Monday, March 19, 2012

PL 11/12: African libraries as centers of e-learning

Filed under: #ifla2012, IFLA, LATINA — plinius @ 9:44 am

This paper will be presented at the main IFLA conference in Helsinki:

Picture: From the LATINA Summer course in Oslo 2010

The LATINA approach

The LATINA Lab is a training and development unit within the Learning Centre and Library of the University College of Oslo and Akershus in Norway. The Lab develops, demonstrates and provides intensive training in teaching and learning metods that are based on the current state of – and emerging trends in – user-oriented ICT. This paper will summarize what we have learned from LATINA about using libraries as centers of e-learning, with Maklib and East Africa as an illustrative case.

The LATINA approach is not lecture based, but centered on student, group and production activities. We emphasize the importance of team-work between teachers as will as between students or participants. We generally use software that is free and widely used. Our work is increasingly web-based, cloud-based and multi-media oriented. We access, produce, edit and curate resources through a variety of devices, such as portable computers, touch tablets and mobile phones. The materials we develop before and during our courses are normally published on the open web with a CC license.

Global project

Since it started in 2008, the Lab has gathered extensive experience with library-based training in e-learning skills. We have taught courses lasting from one to three weeks (full time) to international classes of librarians, library students and university teachers – in Oslo, Finland, China and Palestine. This year we are collaborating with Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, (1) to run a two week course in June, and (2) to organize a similar training unit at Makerere University Library. The main purpose of the project is to enable Maklib and other African participants to develop and offer similar types of training based on their own resources in the future. The project is also intended to support the development of libraries in South Sudan. A development project for the library sector in South Sudan (funded by Norway) will offer five scholarships to the training.


Today, all schools and universities take the technologies of paper, print and writing for granted. We hold that education needs to integrate the web in a similar way. In countries with fast and stable web connections, immediate access to the web is the normal situation. The courses we have held in Norway, Finland and China could take the web for granted. In most of Africa, that is not the case. Access is expanding rapidly – particularly through mobile, phone-based services. But for the next five or ten years, we need an approach that allows us to use the tremendous resources of the web under less than ideal conditions. The course in Kampala will therefore be based on what we have called LATINA-in-a-box.

This means that we store all course materials – as well as a multi-user blog program (WordPress) – on a local server. We set up a local hot-spot (wireless link to the server), so that students and teachers can utilize the resources on the server with normal digital tools (portable PCs, tablets, smart phones). Since web access will occasionally be available, we are not isolated from the web. We can download from – and upload to – the web from time to time. That means we can continue to work in a web-based manner – in Kampala, in Uganda, and in most of Africa. Since equipment prices have fallen radically the last couple of years, this approach will not be more expensive than traditional desktops and servers – rather the opposite.

New training methods

As part of our development work, we try to design learning resources – text, pictures, video – so that they will work on many different devices. Learners, students and practitioners will have access to information and communication in all their activities – on and off campus. What this implies for – say – school librarians, village teachers, field workers and local nurses can be imagined.

The introduction of new training methods in higher education is a complex and often difficult process. We believe, from experience, that libraries may have more freedom to experiment than ordinary programs of study. The paper will explore these issues, with an African setting, but drawing on experiences in other countries outside Europe as well.


Irene Mbawaki (picture, left) and Philliam Adoma (right) will be on the teaching team in Kampala.




  1. […] PL 11/12: African libraries as centers of elearning Share this:ShareEmailPrintFacebookTwitterStumbleUponLinkedInTumblrDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Leave a Comment […]

    Pingback by PL 28/12: Skills, formats, tasks and time « Plinius — Thursday, June 7, 2012 @ 8:35 pm

  2. […] blog post about the paper […]

    Pingback by PL 30/12: LATINA and library statistics « Plinius — Wednesday, August 1, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

  3. […] African libraries as centers of elearning […]

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