By Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
The National Universities Commission (NUC) has restated its position on e-learning in Nigeria, noting that the country cannot operate 100 per cent e-learning in view of challenges of infrastructure, power and internet access.
NUC’s Deputy Executive Secretary (Academics), Dr. Suleiman Ramon-Yusuf, who disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Abuja, also expressed the commission’s concern over integrity issues surrounding the operation of the mode of learning in the country.
Ramon-Yusuf stated that e-learning must pass the integrity test before being fully embraced, adding that: “We want to ensure that when there is e-learning in place, it would be run in such a manner that every student is accounted for, every student has an e-portfolio, which enables everyone to know that it is this student that registered for this course and it is that same student that has been doing the assessment test and the examination; and that learning is taking place in an evidence basis.
“We need to sit down and articulate the requirements for e-learning: materials, men and women, infrastructure; what should we put in place? How should we proceed? We can’t do e-learning today in Nigeria. What we can do is blended learning.
“Anybody who is making noise that e-learning must start tomorrow is either mischievous or ignorant. If he knows what e-learning entails, no one can decree e-learning in Nigeria before the end of this year.
“We need to plan; we need to invest; we need to train. After putting all the infrastructures in place, we need training of teachers. You must get them to have a mind-set shift.”
According to him, private open universities will come on board when all stakeholders are satisfied that the country has what it takes to guarantee quality and integrity of the e-learning programme, in order not to create a window for the proliferation of worthless certificates under e-learning.
He further said the e-learning mode must be based on integrity, verifiable quality as each learner must be accounted for in terms of the competencies that they have acquired so that they can be worthy in character and learning.
Ramon-Yusuf also noted that many academic staff in universities are not quite up to speed in terms of the digital competencies that they require to be able to operate meaningfully in a virtual learning environment.
While disclosing that the commission was reviewing its 2009 guidelines on e-learning to prepare the grounds for effective e-learning in the country, he assured Nigerians that the new guidelines would be announced as soon as the process is completed.
“We are preparing grounds for e-learning; our new guidelines are being reviewed; NUC will announce this new guidelines,” he said.
On open and distance learning (ODL), he praised the flexibility of the programme, stating that the standard and curriculum of regular and ODL programmes were the same as NUC has always insisted on parity of esteem.
He added that if the teachers in ODL implement the minimum academic benchmark curriculum as envisaged by NUC, there would be no significant difference between graduates of regular face-to-face programme or ODL programme.
According to him, the gap usually observed in the system was between the implemented curriculum and achieved curriculum which has a lot to do with the instrumentality of delivery or the ability of the teacher to deliver or the study environment.
He said NUC raised the entry requirements for degree programmes through ODL to five credits, including Maths and English, in order to guarantee parity of esteem or respect for the programme.
While describing education at all levels as a chain that is as strong as its weakest point, he said no level of education should be ignored, adding that if the country ignores primary education and focuses on the tertiary, it would have no foundation upon which to build.
Ramon-Yusuf noted that there are 11 distance learning centres in Nigeria, adding that NUC was very strict about the admission of students, because ODL can either be a weapon of mass instruction or weapon of mass destruction.
He expressed delight over the reforms ongoing at the National Open University of Nigeria under the Chairmanship of Prof. Peter Okebukola, stressing that Nigeria stands to benefit massively when they are completed.