Conversion of Zimbabwe Open University to Decentralized
Prepared by Peter K. Dzvimbo, Ph.D. and Peter T. Knight, Ph.D.
Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU), Zimbabwes leading distance and open learning institution, seeks external technical and financial assistance to meet the capital costs of its planned transition from print-based to web-based delivery of learning materials.
ZOU was conceived as the Centre for Distance Education at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) in 1993, and then in 1996 became the University College of Distance Education before becoming an independent institution in 1999. In its first 18 months as an independent institution it went from 12,000 to over 20,000 enrolments, over twice as many as its parent institution. ZOUs Vice Chancellor (equivalent of President in a US institution), Professor Peter Dzvimbo, received his Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin.
ZOU seeks to expand dramatically its operations first in Zimbabwe, second in Anglophone SADDC countries, and third in other countries of Africa using primarily web-based teaching and learning, delivered via the Internet, reaching a total enrolment in all programs (including continuing education for lifelong learners) of 150,000 by the year 2004, and by that year become fully financially self-supporting for its current operations.
ZOU requires external financial assistance to support its 2001-2004 Strategic Plan. Given the difficult macro-economic situation facing Zimbabwe, ZOU cannot count on sufficient funding from the Ministry of Higher Education and Technology or student fees (currently making up 45 percent of ZOUs budget) and other forms of self-finance to meet its capital funding, including staff training.
Phase I 2001-2002
- Establishing broadband links to the Internet through connecting to UZs fiber optic system that is expected to have a satellite link to the backbone of the Internet in the United States by the early in the year 2001.
- Purchasing and installing central servers; clusters of cheap network computers on each floor of the existing rented campus, in the central library in downtown Harare, and in each of ten regional centers, all linked by fiber optic lines (using existing fiber belonging to the electric power company, the railroads, and/or the telco); equipment and software for a multimedia computer-based production center capable of producing broadcast quality and compressed digital video, audio, animated graphics, CD-ROMs, and desktop publishing for print materials; integrated software for online administration and learning environments; and upgrading all staff desktop computers to year 2001, WinTel models from a major producer (Compaq, Dell, etc.) running Windows 2000 and a full MS Office suite (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, and FrontPage), with needed peripherals, but not networked to the main servers until a permanent central campus is acquired). Subject to competitive bids to local and international suppliers importers willing to provide installation and maintenance contracts.
- External technical assistance: Training ZOU staff in Zimbabwe to convert and update existing course modules (giving first priority to the flagship Bachelor in Education program) and write all new course materials into HTML-based formats (web pages), complete with graphics, animated graphics, audio clips, and video clips using modern instructional design and placing these course materials both on the central servers and CD-ROMs; training all teaching staff on the pedagogy of web-based instruction; providing online or CD-based instruction English writing, with priority to writing for the web, with customized templates for the production of instructional materials (http://ClearWriter.com); assisting ZOU management in preparing detailed feasibility studies for Phase II; representation for fundraising in the US and Europe for two years. Contractor Knight-Moore Telematics for Education and Development through Communications Development Incorporated (http://knight-moore.com and http://cdinet.com)
- Becoming a member of African Virtual University (AVU), or at a minimum, attaining access to AVUs digital library, either as an independent member or through UZ.
Phase II 2003-2004 Includes GSTF Pilot Project
- Building or purchasing a permanent central campus primarily for administration, research, library, staff training, design and production of teaching materials, and maintenance of an Internet-based communications hub.
- Purchasing or leasing a VSAT hub capable of communicating via a high-powered digital satellite transponder with at least 1000 learning centers (owned principally by strategic partners ministries, parastatals, private sector enterprises, churches, NGOs, etc.) consisting of a cluster of cheap network computers, a networked printer and other peripherals, and appropriate furniture in a secure room with a digital decoder, small (approximately 60 cm to 1 meter) satellite dish capable of both receiving and transmitting, and a source of electric power (regular power grid, generator, or solar panels). Contractor Hughes or Gilat, via competitive bid.
- Space segment on a digital satellite with strong footprint over Sub-Saharan Africa this component would be submitted to the proposed Global Service Trust Fund (GSTF) for funding.
- Continued training, representation and fundraising contract for two years. Contractor, Knight-Moore Telematics for Education and Development through Communications Development Incorporated.