Prof. Som Naidu, Principal Associate, Technology, Education and Design Associates, says education leaders need a framework to plan and operationalise, for the new normal over the long- term.
Naidu gave the charge while delivering a keynote address at the 2nd International Colloquium organized by the Distance Learning Institute (DLI) University of Lagos on Tuesday in Lagos.
The theme of the colloquium is the Hybridization of Instructional Deliveries in the Emerging Global Higher Education Ecosystem.
According to Naidu who is also Head of Research and Evaluation, Department of Teaching, Learning and Research Support, University of Melbourne, Australia, COVID-19 has helped to bring such a framework into sharper focus.
The Open and Distance Learning experts noted that for a future-focused education to be realised, a rethink and recalibration of educational choreographies was required, adding that it was all about opening up more access.
He noted that open scholarship was also critical.
Naidu noted that openness and flexibility do not mean the demise of the campus experience, as the campus space needed to be open and flexible just as the ODL space.
He noted that if education was considered critical to every nation’s development, then making it open and flexible must be embraced and encouraged, adding that tertiary institutions especially must think along that line, as the world had realised that only education, could enhance accelerated meaningful development.
“Education is a public good that needs to be accessible to all, we need need to engage in all modes of teaching. And there is no hybrid nor open distance learning without technology. Education leaders must invest heavily in technology if we are to achieve all forms of quality learning outcomes,” he said.
According to him, flexible education is the way to go because of its value principle, noting that it is not something that was unique for ODL alone, as it was clearly about access and about design, the design of the learning experience.
He noted that the key takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic was that it was indiscriminate across all sectors of human endeavour, noting that the least scathed by the pandemic, were educational institutions that were already on a path to more open, flexible and distance learning methods.
The don added that such a framework could start with the response phase, but was not necessarily linear, given the potential for waves of the impact, adding that digitizing campuses would not happen overnight.
“The COVID-19 showed us how unprepared we were in terms of technology and one question that readily comes to mind is if universities today can lead learning for tomorrow. Again, how has it been possible for our learning to have been compromised so completely?
“To navigate new normals, institutions forecast that they will need to accelerate investment in digital technology. This digital spending will increase by just the current 11 per cent and 46 per cent of institutions will consider liquidating buildings to free up spaces.
“The digital-driven response will be guided by five key elements, which are approach, that is, getting an underlying platform in place which will robust, scalable and secured, adopting a digital-first approach to strategy and implementation as well as prioritize digital expenditure over brick and mortar among others,” he stated.
On her part, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola noted that there was no doubt that knowledge was the currency of the 21stcentury
According to her, there will be no development without the qualitative development of human capital.
Ogunsola added Nigeria has 200m people with a median age of 18.1 yrs.
“About 70 per cent of Nigerians are below 30yrs and 42 per cent, below 15yrs. 38 per cent of Nigerians are therefore between 15 and 30yrs and this accounts for about 76 million Nigerians being between 15yrs and 30yrs.
“If only 50 per cent require tertiary education, it means we have to cater for about 38 million Nigerians.
”With our present system, there are only about 2m students in the university system, about 20 million others in the Polytechnics and less than 100k in the Colleges of Education.
“In all, there are still over 18 million Nigerians not catered for at the tertiary level,” she said.
Ogunsola noted that at the university level, only, about 25 per cent of applicants into the university system would be absorbed.
She said that the National Open University had the largest enrolment at over 500,000, noting that the present campus system would not solve the problem.
“Going forward, it is clear that we must embrace new strategies and technology if, we are to meet our obligation and actualise the development required to make our country not only comfortable for all but a country that is protective and able to shape its future.
“One strategy is to readily exploit technology while recognizing the need for humans to socialize.
“I want to thank the Director, DLI Prof. Uchenna Udeani and the board of DLI for bringing us this 2nd International Colloquium which allows us to plan the way forward. Unilag believes in DLI and Open education.
“We recently provided Licence for MOOCs to improve staff learning and certification with the Cousera MOU. Our aim is to double the population of DLI in the next three years by exploring technology,” she stated.
Also speaking, Director of the DLI, UNILAG, Prof Udeani said that the integration of technology and traditional pedagogical approaches were reshaping the way knowledge was being imparted, acquired, and exchanged.
According to her, the aim of the colloquium is to serve as a catalyst for discussions on the successes, possibilities and challenges surrounding hybrid instructional deliveries.
She noted that throughout the course of the deliberations, participants would explore innovative teaching strategies, effective technological integration and the impact on student outcomes.
According to her, by examining case studies, sharing practical experiences and engaging in critical dialogue, participants hope to gain deeper insights into best practices and identify areas for improvement.
“Moreover, this colloquium recognizes the importance of inclusivity and equitable access to education.
“As we explore new frontiers in hybrid instructional deliveries, we must ensure that no student is left behind. We must consider the unique needs of diverse learners and find ways to remove barriers to participation and success,” she said.
She noted that Hybrid instruction, also known as blended learning, combined the best of both worlds; the rich engagement and interpersonal interaction offered by face-to-face teaching, and the flexibility and accessibility of online platforms.
According to her, this amalgamation, when implemented skillfully, could lead to enhanced student engagement, personalised learning experiences and greater academic success.
“In today’s rapidly changing world, where technology permeates every aspect of our lives, it is imperative that we adapt our educational practices accordingly.
“Our institutions of higher education must embrace this opportunity to reimagine the learning experience and equip our students with the skills necessary to navigate the challenge,” she said.