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Distance teacher education in Ghana could ‘leapfrog’ ahead, research finds

22 February 2019

Photo of Eric Addae Kyeremeh

Distance education provision for initial teacher education in Ghana could take a leap ahead, thanks to a fruitful partnership between The Open University’s School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport (ECYS) and the University of Cape Coast (UCC). 

ECYS researchers Eric Addae-Kyeremeh and Dr Jane Cullen are working with Dr Might Kojo Abreh of UCC, Ghana’s largest provider of distance teacher education, to evaluate UCC’s distance education teacher training. 

Their research has been carried out as part of the collaborative working practices underpinned by the Memorandum of Understanding between OU ECYS and UCC.

The initial results were presented by Eric Addae-Kyeremeh, Dr Cullen and Dr Abreh at UCC’s first SEDO (School of Educational Development and Outreach) conference in Cape Coast on 29 and 30 January 2019.

Countries exploring distance education

Eric Addae-Kyeremeh said the background to the research is that Ghana, like many African countries, faces the challenge of training enough teachers to meet the needs of its expanded education provision.

“It is apparent that institutions cannot accommodate enough trainee teachers on campus, so national on-site providers of higher education are exploring distance education at scale,” he said.

“Our research set out to explore the pedagogical, curriculum development and institutional challenges involved in this, which has not been studied elaboratively, in our modest opinion.

“We uncovered the danger associated with distance teaching institutions replicating face-to-face teaching in a distance setting; as we know from The Open University’s experience, there is more to distance education than shoving resources online.”

The three academics conducted two weeks’ fieldwork among students and tutors in UCC distance learning study centres, with funding from the Education Futures Research Cluster in the OU’s Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET).

‘First generation’ provision

They found that current provision is heavily situated in the ‘first generation’ of distance education, sending out printed textbooks to students via the postal service, with TV broadcasts and podcasts being mooted as possible second stages of development.

One of the recommendations they will be making is that it is not necessary to pass through these stages of development, it is possible to ‘leapfrog’ straight from generation one to generation three or four, as has happened elsewhere.

“Because the technology is now available to support networked learning and personalised learning, future investment into distance education should focus on the use of interactive technology and learning analytics, to provide an effective learning experience for students and at scale,” said Dr Abreh.

No access to schools

The research also found that a significant number of the distance education students were either not working at all, or not currently working in any teaching-related role, Dr Cullen said. 

Distance education is presenting them with a unique opportunity to move into the teaching profession; however, among their many challenges is the fact that such students do not have access to schools where they can practice what they are being taught.

And tutors and students have different attitudes to distance education, with tutors seeing it as a good opportunity to reach students unable to access the physical campus, but students viewing it as ‘second best’.

The full findings of the research are being written up in three co-authored papers, the first for potential publication in a special issue of Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, and the OU and UCC will continue to explore its implications together, with a visit by UCC representatives to the OU campus planned. 

Image above shows ECYS researcher Eric Addae Kyeremeh


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