From education to employment

The Association of Commonwealth Universities and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade launch blended learning programme

students studying

Following the successful pilot programme in East Africa, the new Partnership for Enhanced and Blended Learning (PEBL) in West Africa will further increase access to higher education in countries where demand outstrips supply.

By combining technology and digital media with face-to-face lectures, blended learning presents an opportunity to safeguard learning during times of crisis, address academic staff shortages and provide education and training at scale.

The PEBL project has already turned this opportunity into a reality for universities across East Africa, supported by the UK FCDO’s SPHEIR programme. It brought together 23 East African universities and technical partners based in the UK and Canada, resulting in the upskilling of over 150 academics in blended learning delivery.

The new programme announced today between the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and Government of Australia will help build stronger, more resilient institutions and widen access to higher education.

By supporting academics and students across 12 universities in Ghana and Nigeria, PEBL West Africa will build sustainable capacity for blended learning through expert-led training, collaboration, and the development of quality assured, credit-bearing blended courses. Funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), this unique partnership is designed to rapidly, and sustainably, scale capacity for hybrid learning design and delivery.

PEBL West Africa will draw on the learnings, expertise and resources developed in the PEBL East Africa project. The model is designed to be easily replicated to meet similar challenges in higher education access elsewhere across the Commonwealth.

‘Higher education is essential to building strong societies. The good news that more people than ever want to go to university is tempered by a lack of qualified staff to meet the massive rise in demand. It is crucial for universities to collaborate across borders to find solutions to improving access and equity. In this, international networks like the ACU offer transformative experiences and a powerful forum for the exchange of resources, experience, and expertise.

As the coronavirus pandemic has seen universities switch to online teaching at unprecedented pace and scale globally, blended learning may well become standard practice in Africa and elsewhere and such skills will be in demand. Through PEBL, universities are able to share teaching resources and pool expertise to ensure more young people can access quality higher education now and into the future’, says Dr Joanna Newman, Chief Executive and Secretary General of the ACU.

‘Participating in PEBL has helped me to develop personally and professionally’, explains Dr Carlene Kyeremeh, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at All Nations University in Ghana. ‘The training workshops are a great way to meet new people and expand your network and the trainers are very knowledgeable and helpful. They really invest in the whole learning experience with an eagerness to impart knowledge and a genuine desire to help you’.

Dr Catherine V. Nnamani, Associate Professor of Plant Systematics and Conservation Biology, Ebonyi State University, Nigeria adds:

‘Blended learning and teaching come with the advantage of overcoming barriers associated with face-to-face approach such as distance, time, space, location, shortage of lecturers, library holding, admission quota and inclusiveness. We are therefore enthusiastic about the positive impacts blended learning will have on both the staff and students of Ebonyi State University Abakaliki, Nigeria’.

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