Advancing online learning technologies in Zambia

When universities in Zambia closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Zambia Research and Education Network (ZAMREN) stepped in with its high capacity network to assist 22 of its member institutions deploy Moodle, a leading virtual teaching and learning management platform. ZAMREN is also hosting all the 22 Moodle instances on its Network Operating Center (NOC) for free until December 2020 as an incentive for more member universities to deploy the platform.

According to ZAMREN’s System Administrator, Henry Simfukwe, ZAMREN immediately stepped up to the challenges of engaging member institutions on how to effectively use the platform. “Our assistance during the crisis involved conducting online training workshops for ICT staff on how to administer the Moodle system and teaching staff on how to add content and deliver online classes,” says Simfukwe. “Each institution’s online training was done over a period of four days. We also helped to implement basic customizations to fit specific operations and processes.”

The sharp increase in Moodle installations triggered an increase in bandwidth demand and usage at ZAMREN and at member institutions. A surge in bandwidth that can be handled by a an NREN network. “All of the Moodle instances are hosted by ZAMREN at its NOC. This caused an increase in bandwidth at the NOC and at institutions that are doing a lot of video conferencing,” added Simfukwe.

From Crisis to Opportunity

To encourage more institutions to deploy Moodle, ZAMREN waived hosting fees for until 31 December 2020. “Until December 2020 we are not charging for hosting but only collecting minimal set-up fees,” says Simfukwe. “Once the institutions and students are used to the platform, and realize its advantages – in good times and in bad – we will begin to implement a pricing model for hosting that suitable for our country in in line with our national interests.”

Universities in Zambia closed in March 2020 following an upsurge of COVID-19 cases. On 11 September 2020, government announced that schools could fully open, after only a partial opening for final year students that took place in July 2020.

Published: 09/2020

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