Vice-Chancellor, Bowen University, Prof. Joshua Ogunwole, spoke on how the university is building on its cardinal principles to drive entrepreneurship and technology innovation among students. Emma Okonji who was at the interview session, presents the excerpts:
What are the cardinal principles of the university and how have they helped in achieving its goals?
The principles on which the university is built are enumerated in our core values, which include Godliness, Excellence, Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Social Responsibility. So the university runs on these cardinal principles and management tries as much as possible to instill these core values into our students. The motto of the university is Excellence and Godliness and this motto is actually driving us to achieve excellence in our pursuit for education, while being Godly in the process. The founding fathers of the university built it on the foundation of Excellence and Godliness and we are maintaining that legacy and we have won laurels through that standard. So, every Wednesday, we celebrate Excellence and Godliness on campus. We do that to motivate the students and to let them know that academic excellence can only be achieved and maintained on the foundation of Christ the King.
How is the university preparing the students in line with modern day jobs that are technology driven?
As a christian university whose core values are built on Excellence and Godliness, we strongly believe in entrepreneurship and we teach our students entrepreneurial skills that will help them fit very well into the labour market by the time they graduate. We position them for tomorrow and help them to achieve their dreams through entrepreneurial skills acquisition. It is all about developing ideas that will address present and future challenges. Today technology is evolving because of innovation and we see innovation as critical to bring out the best in our students. In all of these, we ensure that our students are responsible to the society they live in, by empowering them with social responsibility skills, which is also one of our core values.
How has the university leveraged technology to impart learning among students?
We are aware that technology is evolving and it comes with lots of advantages in a teaching and learning environment like the school system, and we are taking those advantages into cognisance in developing our students. For us, the application of technology is critical to bring out the best in students. We have used technology to redefine the way students study on campus and it is helping the students and the lecturers to achieve more. Under my watch in Bowen University, I will ensure that the students have learning facilities that are driven by modern technology and I will allow the students to have access to modern technology tools, including smartphones that are android based. This is because I have since come to realise that we must promote technology among the students to able them learn faster. The fact is that this present generation of students are tech savvy and our teaching methodology must take cognisance of that to bring them up to speed in the learning process. This generation of students do research with their technology devices that are connected to the Internet and they prefer reading information on their devices, than going to read same information on any notice board on campus. So we understand all of these and we are leveraging technology to enhance learning.
How are the students effectively managing technology devices in such a way that the devices are not used for the wrong motives?
Some adults used to think that the present generation of students are not serious with their studies, unlike students of previous generations that do not condole distractions, but the truth is that technology devices are no longer distraction to studies among the present generation of students. This is because the devices have become enabler to academic research and development. The way this young generation of students think and act, is quite different from the thinking line of the older generation. The present generation of students are fast in thinking and they want to achieve things much faster, and the technology devices are enablers in achieving faster results. So instead of thinking that the students will use technology devices for the wrong motives, I will want people to realise that we are in the technology age where technology devices enhance teaching and learning. In Bowen University, we are developing our students in line with technology evolution. For instance, as from next academic session, the university authority has decided to put all lecture notes into a software application that will enable students read lecture notes from their technology devices, including mobile phones and tablets. This will further boost learning among the students.
How does the university spur students’ reading habit on entrepreneurship?
We do that in several ways. For instance, the school authority recently wrote a cheque of N900,000 to buy copies of entrepreneurship books for our students in order to develop their entrepreneurial thinking and skills. So we approached the Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr. Jim Ovia who is a successful entrepreneur, to buy copies of his recent book on entrepreneurship, titled ‘Africa Rise And Shine’ But to our greatest surprise, Jim Ovia gladly gave us 100 copies of the book at no cost and he told us to keep our money. We are the first university to make such request for our students, and the author of the book was happy to give students copies of his book at no cost. So what we did was to share the books among 400 level students of the university and asked each student to read two chapters of the book each day and after that, we bring them together each day on our WhatsApp platform to discuss and share ideas on what they learnt from the chapters of the book. The discussions were carried out on the social media platform, which is the WhatsApp group platform that was created for students by the school authority. We were amazed with the high quality discussions on entrepreneurship that came out from the WhatsApp discussions. So learning and teaching methodology are changing with technology evolution and if other universities still think they will use the same old methodology that was used decades ago to teach their present generation of students, then they are missing the point, because technology is fast driving and changing academic activities of the present generation of students called the millennials who are digital natives and tech savvy.
At Bowen University, we have gone to the extent of teaching entrepreneurship skills on video and play the video in the classrooms before the students, and through this method, the students learn faster because they are able to interact and argue academically beyond the old method of teaching where the lecturer talks and the students accept everything without making their own input.
Do you have plans to have a technology hub that will enhance virtual leaning among students?
We are working towards achieving virtual teaching and learning so that anybody from any location within or outside the country can teach students on a realtime basis. With virtual learning, we will be creating a technology-based school environment. We are currently talking with friends of Bowen University to support the university in building a technology hub for the university that will enhance virtual learning among our students. Through our technology hub, we will incubate great minds and turn their laudable dreams into reality and that is where the world is moving to, through technology advancement. We are also in partnership with science-based organisations within and outside the country that will help us achieve our vision as an academic institution of excellence and high repute.
What are the motives behind the entrepreneurship and innovation week that the university is organising this week on campus?
This is a maiden event for the university and we are going to make it an annual event, going forward. We are planning it big and we are using technology to drive it. The focus is to develop the entrepreneurial skills of the students, irrespective of their disciplines, which is one of our core values as an academic institution. It will expose students to various skills learning in the areas of textile design, fashion design, cinematography, robotics, cosmetics, events planning, among others and all these will be driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). The one-week long event will feature talks and practical learning in entrepreneurship and technology innovation, and the idea is to build the competence of students outside of their course work in the university.
We have decided to divide the entire university into five entrepreneurship clusters and each cluster will be made of students from various disciplines with common interest for entrepreneurial skills acquisition. They will identify the cluster that best matches their interest and the cluster manager registers them and allows them to pick their team leaders. They will brainstorm on how to develop a company, what it takes to own a company after university education and how to sustain and grow the company. So it’s going to be self learning process under the guidance of cluster managers who are successful entrepreneurs. This is the way to teach this young generation of students, using technology and innovation to develop their innate abilities to enable them learn faster. If we teach them the same way we were thought decades ago, then we will be missing it.
What does the university want to achieve with the entrepreneurship and innovation week?
We want to achieve mastery of skills among the students and at the same time, raise students who will graduate to become entrepreneurs, who will create jobs for themselves and for others who will be employed by them. We are using it to prepare our students for the job market that is ahead of them so that as soon as they graduate from the university, they will not populate the number of job seekers, but will instead, populate number of employed Nigerians.
There is a disconnect between university graduates and the industry. Most times the industry players have to retrain young university graduates to cope with the required industry skills. What are you doing to address this?
We are very much aware of industry demands and we at Bowen University are teaching our students with modern curriculum that will help them acquire skills that are required for the present and future jobs. The American universities have been able to perfect marriage between their students and key industry organisations known as Fortune 500, and this has helped them to do a lot in the area of research. We are aware of all these and we are doing same to fully equip our students with the realities and demands of the industry. Immediately our administration came on board, we identified the industry needs and immediately stepped into action to achieve these needs for the students while they are still under our care. What we did was to go to Lagos to partner key organisations to understand their needs and to tell them of our challenges and to see how we can partner to better the lots of the students as they are leaving the university. The partnership is such that the organisations will send their staff to us to interact with students and identify ways that they could be of help to the university in addressing the disconnect between the universities and industry demands. So we are spending more time to change all of that and to change the old record of BowenUniversity, in terms of modern skills acquisition among this young generation of students.