Advice for eLearning programs in Medical Education: Determine the problem first, then find technology

Just read a very interesting post on the World Bank EduTech blog on using technology to gather data in Uganda’s education sector. Below is an excerpt which I think is such an important issue and relates to the use of technology in all contexts but particularly in low-resource settings where the stakes are high:

“On the technology front, the general lesson learned (or re-learned, or reinforced) was to “first identify issues to be addressed, then identify the technology”. (This is a lesson to which the EduTech blog regularly returns!) Other key related lessons (see the related PowerPoint file if you would like these presented in a concise, bullet point format) were to identify appropriate technology tools that can be adapted to address specific needs and to acknowledge that technology is only a tool, and so has various limitations. In addition, in the case of Uganda, the adoption of these specific technology tools was greatly enabled given widespread access to mobile networks, and improving access to the Internet.”

As many medical schools in Africa embark on eLearning programs in partnership with American Universities or other local/international partners, it’s really important to keep in mind that the strategy should be to start with a clear need statement and a clear problem to solve. Since partners often have experience with a particular technology, or in some cases have even developed their own technology that they are eager to use, there is a tendency find ways to make use of a so-called ‘good’ technology.   There might be pressure from the partner, an implicit expectation in the collaboration or simply the assumption that it worked for them so it should work for us. Yet establishing an eLearning program based on technology is dangerous and risky – it can often lead to wasted time and resources as you may be fixing a problem that didn’t exist or scaling something that is not right for your context.

Thanks for the reminder EduTech blog – we will indeed try to choose technology only after we know the issue to address!

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