The main African e-learning providers - what you need to know

Africa e-learning providers described here are:

  • Eneza.com (Kenya)
  • Chalkboard.education (Ghana)
  • eCampus.camp (Ghana)
  • Kotivu.ng (Nigeria)
  • Rethink education (South Africa)
  • Via Afrika (South Africa)
  • Obami (South Africa)
  • Dapt.io (South Africa)
  • OkpaBac (Togo)
  • Samaskull (Senegal)
  • Tutor.ng (Nigeria)
  • Prepclass.com (Nigeria)
  • E-Coach Solutions

 

Educational apps in Africa Online courses: Six African e-learning providers

As e-learning becomes more widely adopted in Africa through the increasing availability of MOOC (massive open online course education technology) and the latest educational apps, self-improvement and distance education courses which once seemed infeasible are now becoming increasingly available. A number of regional e-learning providers use education technology to deliver online courses throughout the region, with a wide offering of course titles to students, teaching staff and anyone who has an interest in learning.

In this article, we review the main six regional e-learning providers in the area, along with their relative strengths and weaknesses. We also present an overview of how the various online learning platforms function and how established each provider is.

Socio-demographic trends and e-learning

In an expanding education and e-learning market that looks set to become a key baseline for future development and prosperity throughout the African continent, students of all ages and throughout the region are noticing that education is a route to increased personal and professional success.

African demographics mean that the majority of the continent’s population is relatively young. Coupled with this, the KINGs countries (this term refers to Kenya, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Ghana) are recognised as the most tech-savvy African countries in this part of the world. Smartphone market penetration is considerable, made possible by good regional 3G network coverage.

Acting in combination, these factors have led to the development of bespoke online courses and the increase in massive open online course popularity, especially when delivered through an online college using educational apps or Web-based distance education.

Additionally, recent years have seen youth education become a high priority. Current Rwandan president Paul Kagame has apportioned approximately 17 percent of the country’s national annual budget to the educational sector, for instance. Free state education has improved considerably, while the tertiary education sector has also expanded. The growth figures are quite startling; there were twenty-nine universities in 2010, compared to only one university just sixteen years earlier.

Tertiary gross enrolment ratio (the percentage of youngsters starting a university education) almost doubled between 2008 and 2011 to some 7 percent, although it has to be remembered that this level is still relatively low. From 2009, English has been the preferred language of instruction in state schools (from primary grade 4 upwards), thus making MOOC and educational apps written in that language much more easily accessible to a wider proportion of the younger population.

In summary, together with South Africa as the continent’s leading economy, educational and MOOC prospects are significant throughout the region. As more and more companies are founded locally, online university and college distance education courses offer the best way to meet local worker and professional training requirements.

Eneza.com

Located in Nairobi, Kenya, Eneza was founded in 2011 as a group e-learning venture set up by business partners Toni Maraviglia, Chris Asego and Kago Kagichiri. At the time of its initial launch, the online university type service was known as M-Prep and used simple SMS messaging. Now available in English and also as a smartphone app or via a Web interface, Eneza has become the most widely used mobile education platform in Africa to provide local elearning content.

Eneza Education aims to educate fifty million students in rural Africa by leveraging low-cost mobile technology to deliver online courses. Promotional literature describes the company as a virtual tutor and teaching assistant that delivers high-quality educational content to students, along with relevant data, tips and resources for teachers. Market penetration also includes over 800,000 offline users in more than 8,000 schools in Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana.

Students and teachers access interactive distance education courses and assessments via basic phones; they also have the option to interact directly, in real time. Products available include Shupavu (an SMS message text based service), Mwalimoo (the Web-based interface) and an Android elearning application.

 

Shupavu is available in Kenya on the Safaricom network. Students can view lessons, see a list of the top ten e-learning students, search Wikipedia and even chat with a live teacher, if they wish. For teachers, refresher e-learning courses are available in addition to helpful tips and suggestions on effective classroom management.

Mwalimoo is similar to Shupavu but also offers an editable profile as well as richer content. Additional features include a teacher question facility, group discussions and performance tracking. Any device with an Internet connection can be used to access the Mwalimoo e-learning system. The current cost is 10 Kenyan Shillings per week and it is also possible to pay conveniently with mobile phone airtime; no credit card is required. Enrolment may be completed either online or at any textbook centre in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

A variety of business elearning courses is also available; Eneza Education has partnerships with multinational and regional companies such as Tigo, Wings for Life Ghana and Unilever.

Students receive a certificate of completion at the end of their online courses.

 

 

Distance education by m-learning E-learning with Eneza online courses

Chalkboard.education

Founded in May 2015, Chalkboard is based in Ghana and a relative newcomer to the distance education and elearning market. The online college was founded by Adrien Bouillot and Miora Randriambeloma who, according to published information, have now recruited a young international team including members who have grown up in Madagascar, Togo and France. Company literature mentions that the Chalkboard team cares about education – some or all of the team members’ parents are, apparently, teachers or professors in African universities.

This provider’s online learning motto is better access to training and education for communities everywhere. Online courses use educational technology to make distance learning simpler, thereby breaking down physical and financial barriers to knowledge and education.

The remote learning app is available in English and notably, Chalkboard education technology permits the company's online courses to be studied on a wide range of handsets - including dated mobile telephones, as well as the latest type of smartphones. This will probably widen the possible appeal of this provider, supporting growth in the cost-conscious student base.

The application functions using a combination of SMS (Short Messaging Service) and USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) messaging protocols. USSD is a system that is available globally for communication between mobile phones and application programs. Although it transfers data in a similar way to SMS messages, USSD transactions differ in that they are valid only for a limited period during the communication session - in other words, they are not sent and stored for days on the recipient handset. This type of implementation offers the advantage that once the app has been downloaded, it works without an Internet connection. Additionally, costs for online students are significantly reduced.

On another positive note, Chalkboard provides successful students with a certified degree from a real university. The company website is modern though relatively basic; it does not currently supply much detail of the courses, educational products offered, nor fees and conditions. Nonetheless, since they describe sharing ambitious goals and a shared passion for innovation and impact, Chalkboard appears to be worth following over the medium term.

eCampus.camp

After its earliest beginnings over a decade ago, the modern version of eCampus was brought online more recently in December 2015. The service operates in Ghana under the eye of its founder, Cecil S. Nutakor. Available as an app in English or French, eCampus focuses its online learning education technology on delivering on-demand preparation for examinations and tests, via a simple user-friendly interface where the student can progress at his or her own pace.

Not confining itself to standard online teaching, this progressive elearning and distance education system also provides free access to interactive examinable academic content including past examination questions, instructive podcasts, videos, e-books, learning games and publications from various examination councils across Africa. Interestingly, eCampus also comes with social networking options that allow teachers and students who are registered on its online courses to interact and compare test scores.

With this comprehensive offering in mind, eCampus sees itself as well positioned to address the problems of falling examination pass rates and inadequate test preparation, perhaps partially a consequence of previously limited student access to educational materials.

Additionally, conventional educational systems and traditional classroom environments are thought to have suffered high dropout rates due to lack of motivation, too many students for too few teachers, or in many cases a mixture of these or other negative factors. In an effort to address these issues directly, eCampus aims to bring about increased student retention and improved test scores.

Kotivu.ng

A relatively new service, Kotivu is based in Lagos, Nigeria. It launched in May 2016 and aims to provide an innovative, interactive and cost-effective educational experience. Courses are available online; there is currently no app-based service. Students include private individuals, business people, public organisations, universities and government agencies throughout Nigeria and West Africa.

The company reports a balanced portfolio of clients from a variety of industry sectors. As well as making training affordable, the service is intended to be easily accessible to employees at their place of work, thereby minimising person-hour loss.

Under its founder Stephen Ojji, Kotivu describes itself as a social impact educational software firm with three business areas: Kotivu Assess, Kotivu Recruit and Kotivu Learn. Its principal goal is client satisfaction through serving client requirements and interests and to become a loyal business partner by providing excellent workplace training programmes at affordable prices.

Courses are designed to provide a good professional grounding via the user-friendly Kotivu portal. Topics include commerce and purchasing, marketing, project management, human resources and personal assistant training. Other subjects include quality control, safety at work, financial management, innovation and leadership. Payments are made by credit card in Nigerian Naira.

Kotivu Learn facilitates learning in the student’s own space and at his or her own pace, also eliminating the need for one-way monologues from a lecturer to multiple students. The candidate is an active participant in the elearning process. Additionally, the company aims to develop strategic relationships and build its business through distance education elearning content that can be redesigned and resold.

Rethink education

Rethink Education's digital platform uses the communication medium preferred by many students - mobile chat - to deliver short, interactive lessons that are fun and effective. Located in Cape Town, South Africa and founded by Douglas Hoernle, the service is delivered in English via mobile phones.

The application boasts the equivalent content of up to ten science and mathematics (grade 8 to 12 level) textbooks. Much or all of the course content is in upper case, though the company states that its e-learning content is expanding and improving all the time.

Teachers’ licenses and corporate customised training apps are also available within the Rethink offering. Additionally, several companies have sponsored differing numbers of user licenses; the student is asked to pay for the application and course only when there are no more sponsored licenses remaining.

In the details published about its online courses and elearning services, Rethink Education mentions that it uses technology to enhance the teaching and learning experience and so fulfil modern high school educational expectations. The company focuses on interactive and chat-based community platforms such as Mxit, WhatsApp, I3BM, Facebook and Twitter instead of traditional software or electronic textbooks or computer applications such as MS Excel or Word. Educational content is presented in smaller bite-size bits, as the company phrases it.

Elearning in this way can be aligned to support and coincide with the South African school curriculum to cover and support important core curriculum subjects, whether inside or outside the classroom. Teacher support is also provided to ensure maximum student learning from this distance education provider.

Via Afrika

The Via Afrika Digital Education Academy is located in South Africa, where it works in partnership with the Department of Basic Education and, to its credit, is associated with the South African Council of Educators (SACE).

Android tablet-based e-learning courses are available in English; there are no smartphone apps with this training provider. Payments may be made by credit card; a live Webinar costs 500 Rand, whereas a recorded Webinar may be viewed online retrospectively at the reduced rate of 400 Rand.

The target group is teachers, for whom thirty-six training sessions are available in four online courses at levels ranging from beginner to advanced. Each session lasts for two hours; the four e-learning course topics are as follows:

  • Course 1: Getting to know and use your tablet device.
  • Course 2: Social Media.
  • Course 3: Google services including Google Maps.
  • Course 4: Digital learning in schools.


Successful completion of each of these distance education courses leads to the award of an elearning qualification certificate that is endorsed by SACE, in addition to five Professional Development (PD) points per two-hour session. Apart from the certificate issued by the online college, successful students also receive a prestigious digital badge for inclusion in their personal online profile to show development in digital knowledge and skills.

Teachers are required to engage in three types of SACE-endorsed PD activities or programmes in order to achieve a minimum of 150 PD points during a three-year period.

 

More comparisons: African regional e-learning providers (II)

Online courses from Africans for Africans African regional e-learning providers

In this second review focusing on e-learning providers and online courses available in Africa, we continue examining the respective pros and cons of an additional six regional leading distance education and online learning providers. Sometimes also referred to as MOOC (massive open online courses), these training and educational opportunities from top universities and colleges in the African region are also occasionally offered free of charge.

As we saw in the above regional providers text
, the African educational technology (edtech) industry is currently buoyant and looks set to remain so for the foreseeable future. There are a number of business start-ups in various e-learning sectors, including content writing and software houses that develop online courses and learning management systems. The category list is also expanding, as recently evidenced by the provision of new online educational tools for children.

The term m-learning (or mobile learning) is also often used interchangeably with e-learning. Additionally, many of the platforms include learning management systems, which help students to plan their study timetable and manage their progress.

While distance education providers share the general goal of delivering effective online courses for their students, there are a number of interesting differences between certain m-learning providers in terms of the platform features available and the emphasis placed on the type of tuition. If you are a student, university professor or otherwise interested in e-learning, read on for further detail including how each elearning platform works, an indication of the respective distance education course(s) available and how long each featured online college course provider has been operating.

On a general note before we examine the detail, it should be borne in mind that although some of the leading elearning companies and online university mobile learning providers have ambitious objectives, they are at times dogged by a relatively poor Internet presence. In some cases, this is evident in the quality of the provider website or the training course overview.

Obami

Founded in 2009 by Barbara Mallinson, Obami is located in Cape Town, South Africa. This mobile learning platform is available as a smartphone application in English and is aimed at primary and secondary school pupils, with a significant uptake occurring more recently across tertiary education institutes.

Obami aims to create memorable learning experiences through a learning management system backed up by support services, i.e. consultancy and expertise. Offering advice on the best digital learning strategy for organisations, the company sees its aim, in its own words, as bringing boring old content to life and delivering it to any device, anywhere. The elearning platform may be customised for ease of use or, if preferred by the client, a more formal learning interface may be designed. Obami states that it has the right expertise and resources to set up and maintain an online learning community for any type of organisation.

Educational institutions may find the Obami pricing plan to be of interest, particularly, schools that wish to gain the most from elearning while remaining conscious of costs and operating within fixed budgets. The basic subscription is free of charge and allows the enrolment of an unlimited number of course members, though the interface cannot be customised at this level.

Alternatively, for organisations that require a customisable interface, there are three subscription options:

  • Bronze - £1.00 per member per month, up to 999 members.
  • Silver - £0.50 per member per month, up to 9,999 members.
  • Gold - £0.25 per member per month, 10,000 members or more.

(Prices are shown in pounds sterling/GBP).

Speaking in July 2016, Lynna Halilou (a specialist in the subjects of communication, education and development in Africa) described Obami as a free to use South African social learning platform that helped to connect everyone in a learning space. She mentioned that students could register a profile and connect with people from around the world, receive news updates from schools and submit assigned work tasks. Halilou went on to compare the similarity of the platform, in essence, to a social media network with a firm focus on education.

In 2014, this start-up also launched a mobile smartphone app, Obami Tutor, which focuses on private tutoring for students based in South Africa. The platform connects learners via their mobile phones to real-life qualified tutors. Obami Tutor was hailed as revolutionising the traditional model of private tutoring by bringing quality and affordable tuition to any student at any South African educational institution that is registered within the learning space.

Published opinions of this distance education platform have been favourable. Crunchbase, a leading online forum featuring innovative companies and the people behind them, lists Obami as the most flexible and popular learning engine in Africa. Similarly, VC4A (Venture Capital for Africa, an expanding professional community of business people in 159 African countries) describes Obami as a social learning network that connects everyone within the education space – from teachers, learners and parents, to trainers and mentors as well as business management, NGOs and government.

Along with typical social media tools such as blogs, chat and news feeds, the platform allows for the creating and sharing of educational resources, while providing a powerful assessment module to improve student involvement and performance.

According to company advertising, Obami is accessible via both web and mobile interfaces and is already being used by hundreds of city, township and rural primary and secondary schools across Southern Africa, as well as by other schools in Europe and the United States. It is helping more than 30,000 educators, young people and their parents to connect, create, share and learn – all from within an incredibly secure and easily managed, learning environment.

Boasting a prestigious appearance in the Forbes listings as one of the top twenty start-ups in Africa, Obami has also been recognised as one the most innovative technologies in the world by UNESCO, Deloitte, Air France as well as the Netexplo Observatory, an independent body with French links that monitors the impact of digital technology on business and society.

Dapt.io

Also located in South Africa’s capital city of Cape Town, Dapt.io was founded in 2013 by Roger Norton and Tabitha Bailey. The online learning platform is adaptive, offering courses in which the structure, content and assessments adapt according to students’ progress - including their particular strengths and, in contrast, any areas for improvement. Online courses are therefore created with content that adapts to the specific needs of every individual learner.

Notably, Dapt.io is not designed or promoted as an independent platform. Instead, it is optimised for embedded integration into current learning management system (LMS) software and developing country environments. The company has built its interface to embed with ease, fitting into whatever technology their clients currently use - whether a simple website, portal or full LMS via an iFrame, without having to migrate any users. As Bailey commented, this offers the possibility and attractive potential for competitors to become key clients. However, pricing and payment plan information was not available at the time of writing.

In her summary, Lynna Halilou described Dapt.io as having rapidly positioned itself as one of the leaders in adaptive learning, through the effective implementation of AI (artificial intelligence). The system assists teachers and mentors in understanding the current proficiency of each learner, helping to tailor the course content delivered to them so that it matched the individuals’ learning requirements. Clearly, this is favourable for successful study and higher examination grades.

Though precise detail of how the Dapt.io service functions is unclear, perhaps as a smartphone application, it is known that Dapt.io uses students’ smartphones to send small amounts of data to their teachers and thereby create a holistic learning profile. With this feedback of vital learning analytics including student preferences and progress, teachers can then provide improved curricula and pedagogy. The aim is to facilitate and encourage greater student engagement - thereby creating, in effect, what Dapt.io describes as a virtuous learning circle.

According to Crunchbase, Dapt.io recently won top honours at the Telkom Innovation Mega Challenge; it has also been named by Fast Company as one of the top ten most innovative companies in Africa. Similarly, Ventureburn, an organisation that reports on startup news and technology in emerging markets, highlighted the deep analytics and personalised learning services provided.

Another advantage of the Dapt.io system is in the detail. Videos are also offered as links. This means that students who are connected via smartphones also have the option to watch these training videos later on different devices or in areas with better networks and data connectivity.

In addition to the student market, Dapt.io also licenses its software services to publishers and other content creators who need new, cutting-edge ways to present their content to end users via intuitive dashboards.

While international competitors exist in this industry such as Knewton, Smart Sparrow and Dreambox, as well as local companies including Get Smarter, Funda and ReThink Education, Dapt.io hopes its local relevance will help to distinguish it from the rest of the crowd. “We are uniquely built to face local challenges, including being mobile first - our content is broken into bite-sized chunks for low data usage and ease of consumption by students”, Bailey told Ventureburn.

A study carried out by a US-based international research company, Ambient Insight, discovered that total revenue from self-paced e-learning courses in sixteen African countries exceeded a total of US $250 million during 2011. By the end of 2016, this figure is expected to double, if not triple; the growth rate for cloud-based e-learning products such as Dapt.io in Africa is a massive 39 percent.

 

OkpaBac

Founded in Togo this year (2016) by Pascal Mewenemesse, Abella Soukoude and Omer Napporn, members of start-up OkpaFaces, the OkpaBac Android application is available in French and is free of charge. Its target audience is high school students who are studying for their Baccalaureate in Togo – in fact, the name OkpaBac literally translates to English as ‘you are done with the Baccalaureate’.

Lynna Halilou described the platform as offering tremendous educational resources and help to students preparing for their crucial Baccalaureate examinations, required for university admission for thousands of students in Togo and across the French influenced western coast of Africa. The app contains exercises, summaries of lessons, sample examinations from previous years in addition to quizzes to test knowledge attained.

Company plans include extending the app to non-Android devices and other operating systems.

 

Samaskull

Samaskull provides online courses from its headquarters in Dakar, Senegal. Founded relatively recently (2015) by Moustapha Diop and Baye Fily Mbengue, this platform is available as a smartphone elearning app in French only.

The company has a wide target audience including schools, to which it makes the platform available for them to present unlimited educational materials online to their students. In addition to high schools, there is also significant uptake of this platform among Baccalaureate students in Togo.

With the maxim ‘Made by Africans, for Africans’, Samaskull provides interactive MOOCs and small private online courses (also referred to as SPOCs) for students who decide to opt for individual private tuition. It has also been described as a new kind of Coursera, developed in Senegal. The company prides itself on its offering of an innovative and open platform to enable Africans to take more control of their future education and professional career path.

No pricing plan information was available for this Senegalese e-learning platform at the time of writing.

 

Tutor.ng

Located in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria, Tutor.ng was founded in 2014. The web-based service is available in English and was designed to make education accessible for Nigerians and to promote the sharing of knowledge across borders.

Tutor.ng also enables individual tutors to create courses and engage learners remotely, connecting them all over the world. Tutors may themselves be advanced learners, test preparation companies or university affiliates.

A wide range of course topics includes business and entrepreneurship and information technology in addition to languages, history, science and mathematics. The platform also offers examination preparation, tuition in basic academic skills such as reading and spelling as well as non-academic skills including make-up tutorials, cooking, creative arts or health and lifestyle. Some of these courses also exist as online courses, although not all; Tutor.ng also offers physical courses.

Fehintolu Olaogun, a technical entrepreneur, is a co-founder of Tutor.ng. Interviewed in 2014 by ‘How we made it in Africa’ magazine, Olaogun said that the idea for the platform came about due to the education system not being able to meet local demand. Consequently, many young people were leaving the country to pursue their studies.

Tools provided by the Tutor.ng e-classrooms include online whiteboards, documents, audio and video. Tutors are also able to set engaging quizzes and to chat with students in real time. Course fees are set by the tutor, personal trainers, teacher or consultant marketing the course.

 

Click here to apply: http://tutor.ng/

Prepclass.com.ng

Also located in Lagos, Nigeria, Prepclass was created by Obanor Chukwuwezam in 2013 with the aim of addressing the issues caused by the generally poor performance of Nigerian students in examinations, especially those sat at national level. The platform provides content relevant to local examinations and is available as an app in English. Targeted at Nigerian students, prices and payment plans depend on various factors and are agreed individually between tutors and students.

A Crunchbase article highlighted how Prepclass offers quick test taking strategies, targeted examination practice, full length tests, topic-specific tests and a computer based training (CBT) experience similar to that of UTME (Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination) and post-UTME qualifications in Nigerian universities.

By simulating a testing experience using questions from previous examinations for which the student is studying, this academic solutions provider gives students a unique opportunity to test themselves and receive analytical feedback on their performance. Students can see the amount of time they spent on a test, the topics at which they are proficient and, in contrast, where they need to spend more time and gain further practice. The platform also provides an individual learning programme with detailed answers to each question so that students know exactly what is expected for a particular answer, as well as any learning points that they may have missed.

The Prepclass website is clearly very well built and looks set to be a strong e-learning market contender. In Nigeria, tuition is very common – there are more than 5,000 tutors in Lagos alone. Approved, experienced tutors enjoy high earning prospects with this system while registered students are promised a quality, customised in-home tutoring or online test preparation service.

 

E-Coach solutions

E-Coach Solutions was founded 2011 in Ghana. The mission is to develop a suite of products, services and platforms that address common challenges in existing education systems while developing new models for education delivery, so that quality education becomes accessible to anyone, anywhere and at anytime.

Products are:

ecoach.io is a social learning platform that leverages the best of our services and capabilities to foster a community of learners, educators, parents and institutions.

ecoachbooks.com is a digital content authoring, distribution and monetization platfom for educational content publishers as well as an intelligent e-library for individuals.

ecoachtutors.com is a digital marketplace that matches students with private tutors, while also enabling users to request for tutoring at designated ecoach learning centres.

ecoachtests.com is a highly customizable assessment platform that simiplifies test creation, grading and analysis for educators, and test taking for learners.

Click here to learn more: www.ecoachsolutions.com

Further information?

If you are a teaching professional, university professor or a student and would like to find out more about e-learning, receive further information about online courses or discuss your distance education requirements, please click to our comparison and recommendation page: Comparison of African e-learning apps . We are e-learning specialists and online university advisers for Africa and will be delighted to assist you with your enquiry.

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