Some lessons picked up along the way:

  • Selection of schools in untested projects needs to balance out the following factors:
    • There shouldn’t be too many schools in a project as resources will then get stretched; at the same time, too few schools in a project don’t allow for economies of scale, or for drop-out of a school.
    • Proximity in one district allows for quick responses and focused relationship-building and communications.
    • Schools should meet a specified list of minimum criteria to the school’s ability to successfully implement the project, especially on relation to connectivity.
    • The availability of technical resources and infrastructure that a school claims to have needs to be confirmed before implementation.
  • ICT project targeted at teachers; selection needs to be based on a needs analysis of their computer literacy.  This can impact on training and successful implementation in terms of what the technical resource is being used for. 
  • ICT projects demand an extensive mix of skills and clarity around responsibilities. The following needs to be considered:
    • An ICT project will have a project management team, but there will be another implementation team at work from service providers who will typically run the technical side of a project.
    • It is important that there is a clear understanding of the division, scope of role and responsibilities within the project.
  • Educational knowledge, technical skills and project management skills need to be well-balanced. 
  • To increase the success of ICT projects focusing on content, the project design team should include an education technology specialist who will advise on which curriculum components are best suited for online teaching programmes.
  • Providers must make sure that a technical person is available during computer-based learning  sessions, to ensure that tutors/ teachers don’t use up teaching time trying to solve technical problems.
  • It does not work to give teachers high levels of responsibility in ICT projects, as (i) they are often insecure in relation to the use of technology; and (ii) they will tend to prioritise their other responsibilities and own workload. 
  • ICT-based projects are highly specialised, and whether internet-based or not they require the full support of an IT support team. Technical issues were generally challenging. Down time is fatal to ICT projects: when learning is interrupted for whatever reason, (i) learners (and tutors or teachers) become de-motivated; and (ii) content coverage schedules are disrupted, which impacts on project timelines. A range of practical lessons were learned in relation to technical issues.
  • Providers need to have a back-up plan in place to address network or connectivity issues.
  • System usage statistics must be closely monitored, but it is important that there is a mechanism to distinguish between human or technical factors. Reasons for down-time (e.g. class was locked, internet down, power cut, etc.) need to be logged.
  • Software and specific network set-ups should be tested before implementation.
  • Service providers should control the installation of software and the management of the computer labs, as this makes it more likely that they will be able to engage with and solve problems as they arise.
  • A balance between cost and quality of equipment is needed: equipment should be able to withstand robust handling.
  • ICT projects need to make sure that the content of a computer-based or online programme matches the South African teaching context and curriculum.

Other implementation lessons learned apply across all types of projects, not just ICT projects.

  • In projects which demand time and commitment from teachers, the following must be factored into implementation plans:
    • Timing is important. Key activities should not be left to Term 4, as teachers will then be focusing on end of year examinations.
    • Timing must also consider clashes with other interventions. Attempts should be made to ascertain what other major teacher development projects are planned for the year, so that teachers are not overburdened, and school management is not torn in too many different directions.
    • School leadership faculty needs to be explicitly on board in order to motivate and support teachers. This is especially the case where teachers may need to be released from extra teaching or extra-mural activities, or where there may be schedule clashes, which need to be sorted out. Ways of managing these kinds of issues need to be addressed at the start of the project.  
    • Implementation needs to be driven and coordinated by a designated individual or team, so that everyone is clear about their areas of responsibility and there is no conflict between different project components. Where ‘overview control’ is lacking, implementation becomes problematic.
  • Monitoring during implementation can often lead to a change in the design of the programme. While this flexibility and responsiveness to changing circumstances is desirable, it is important for future reference to record the factors prompting change and the subsequent changes made. Project management needs a strategy for troubleshooting and adaptation as required by changing circumstances.
  • Practical logistics are a key element in all project planning and delivery. Issues such as lack of transport, poor venues and lack of provision of refreshments are often cited by project participants as barriers to participation.

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