Is Ruzivo Digital a popular e-learning platform among e-learners in Zimbabwe?
Econet Zimbabwe launched Ruzivo digital smart e-learning platform in 2012 aiming to minimize the resource gap which is a major challenge in both primary and secondary education in Zimbabwe. But some continue to question: "How popular and how useful is this platform to primary and secondary learners in Zimbabwe?"
Ruzivo digital boasts of over a million registered on their platform (according to statistics on their website) and thousands of registered teachers. The digital learning platform experience a rise in usage and popularity in the days of its inception but a peep at Ruzivo Digital through Alexa and Similar Web shows quiet a decline. We need to know that for some time after its inception, Ruzivo Digital was only offering Primary course/subjects but it was making moves. Now that it is also offering Secondary courses/subjects, one would expect the platform usage to even rise and rise, but no... it is declining. What could be the reasons for this?
Is e-learning popular amongst students and teachers in Zimbabwe?
I think more than 90% of Zimbabweans are used to the traditional book and pen methods of learning. They prefer the former to the later. I know that a survey was very necessary to support some of my facts here and since I work at a school i have made my own observation. I rarely see students making efforts to research academic staff online. I do not remember the last time that I saw a child in the computer lab opening Ruzivo Digital without an instruction. E-learning is not popular, not just to students but teachers and parents as well. As a computer lab technician, I receive several requests from teachers. They want assistance. In many cases they do not even know how to connect to the internet, in some cases they cannot even locate the browser, and they cannot login to their email accounts. Remember we are talking about teachers at an urban private school. What about teachers and students at remote rural schools?
Judging from the findings above, I personally think that e-learning is not popular in Zimbabwe and that is why Ruzivo Digital is failing to get the popularity and usage that it deserves. The issue of teachers, parents and students not familiar with e-learning is however not the only problem of e-learning Ruzivo and the rest of Zimbabwe are facing there are more.
Some of the problems and suggested solutions
Lack of Digital learning workshops in schools
I believe this is the main reason why some students and teachers are not embracing digital learning. The few digital learning workshops that are done have little impact owing to the fact that the workshops are only done in major cities and towns where there is at least an appreciation of the internet and computer usage. Parents, students and teachers need to be educated on the importance of e-learning and how they can get an academic mileage by adopting it. The workshops can also help to make academic stakeholders to positive minded when it comes to embracing e-learning in general.
Can you believe that there are parents who never allow their children to be on the internet, to use or own a phone or a laptop. They believe it is risky for their children. They believe it is not for their age. They believe that their primary school children are too young for a laptop. They do not think of the positives of embracing technology but the negatives. I do not blame them because no one educated them on eLearning. So now do you see that e-learning workshops in schools are important, and that in some cases parents must also be invited to these workshops? The ministry of Education must also be in support of e-learning, let me explain this as a separate point.
Lack of Support from Examination Boards and the Ministry of Education
I really feel that in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Education and our national examination board, ZIMSEC, are not doing enough to support e-learning. I once highlighted in another article how ZIMSEC is failing to embrace online technology to push the academic agenda with convenience. I was talking to the founder of an e-learning platform called FundoLinker, talking about what they have done so far and still need to be done, he told me that they have done almost everything, but now awaits the letter from the ministry of Education to start their activities. He did not complain to me but just thinking to myself, I wondered why it has to be so difficult to get this letter or licence? So the ministry of education and ZIMSEC are not doing enough to support e-learning.
Expensive Data charges also a hindrance to e-learning
Data is the fuel needed to get the vehicle of e-learning moving. The problem is that in Zimbabwe, data charges are expensive and are still on the rise. No data no e-learning, no internet technology. Measures must therefore be put in place to make sure that data charges are low to support e-learning in this digital age. The problem is that internet service providers are charging unreasonably high prices and no one seems to care, not the government, not POTRAZ, but only the people who suffer.
Lack of the technology in schools to support e-learning
Yes in some schools there are no computers which are needed to facilitate e-learning. There are no computer labs. In some schools the computer labs are there but have out-dated equipment which fails to support the current e-learning software. Very few schools in Zimbabwe have sound computer labs. The reason is that of failure to prioritize it by school administrators. They think it is not important, that is why e-learning workshops are not important. Talking from experience, I discovered that in schools the ICT department is only important at the point of need, otherwise no support of any kind. Some teachers you actually have to battle with them to release their students for ICT lessons. So lack of the technology in schools to support e-learning is one major problem as well.
This can solved if the government support the establishment of digital learning libraries/centres at convenient places in towns and community centres where students and teachers alike can go for their various digital requirements. This also requires proper monitoring and personnel to administer and run the libraries, otherwise it goes back to zero if a system is not in place to ensure that it works as planned. Will the government of Zimbabwe through the ministry of education do this? The answer is I don’t know.
ICT teachers must be digital Agents in their schools
I have seen many eLearning start-ups and different ICT boards approaching schools to adopt their idea or offer. The problem is that they pursue to win the hearts of the administrators who are in most cases not ICT professionals and side-line ICT teachers and staff. Eventually the implementations die in proposal, no implementation. Ruzivo digital and other start-ups alike must have agents who implement their digital offers. I know a program called Level up Village which has done this successfully in and beyond Zimbabwe.
I feel that if the points above are considered by Ruzivo, the Ministry of ICT, Ministry of Education and other e-learning start-ups, they can break through.
I wanted to write more points on Ruzivo but your time is important, will try to capture important remaining points in another article.