developing countries, distance learning, e-learning, North-South collaboration, partnership, public health
Introduction: Distance learning (e-learning) can facilitate access to training. Yet few public health E-learning experiments have been reported; institutes in developing countries experience difficulties in establishing on-line curricula, while developed countries struggle with adapting existing curricula to realities on the ground. In 2005, two schools of public health, one in France and one in Benin, began collaborating through contact sessions organised for Nancy University distance-learning students. This experience gave rise to a partnership aimed at developing training materials for e-Learning for African students. The distance-learning public health course at Nancy teaches public health professionals through a module entitled "Health and Development." The module is specifically tailored for professionals from developing countries. To promote student-teacher exchanges, clarify content and supervise dissertations, contact sessions are organized in centres proximate and accessible to African students. The Benin Institute's main feature is residential team learning; distance-learning courses are currently being prepared. Outcome: The two collaborating institutions have developed a joint distance-learning module geared toward developing countries. The collaboration provides for the development, diffusion, and joint delivery of teaching modules featuring issues that are familiar to African staff, gives the French Institute credibility in assessing research work produced, and enables modules on specific African issues and approaches to be put online. learned: While E-learning is a viable educational option for public health professionals, periodic contact can be advantageous. Our analysis showed that the benefit of the collaboration between the two institutions is mutual; the French Institute extends its geographical, cultural and contextual reach and expands its pool of teaching staff. The Benin Institute benefits from the technical partnership and expertise, which allow it to offer distance learning for Africa-specific contexts and applications.
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