The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has seen a rise in popularity in its COL-supported mobile and web-based learning platform in East Africa and India, which allows farmers to learn and exchange information in their local languages
The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has seen a rise in popularity in its COL-supported mobile and web-based learning platform in East Africa and India, which allows farmers to learn and exchange information in their local languages.
MOOCs, Mass Open Online Courses, have been widely researched as a form of distance education.
They were first introduced in 2006 and became a popular mode of learning and provider of interactive community user forums in 2012.
Makerere University and Uganda Christian University have established the platform, known as m-Omulimisa in Uganda, and have employed it in their community outreach programmes.
It is designed to fit into and support existing extension systems and infrastructure to reach more underserved farmers in a growing services network.
Farmers send texts on their mobiles to ask agricultural questions in their local language and get feedback from a local extension officer.
They can also send pictures so that the officers can better diagnose problems such as diseased crops or animals.
Without m-Omulimisa, extension officers often deliver agricultural extension services in person, an expensive approach given the large number of and vast distances between farms.
The platform aims to provide a less expensive, more efficient and farmer-responsive extension system.
Telecom companies have partnered with m-Omulimisa to make sure farmers’ use of the platform is free of charge.
More than 15,000 farmers from 51 districts have registered to use the platform in Uganda as of August 2017, and extension officers have responded to over 4,300 questions.
COL is also partnering with Matumaini Mapya, a children’s empowerment organisation, in Tanzania to provide a similar platform, which will facilitate their Lifelong Learning for Farmers initiative.
Furthermore, COL has similarly collaborated with the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur to launch three MOOCs on agricultural topics.
The courses have a combined registration of more than 6,200 learners since their launch on September 19, 2017, of which around 40% are using their smart phone as the primary device to access the course.
In one course, nearly half are accessing the content through a mobile device.
This is a significant increase from 2016, where agricultural MOOCs were accessed via a mobile device by 25% of learners.
Access to the online courses are free and designed to help learners acquire and enhance agricultural skills and knowledge, which two courses offered in English and one in Hindi.
Learners have been attracted from across the Commonwealth, most notably in India, Nigeria, Kenya and Afganistan.
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