in teaching and learning environment design.

During the project, an educational technology lab and a resource centre will be planned and established for Eritrean Institute of Technology, and local teachers will be trained in the use of modern learning tools such as mobile technology in teaching. Furthermore, the project will improve the IT infrastructure of the campus located in the outskirts of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, and it will develop the skills of the staff to maintain learning environments that are suitable for local needs.

“Compared to Finnish learning environments, the biggest challenge in Eritrea is perhaps access to a reliable and sufficiently fast Internet. Moreover, the IT equipment available on the EIT campus is outdated and insufficient. This is why for example cloud services – which are routinely used in Finland – cannot be resorted to when planning EIT’s educational technology and learning environments. Everything has to be implemented locally so as to ensure the availability of the services via the local campus network even in the event that there is no access to the Internet,” says Researcher Ilkka Jormanainen, from the UEF School of Computing, who will be visiting Eritrea over the next week.

Skills for local needs

“Unreliable access to the Internet and a lack of other infrastructure enable – and also force – us to plan and implement learning environments and methods in accordance with the local needs and strengths. This is crucial, as we want to keep on developing well-functioning solutions together with our Eritrean partners also after this project,” Jormanainen continues.

The project seeks to impact the reasons behind the problem of emigration Eritrea is facing by providing students with skills that are relevant for solving local problems. After graduation, these skills could be put to use in the development of the country, possibly making emigration a less appealing alternative.

The ICT4EEDU project is funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs through the HEI-ICI Eritrea programme aimed at capacity building in the Eritrean higher education sector.