Authors: Akinyinka Tosin Akindele 1, Arulogun Oladiran Tayo 2, Getu Tadele Taye 3,4, Samson Yohannes Amare 3,4, Mirjam Van Reisen 4,5, Kibrom Fekadu Berhe 3,5, Balyejusa Gusite 2, Ernest Edozie   1 Open and Distance Learning Center, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Nigeria 2 Kampala International University, Kampala, Uganda 3 Mekelle University, Ethiopia 4 Virus Outbreak Data Network-Africa and Asia 5 Tilburg University, the Netherlands   Status: forthcoming


Prior to the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, distance education, a mode of education that allows teaching and learning to occur beyond the walls of traditional classrooms using electronic media and online delivery practices, was not widely embraced as a credible alternative mode of delivering education, especially in Africa. In education, the pandemic, and the measures to contain it, created a need for virtual learning/teaching and showcased the potential of distance education. This article explores the potential of distance education with an emphasis on the role played by COVID-19, the technologies employed, and the benefits, as well as how data stewardship can enhance distance education. It also describes how distance education can make learning opportunities available to the less privileged, geographically displaced, dropouts, housewives, and even workers, enabling them to partake in education while being engaged in other productive aspects of life. A case study is provided on the Dutch Organisation for Internationalisation in Education (NUFFIC) Digital Innovation Skills Hub (DISH) project, which is implemented via distance education and targeted towards marginalised individuals such as refugees and displaced persons in Ethiopia, Somalia, and other conflict zones, aiming to provide them with critical and soft skills for remote work for financial remuneration. This case study shows that distance education is the way forward in education today, as it has the capability to reach millions of learners simultaneously, educating, lifting people out of poverty, and increasing productivity and yields, while ensuring that the world is a better place for future generations.