ACE Impact project releases Guidebook for Successful Implementation of Digital Education

ACE Impact project releases Guidebook for Successful Implementation of Digital Education 

The ACE Impact project has successfully published ‘The Guidebook to a Successful Implementation of Digital Education’.  The Guidebook, which is made available in English and French, explains e-learning effectively and aims to guide decision- makers of higher education institutions  through the major change processes that digital education implementation represents. It also attempts to provide institutions with ideas on how to choose the most effective learning methods based on the competencies to be developed by their student body, and the broader institutional context. Among other relevant topics, this book presents content covering the following areas: Digital Education definitions and related terms; innovation and trends in higher education; and digital education readiness assessment and approaches to successful implementation.  The Guide also provides decision makers with introductory knowledge of digital education. The rapid evolution of methods, techniques, and approaches surrounding the development of digital education required the establishment of a guide to support higher education institutions, governments, and other stakeholders in navigating this important terrain. These programs must meet quality requirements for both the content they are delivering, as well as the technologies they use to deliver it.




The Guidebook was developed based on specialized literature and is inspired by global best practices of institutions that are leaders in this field. The book further provides readers with practical support tools that will help them better understand the concepts presented in this guide and facilitate the implementation of digital education at their respective institutions. The guide integrates content on pedagogical strategies, which are sometimes overlooked but are essential to the success of any digital education program. The book concludes with a call on all stakeholders to make the necessary efforts to contribute to the successful implementation of an e-learning initiative within their institution.

Promoting Digital Education in African Universities

Promoting Digital Education in African Universities

Building the next generation of African ICT Specialists through the ACE Impact Project

The rise of Digital Education

Digital education has assumed growing importance over the past several years, as higher education institutions, and a growing number of institutions of all sizes are now adopting digital education programs. Disruption to the academic calendars, influenced by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompted the need to strengthen digital education by building pedagogical and technological capacities in quality online education. Report from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), 2021 confirms that during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, unlike other parts of the world, Sub-Saharan Africa struggled in terms of digital tools and personnel to meet the demand in supporting online teaching and learning, especially during the school and university closures. Efforts are being made by various African governments as well as development partners to improve digital education in African universities.

Centres and their achievements

Since its inception in 2014, the Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence Project has been committed to projecting STEM Education and digital development in African universities. The aim is to bridge the knowledge gap in digital development, train students and professionals to meet the growing demands in the continent’s digital market, in digital education and beyond; in health, finance, agriculture and other sectors. There are eight centres of excellence dedicated to promoting digital development in the sub region:

These centres are the Africa Center of Excellence for Mathematical Sciences, Computer Science and Applications (CEA-SMIA- Benin); Africa Centre of Excellence for Teaching / Learning Math and Science for Sub-Saharan Africa (CEA MS4SSA -Niger); OAU ICT-Driven Knowledge Park (OAU-OAK- Nigeria); Africa Center of Excellence for Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL- Nigeria); Africa Center of Excellence for Applied Informatics and Communication (CAPiC- Nigeria); Africa Centre of Excellence on New Pedagogies in Engineering Education (ACENPEE – Nigeria); Africa Centre of Excellence for Innovative and Transformative STEM Education (ACEITSE – Nigeria); Center of Excellence in Mathematics and ICT (CEA MITIC – Senegal).

Collectively, these centres have made immense impact in the training the next generation of ICT specialists and professionals that can support digital infrastructure and the needed ecosystem to further improve adoption of digital technologies in the region. Over 1273 MSc students and 453 PhD students have been enrolled under these centres. Also, 1064 professionals have enhanced their knowledge and skills through Short Course Programmes offered by the centres.

Through the ACE Impact project, centres are provided with the needed digital tools and infrastructure to facilitate quality teaching and learning. These include state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms, libraries, among other key infrastructure.

How ACE Impact Thematic Networks are driving Digital Development on the Continent

How ACE Impact Thematic Networks are driving Digital Development on the Continent

Under the ACE Impact project, two thematic networks are working diligently to promote digital development in Africa. These are the African Digital Education Network (ADEN) and the Digital Science and Technology Network (DSTN). The regional network approach is unique and offers a wide range of advantages, including the ability of ACE Impact centres involved and their partners to pull resources together to achieve a common goal.

ADEN focuses on raising awareness of the benefits of digital education across Africa, sharing resources with institutions of higher education in Africa, among other core mandates. DSTN is working to develop a range of skills and research in e-health, e-agriculture, e-environment, intelligent cities and transport, e-education, critical for AFrica, in a growing global digital economy. Its mission is to promote collaborative research, and a training offer adapted to the job market and socio-economic partnerships.  DSTN relies on a community of scientific experts in data science, artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, etc.

ACEs involved in ADEN and DSTN

The four (4) Africa Centres of Excellence involved in the African Digital Education Network are:

1) Africa Centre of Excellence on New Pedagogies in Engineering Education (ACENPEE)

2) Africa Centre of Excellence on Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL)

3) Africa Centre of Excellence for Innovative and Transformative STEM Education (ACEITSE)

4) the Africa Centre of Excellence for Teaching / Learning Math and Science for Sub-Saharan Africa (CEA MS4SSA).

For the Digital Science and Technology Network (DSTN), the six (6) centres involved are:

1) Africa Center of Excellence for Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL).  Through ACETEL’s involvement in this network, it hopes to bridge the technology knowledge gap by building capacity in information and communication technology (ICT)

2) Africa Center of Excellence in Applied Informatics and Communication (CAPIC). CAPIC is developing several impactful activities in the following fields: High Performance Computing, Data Science with a special focus in involving biologists and medical partners

3) Africa Center of Excellence in Statistics and Applied Economics (CEA-ENSEA). This centre is also developing activities (lectures, training, workshops/conferences, responding to regional and international calls etc) in the field of Data Science – data management, statistics and data analysis, deep learning, with application to health, agriculture, environment, among others.

4) Africa Center of Excellence in Mathematics and ICT (CEA MITIC). CEA MITIC is focusing on implementing activities in the following areas –   Big Data and Trusted Artificial, Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) systems and SDN (Software Defined Network) in poorly connected area, Cybersecurity, Data Science with a special concern on involving companies and social partners.

5) ACE in Mathematical Sciences, Computer Science and Applications (ACE-SMIA). CEA SMIA is implementing activities in Big Data and Trusted Artificial Intelligence, High Performance Computing, Data Science with a special focus in involving companies and social partners.

6) OAU ICT-Driven Knowledge Park (OAU-Oak Park). The scientific thematic focus areas of OAU-Oak Park, under this Network are Cybersecurity, IoT systems and SDN (Software Defined Network) in poorly connected areas, High Performance Computing.

Key Achievements of the Networks so far

Both ADEN and DSTN have recorded remarkable progress since their formation in 2019, furthering digital development on the continent.

ADEN has been able to organize a successful virtual staff and student symposium (on 17th May 2021) which featured scientific paper presentations from 10 participants. ADEN is actively promoting the use of digital education resources through its members in various participating universities. They work to establish collaborations with various institutions (such as EPFL), for capacity building and technical support to help drive digital education in Africa. In addition to these, ADEN has made progress towards achieving its various objectives which include – 1. Strengthening collaboration amongst the four (4) STEM Education ACE Impact centers 2. Training faculty in the design and production of quality online digital resources and integrating digital technologies in courses. 3. Producing quality educational resources, adapted to local context, for distribution amongst the centers and other institutions. 4. Organizing seminars for students on the use of digital resources 5. Facilitating joint research activities within the ADEN, including faculty and student exchanges 6. Organizing meetings to share and disseminate knowledge and publish the outcome of such academic efforts. 7. Setting up a common educational platform to store and distribute e-learning resources

DSTN key achievements include the hosting of a highly successful symposium dubbed “Digital Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in Africa”, from 6th to 10th December 2021 at the Gaston Berger University in Saint-Louis, Senegal. The symposium provided a framework for multidisciplinary scientific discussions between the major actors of the African digital transformation (public and private actors, socio-economic actors such as NGOs, companies, foundations, and international partners) to collectively address the crucial links between research, innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology transfer.  The DSTN has hosted various thematic workshops, including on e-Agriculture and on Digital Science for health. These workshops are targeted at (1) identifying strengths and complementarity of the partners on each topic, (2) promoting networking and collaboration to apply for the DSTN call for Research-Team and other calls for funding, and (3) identifying lecture and training needs and opportunities for the ACEs.

The ACE Impact project thematic networks remain committed to working hard to achieve their respective targets and call on all institutions of higher learning to join hands with them in promoting digital education in Africa for the advancement of Higher Education on the continent.

Centres for Competence in Digital Education

Centres for Competence in Digital Education 

AAU-EPFL joint capacity-building initiative

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have evolved in a big way to impact all the sectors of economies including the educational sector. It is said that the education sector has been slower in harnessing the opportunities from technology compared to the other sectors. Africa as a continent still faces many challenges in adopting ICTs to improve processes and benefit from the efficiencies promised by technology. African countries are challenged by the digital divide which makes it difficult for technology implementation to cover and benefit the most vulnerable and unconnected communities.

One of the positive impacts of COVID-19 in Africa has been that it re-prioritized to topmost priority the proper implementation of ICTs for teaching, learning and research by educational institutions. For a long time, the educational institutions had accepted that they needed to invest in the integration of ICTs to transform how they delivered their services. However, committing financial and human investments and piloting digital courses had not been urgent for most educational institutions in Africa until the pandemic affected the functions of the educational institutions.

Under the ACE Impact for Development project a collaboration was initiated by the Association of African Universities and the EPFL – École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne of Switzerland to implement the Centers of Competence in Digital Education (C-CoDE) Initiative. The C-CoDE initiative involves six (6) ACE Impact host Universities that were competitively selected to to establish Centers of Competence in Digital Education on their campuses. The C-CoDE centers are being mentored to promote the sustainable integration of digital education in the teaching processes, as a means of strengthening the quality of teaching as well as expanding access to higher education.

The C-CoDE initiative recognizes the need for ICTs to be implemented in a thoughtful way so that the focus shifts from the technology to how the teaching methods, faculty and students interact with the technology in order to achieve the intended teaching and learning outcomes. The initiative also pays attention to the importance of building the capacities of academics, digital education experts (pedagogy engineers) and the technical specialist teams. The training strategy ensures that the digital education experts are being trained so that they continuously run training programs for their university faculty as an ongoing commitment to sustain the new ways of teaching. The Vice Chancellors of the participating universities are involved to ensure that the initiative has support at the highest leadership level. The Vice Chancellors have committed financial and infrastructural resources to support the success of the project.

The six participating universities are the National Open University of Nigeria; University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria; University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani, Ghana; Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; and Université d’Abomey-Calavi, Cotonou, Bénin. The participating ACE Centers in these universities include the Africa Centre of Excellence on Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL), the Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Power and Energy Development (ACE-SPED), the Africa Center of Excellence in Population Health and Policy(ACEPHAP); the Center for Dryland Agriculture(CDA), the Regional Center for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (RCEES); CEA-Centre d’Etudes, de Formation et de Recherche en Gestion des Risques Sociaux (CEFORGRIS) and CEA-SMIA (Centre d’Excellence Africain en Sciences, Mathématiques, Informatique et Application.

The C-CoDE initiative is being piloted from September 2021 to July 2022 with the participating institutions through training and coaching to transform their educational curricula by integrating modern digital education methods. Overall, close to 200 faculty and staff would be trained. However, 18 digital experts (three from each of the six-participating universities) have received training in leading the digital transformation in their respective institutions. The bigger goal is to use the lessons from the C-CoDE initiative to transform the way that other universities in Africa are integrating digital educational methods to deliver their curricula. The broader goal is for the selected Centers to eventually serve other African higher education institutions using a training-the-trainers model, within the broader ACE Impact project portfolio and beyond – across the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region.

Training under the C-CoDE initiative is innovatively delivered using the flipped classroom style. The quality and engaging learning materials and activities were prepared in advance and made available on the EPFL Open edX platform. The participants study and prepare themselves ahead of the live sessions. During the virtual live sessions, the facilitators provide clarifications concerning the content and learning activities that participants would have gone through. Live sessions are used for building and sharing common knowledge through group activities, live discussions, and presentations. Participants are also exposed to and encouraged to use a variety of online tools and technologies to interact and put in practice teaching paradigms.

The C-CoDE initiative is being delivered in both French and English to accommodate the languages of the participating universities. The digital experts (3 from each participating university) have been trained in course design, educational resources and development and implementation of learning management systems. They are scheduled to do their last module focused on online delivery and evaluation in March 2022. A total of two hundred (200) faculty members have been selected to participate in a digital education masterclass from January 2022 to July 2022. The female participants are 36.5 % of the total number. The digital education masterclass for the selected academics is composed of 4 small Private Online Courses (SPOCs).


African governments and University leaders have critical roles to play in facilitating the effective mainstreaming of digital methods by African higher education institutions. Support is needed from African governments to commit resources for the development of robust national internet infrastructure by supporting flexible national communication policies for the benefit of the educational and research communities and institutions in their countries. National governments are strategically positioned to bridge the digital divide by prioritizing the internet coverage of unconnected areas for the benefit of academic communities and others that are potentially vulnerable.

University leaders are responsible for creating the vision for digital education and championing its effective implementation at the institutional level. They are also key in connecting with government leaders and ensuring that the needs of the academic communities are clearly understood.

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