Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Accelerating the digital agenda at Botswana Open University

aerial view of Botswana Open UniversityBy Professor Kgomotso H. Moahi, Acting Vice Chancellor, Botswana Open University

Great advances have been made in educational technology,  with centre stage taken by virtual and augmented reality,  artificial intelligence, big data analytics, the Internet of  Things, and Cloud computing. These are well suited for  distance education, as they can enhance interaction and  engagement between students and staff, advance selfdirected  learning and learner-centredness and provide access  to a plethora of digital multimedia resources.

Botswana Open University (BOU) has always been mindful  of keeping pace, as its first strategic plan focused on building  a technology-enhanced university. Key to this aim was the  Strategy for Technology Enhanced Learning, Teaching,  Assessment and Student Support (STELTASS), which enabled  BOU’s swift pivot to online delivery during the Covid-19  pandemic.

From its inception, BOU has adopted emerging technologies  to enhance access and increase student engagement, while  being alive to the inequalities engendered by uneven skills  and connectivity. BOU aims to be a technology-enhanced  and globally recognised open university with decentralised  systems, efficient service delivery, innovative solutions and  a focus on student experience and academic excellence.  Through technology, BOU can reach the unreached and  the marginalised, aided by adequate funding and robust  government policies on technology infrastructure.

Like many higher education institutions, BOU has moved to  digital learning platforms such as Moodle. This technology  integration has, to a large extent, ameliorated the challenges  of distance learning for students, such as the isolation  and demotivation caused by limited student–teacher and  student–student interactions. BOU has developed several  applications, including an app providing offline access to  information on academic programmes and services, and  other pertinent information. Through the e-Ethical clearance  system, students can apply online for ethical approval of  their research instead of travelling to a regional campus.

Distance learning students require robust student support  services such as academic and psychosocial counselling. BOU  has developed an e-counselling system that obviates the need  for students to travel and links students with the appropriate  person(s) for their sessions.

Nationally, BOU has played a critical role in accelerating  the digital education agenda. The university was pivotal  in developing the national e-education policy framework  submitted to the government and in building teachers’  capacity for integrating technology into teaching and  learning. BOU continues to advocate for an open educational  resources repository that will encompass educational  materials ranging from open schooling to tertiary education.

Amidst these great achievements have been challenges,  including limited infrastructure, connectivity access issues,  change management and BOU’s financial constraints. The  Covid-19 pandemic revealed severe inequalities in digital  access and skills among staff and tutors. An e-tutor model  was developed to guide them in the adjustment, and  continuous training and capacity building were undertaken.  Students were also inducted into how best to work with  online content. Effort is needed to improve online formative  and summative assessments and adopt a curriculum design  for enhancing academic integrity.

The Government of Botswana has committed to connecting  all villages to the Internet through the SmartBotswana  project, which means that more people will have access to  BOU’s services. BOU has long researched how best to deliver  products and services to its clientele. The foundation is set,  and the goal is to continuously evolve and improve.

From 2023 to 2028, BOU will work to become an “inclusive  open university” focused on ensuring equity and access to  education for all, whatever the circumstances. Research and  innovation will be key, as will having the necessary financial  and human resources. BOU will continue identifying  opportunities for partnerships, collaboration, best practices  sharing and joint projects for improved services.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Connections (vol. 28, no. 2) Copyright © 2023 by Commonwealth of Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book