New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is doing its part to bridge the digital divide between the West and the developing world: students in 14 sub-Saharan African countries are benefiting from NJIT courses without leaving their continent, thanks to NJIT’s collaboration with the African Virtual University (AVU).
AVU, a non-profit institution based in Nairobi, Kenya, uses distance learning to give college students in sub-Saharan Africa access to the highest-quality learning resources available. Initiated by the World Bank in 1995, there are now 34 AVU learning centers throughout Africa.
“NJIT, a leader in distance learning, was one of the first American universities to join AVU,” said Gale Tenen Spak, associate vice president for Continuing and Distance Education at NJIT. “For the last six years,” she added, “NJIT has served nearly 2,000 students in some 14 sub-Saharan countries, students who otherwise might not have had access to the content of these courses, regardless of whether the course is conducted online or in classrooms.”
NJIT now offers an Information Technology Master’s Certificate to students at 21 universities in 11 sub-Saharan African countries. Students must take six non-credit, distance-learning courses to earn the master’s certificate. The courses run an average of 30 hours each, and most students take two classes during a 10-week semester. The online classroom uses a variety of teaching methods, including on-line course material, video lectures on CD-ROM, real-time lectures, textbooks, email and on-line chat forums.
More than 300 African students are now studying for the master’s certificate, said Spak. Participating countries include Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, AVU.
Learning Centers are located at colleges such as the University of Dar-Es Salaam, Tanzania; the Kigali Institute of Technology, Rwanda; and the University of Accra, Ghana.
NJIT began its relationship with AVU in the fall of 1997, offering calculus classes to seven universities in sub-Saharan Africa. At that time, 335 students were enrolled in the two courses. Videotaped lectures were delivered by satellite from Washington D.C., and problem-solving sessions were offered weekly from the NJIT campus. In the summer of 1998, computer science was added to the NJIT curriculum, which attracted more African students.
NJIT’s collaboration with AVU gives Spak, an accomplished leader in distance learning, a great sense or pride: “We are bringing needed areas of knowledge and skills to a locale which then uses its indigenous resources and professionals to expand individual learning and economic development,” she said. “It gives us all here at NJIT a great sense of achievement to know that we are helping to bridge the global digital divide.”