Virtual lecture hall links UZ to world

The Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) and Econet Wireless officially launched a new Virtual Lecture Hall (VLH) at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) on Friday morning.

The VLH allows lectures, complete with slideshows and video conferencing, to be streamed into UZ from around the world with the use of a screen, speakers, and the internet.

Speaking at the launch, Laura Broadhurst, Zimbabwe Programme Manager at CARA, said that the project grew out of a series of consultations with Zimbabwean academics in 2010.

“One of the critical issues raised was the brain drain of academic staff,” said Broadhurst.

The ‘Virtual Lectures’ were therefore designed to help with teaching shortages in the College of Health Science and the Faculties of Science and Veterinary Science, but CARA hope the technology will also be used to engage the diaspora in Zimbabwean academic life.

“It is hoped that this project will not only enable members of Zimbabwe’s academic diaspora to re-engage with UZ’s future but that it will improve standards of teaching and research, and facilitate increased networking and collaboration with universities outside Zimbabwe,” said Broadhurst.

Trial lectures have already been successfully broadcast from Buffalo University in New York, UNESCO-IHE in the Netherlands, and Tanzania, while academics from King’s College London will start streaming lectures in Anatomy and Physiology in the new academic year, as will lecturers from Queen Mary’s School of Dentistry.

“With capacity for 200 students in this lecture hall, this project has the potential to reach Zimbabwe’s next generation of students studying at the CHS, FoS and FoVS: 3 extremely important areas for the future of [the country],” said Broadhurst.

The project, funded by Econet Wireless, has been welcomed throughout the academic community. Dr. Sue Onslow, Visiting Lecturer at The London School of Economics offered her congratulations to the team and called the launch of VLH “superb news”, and Prof. Midion Midion Mapfumo Chidzonga of the College of Health Sciences at UZ said, “this is the great moment we all have been waiting for: turning the virtual into reality.”

In response to a question from The Zimbabwean about the frequent power outages in Harare, Broadhurst assured the paper that “there is a dedicated generator and internet cable for the project ensuring reliable internet and electricity.”

CARA was founded in 1933 to provide periods of sanctuary for academics and support continued academic engagement worldwide in the face of unfavourable world events.

Academics, Zimbabwean and non Zimbabwean, who wish to be involved should contact CARA's Zimbabwe team with details of their teaching background in the Health, Natural and Veterinary Sciences and where they are based. The organisation’s website is

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