Opportunities for Strategic Use of E-Learning in Scaling Up Disaster Management Capacity in Eastern Africa: A Descriptive Analysis
Background: The growing need for disaster management skills at all levels in Eastern Africa requires innovative approaches to training planners at all levels. While information technology tools provide a viable option, few studies have assessed the capacity for training institutions to use technology for cascading disaster management skills.
Methods: The design was an explorative survey. A pre-training survey was conducted among 16 faculty members (9 academic staff and 7 information technology (IT) staff) from 7 schools of public health in Eastern Africa. Key informant interviews with 4 students and 4 staff members were conducted at the school of public health in Makerere. IT staff also conducted observations on trends of use of information technology infrastructure.
Results: Current levels of use of ICT among teaching and IT staff is variable. On-site use of the internet is high, but off-site access is low. Personal computers, e-mail, discussion forums and other web-based learning management platforms and open education resources (OERs) have been variably used by faculty and students to facilitate learning. On the other hand, videos, web-conferencing, social media, web-based document management tools, and mobile telephone applications were much less frequently used. A disaster management short course produced by the Health Emergencies Management Project (HEMP) has been adapted to a web-based open education resource and an interactive CD-ROM. Challenges included low levels of awareness and skills in technology options among students and faculty and access to reliable internet.
Conclusions: Despite the existing challenges, technology tools are a viable platform for cascading disaster management skills in Eastern Africa.
Keywords: Information and Communication technology, e-learning