MIT course beamed to Africa

April 19, 2002

Over 190 students from eight sub-Saharan countries are taking an MIT course without leaving their continent thanks to a joint initiative

of MIT’s Center for Advanced

Educational Services (CAES) and the African

Virtual University (AVU). Participating countries are Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya,

Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The collaboration began when AVU, a technology-facilitated higher-learning

institution, contacted CAES. AVU uses modern information and communication technologies

to give students in sub-Saharan Africa direct access to some of the highest-quality

learning resources from around the world.

CAES put together a six-week curriculum loosely based on MIT Course 1.00, which

teaches the Java programming language. The resulting course, Java Revolution,

can be uniformly distributed regardless of equipment and bandwidth.

Java Revolution features videotaped lectures delivered via satellite, a web

site for course materials, e-mail moderated by teaching assistants, and two

live videoconferences with Professor Steven Lerman, director of CAES’ Center

for Educational Computing Initiatives (CECI), and Dr. Judson Harward, a CECI

principal research scientist. Lerman is also affiliated with the Department

of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

MIT faculty members also directed students to a Java User Group web site specific

to the users of Java in Africa so that live interaction can continue long after

the course has ended.

"There is a tremendous hunger for knowledge, particularly in the areas

of science and engineering, in many parts of the world. We hope that this is

just the beginning of a partnership between CAES and AVU to bring MIT intellectual

content to wider audiences," said Professor Richard Larson, director of


According to Sidiki Traore, senior program officer at AVU, "AVU has a

five-year history of beaming quality education to university students and professionals

in Africa from the best institutions around the world. We are pleased to announce

that another distinguished institution, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

has joined AVU. The availability of Java Revolution is a historic event in education

in Africa because, for the first time, students will be able to receive course

certificates from world-renowned universities such as MIT while remaining in

their own countries. Thirteen Learning Centers are currently participating in

MIT’s Java Revolution course, and we expect to enroll more African students

in MIT courses in the future."

AVU students include university students and staff, professionals working for

information technology companies, and unemployed individuals trying to find

their way into a new career. At least 15 percent of the participating students

are women.

Established in July 1997 as a World Bank project, AVU has just completed its

first phase and is now a premier provider of technology-based distance education

with 31 Learning Centers across the continent. This year, AVU was established

as an independent non-profit organization with headquarters in Nairobi.

James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, will be MIT’s 2002 Commencement



Elizabeth Thomson

MIT News Office

(617) 258-5402