Thanks to satellite technology and World Bank funding, Colorado State University is providing instruction in computer science to more than 100 students at seven African universities.
Delivery of Colorado State’s computer science foundation course, "Data Structures," began with the current spring term. Instruction originates at the Fort Collins campus and is broadcast live to universities across the African continent. Students viewing the broadcast interact with the instructor in real time using two-way telephone conferencing, facsimile machines and e-mail.
Colorado State is one of several North American universities providing academic programming to the World Bank-funded African Virtual University. The African universities that downlink the Colorado State broadcasts include Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Uganda Polytechnic in Kampala and Uganda Martyrs University in Nkosi, all in Uganda; University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana; Addis Ababa University in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; and the University of Zimbabwe in Harare.
Each of the seven universities has its own instructor or tutor facilitating the computer-linked course and will award academic credit to participating students.
Etienne Baranshamaje, director of the African Virtual University, said 12 African universities are participating in the two-year-old African Virtual University program and are interested in receiving instruction in various areas of technology from United States and Canadian institutions.
John Ebersole, associate provost at Colorado State, said participation with the African Virtual University is part of a larger effort to distribute Colorado State’s programs worldwide.
"We have recently launched the Colorado State University Network for Learning and want to demonstrate our ability to deliver instruction worldwide," he said.
Colorado State was a pioneer in the use of video for the delivery of graduate education. Since its beginnings in 1967, enrollment has grown to more than 1,200 students in all 50 states and 11 foreign countries. Students are participating in 11 different graduate degree programs. The Colorado State University Network for Learning also features online and mixed-media courses.
The African universities already have requested additional broadcasts from Colorado State, which offers both a master’s and a second bachelor’s in computer science entirely through distance technology.
According to Dale Grit, associate professor of computer science and the African Virtual University course instructor, students have shown interest and involvement in this form of distance learning.
"The worst part is having to get up in time to initiate 7 a.m. classes (Mountain Daylight Time)," he said. "While the technology covers the distance very well, it still can’t fully mitigate the 8-10 hour time differences involved."