Enhancing e-Learning with Technology

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Emma Okonji presents the views of technology experts who proffered solutions on how best to enhance electronic and remote learning with the support of technology innovation in the digital era

Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), the umbrella body of all computer professionals in the country, recently organised a webinar, where it brought together, technology experts to discuss e-learning and the role of technology in eduction in a ‘New Normal’, where digital skills, smart infrastructure and solutions are needed to enhance e-learning across the country.

In his welcome address, the President of NCS, Prof. Adesina Sodiya, called on Nigerians to embrace digital education and to make use of technology to drive Nigeria’s educational system and the economy.

According to him, “Education is key in enhancing national development and technology will further drive digital skills in education, the reason why we chose the topic for this year’s NCS organised webinar: E-Learning/IT Education.”

The Ministry of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who was the Chairman of the webinar, but represented by Mohammed Mahmud, said the Federal Ministry of Education would continue to place priority in Information Technology (IT) education and e-learning.

He spoke about the importance of using IT tools in education and thanked the NCS for recognising the role of technology in education and for its efforts in driving IT education in schools across Nigeria, through its advocacy programmes.

The Director of ICT, Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. Abubakar Isah, who spoke on the topic: Smart Computing Education and IT Professionalism for Enhancing National Development, said the ministry had in the past, invested in computing education, by developing several computer-based solutions through technology enhanced projects like e-Cloud Project, designed to bring all educational materials to the cloud, where students and teachers could have easy access to them. He added that the ministry also developed two e-learning websites for teachers and students, and equipped them with curriculum-based materials for primary and secondary schools. According to him, should there be a halt in the educational system, pupils and students could log online to study remotely, from the comfort of their homes, by connecting to the websites. He said the website for teachers, contains lots of teaching modules that have helped to simplify teaching and to enhance digital skills among Nigerian teachers.

Secretary General, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Prof. Yakubu Ochefu, who was represented by the Head of Administration, Technology Project and Services Department, Mr. Lawrence Edidiong, said the Committee would partner NCS to close the ICT gap in Nigerian universities, since IT would continue to play vital roles in enhancing digital education.

Technology-based Learning

The Registrar, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof. Josiah Olusegun Ajiboye, who was represented by Mr. Lawrence Ugo-Ali, spoke on the topic: “Advancing Technology-based Learning in Nigeria, Strategies, Prospects and Challenges.”
While analysing the topic, Ajiboye said the outbreak of COVI-19, impacted on global educational system, by further making technology an all-important tool in every teaching-learning environment.

“With the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2019 and the subsequent lockdown of economies in 2020, teaching/learning was immediately sustained and enhanced through the use of e-learning platforms, powered by technology. Although much was not achieved as desired in Nigeria and Africa, using e-learning platforms, compared with the advanced continents like Europe and Asia, due to underdeveloped infrastructure and lack of sufficient human capacities,” Ajiboye said, adding that in order to assist government, TRCN reinforced its IT and digital drives for Nigerian teachers, through its involvement in driving digital literacy in selected schools across the country.

“TRCN also came up, with a digital literacy programme for teachers in Nigeria, in order to to keep them abreast with national and global trends in innovation around Information and Communications Technology (ICT). So the theme of the NCS conference: E-Learning/ IT Education, is a welcome development in today’s teaching and learning in the digital era. TRCN will be willing to work with NCS to train teachers to update their digital skills in the new normal, ”he said.

Chairman, Computer Professionals (Registration Council) of Nigeria (CPN), Mr. Kole Jagun, said although COVID-19 posed a challenge to education, it also changed the face of education globally. “From a global statistics, over 1.2 million children are out of school as a result of the effect of COVID 19, a situation that has strengthened the need for e-learning platforms across the globe, where teaching/learning is now being carried out remotely on digital platforms. Nigeria must therefore adopt e-learning in all the institutes of learning across the country, ”Jagun said.

Upscaling Digital Skills

The Chairman, Governing Council National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) and former Executive Secretary, National University Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, who presented the keynote paper at the webinar, addressed the topic: “Advancing Technology-based Learning in Nigeria: Prospects, Challenges and Strategies.”

According to the professor of Computer Science Education, the poor state of infrastructure in the country, the ill-readiness of the students and teachers, are affecting the use of technology in advancing teaching and learning across the country.

He said as at 2001, teaching infrastructure was very poor, but improved with time.

He said the students and teachers readiness also improved gradually from 2001 till date.

He explained that the deployment of e-learning started slowly with different state governments, but improved with time. He said cost of purchasing learning tools was a challenge in the past, which he said, affected the enhancement of e-learning across in the country.

He further explained that Nigeria currently has 201 universities across the country, with only 60 per cent state of e-readiness on the part of the students and 40 per cent state of e-readiness on the part of the teachers to adopt technology education.

He however said the e-readiness state of secondary schools across the country is 30 per cent.

He projected that by 2027, 65 per cent of secondary school classes would be technology-based in order to drive e-learning across the country, while 65 per cent of classrooms and workshops at the university level, would also be technology-based, in order to enhance e-learning across Nigerian universities.

He added that university teachers, including secondary school teachers, must be digitally literate and equipped in order to impart digital skills and drive e-learning in every learning environment.

He however said the outbreak of COVID-19, further enhanced e-learning across schools, as most schools fully commenced distant learning through technology-based learning, while schools were locked down.

He therefore called for political will of the government to support digital and e-learning in schools, by adequately funding schools in today’s digital era.

Okebukola stressed the need for digital skills development among professionals of Computer Science and the need for the adoption of local content tools in any learning environment.

Citing the 2020 report on the state of university in Nigeria, Okebukola said the report further urged professors of Computer Science to regularly upscale their digital skills.

According to Okebukola, teachers in the universities would need to improve on their digital literacy skills.

“There is therefore urgent need to revise the university curriculum and re-focus it on digital literacy. I am happy that the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) is organising training programmes for university teachers to enhance their digital literacy skills. NUC has come up with a new curriculum and digital literacy is the major component of the new curriculum. This is important because the acquisition of digital literacy skills is very important to every student, irrespective of their disciplines,” Okebukola said.

Speaking about the importance of the new curriculum for schools, Okebukola said the digital literacy aspect of the new curriculum, made it a good trigger for the acquisition of relevant educational skills in schools. He equally stressed the need for refresher courses for teachers at all levels of education, including university education, adding that the professors at the universities need to update their digital skills.

Okebukola also stressed the need for local content development across all learning centres, adding that the use of local contents in teaching and learning, will make the students learn faster with high level of retention on what have been thought. “I hate to see images and learning tools that are alien being displayed on power point presentations, because such will not impart good knowledge on the students. Teachers should be innovative enough in today’s digital era to use indigenous contents for their teaching aids and tools,” Okebukola said.

Virtual Learning

Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning, Lancaster University, United Kingdom, Prof. Don Passey, who spoke on the topic: “Reinforcing Virtual Learning Environment,” emphasised the need for digital technology in schools, in order to reinforce the virtual learning environment.

He said virtual learning, which started from the era of Information Technology, was actually built around the Information Technology. He said Communication Technology was developed to further enhance virtual learning environment.

According to him, Zoom is currently used for communication, meetings and for learning, which he said, has its own learning experience and opportunity.

“There are different types of collaborative tools that support virtual learning, which teachers and students can take advantage of such as digital maps, visual tools and audio visual tools, to enhance learning needs. He highlighted the need for collaboration and combination different learning concepts in a virtual learning environment.

“We need to review the data we use and the actual data we need for virtual learning. We also need to review the kind of data analysis we adopt in virtual learning environment. The review becomes important to address self regulation in the use data analysis. The data available for virtual learning are mostly under developed, and do not support learning needs. It is therefore important to have good knowledge of data gathering and analysis for virtual learning environment. There must be collaboration between education, technology, digital facilities and learning needs in order to move virtual learning environment forward,” Passey said.

Technology Innovation

CEO, New Horizon Technology Training Institute, Mr. Tim Akano, who delivered a technical paper on New Waves of Innovations in Computing and IT Education, said e-learning had been in existence, but became established and recognised, after the outbreak of COVID-19.
He said since the outbreak of the pandemic, people have come up with different innovations that are driving e-learning across the world.

He explained that innovation could be in the short term or long term, depending on what is been researched upon.

Giving an example of long-term innovation, Akano cited the innovation that brought about the development of iPod, a device that could compress thousands of music streams into a small device by Apple.

He said such innovation took Apple longer time to achieve because of the nature of the small device that could accommodate several compressed music.

According to him, the current e-learning concept passed through several innovations to get to its current state, and that innovation could cut across different strata of technology growth and development.

He listed four steps through which innovation could be achieved to include: Questioning Ability, Observation, Collective Intelligence and Experimentation. Analysing the four steps to innovation, Akano said the questioning ability helped innovators to further probe the success of any idea by using mathematical formula to split the idea and product, in order to improve on it.

He said observation would enable innovators to think, and observe different things, including how people make use of the existing products and the challenges they face in using the products. He also explained that collective intelligence was about brainstorming on a particular product, while experimentation was about experimenting on a particular product in order to improve on it.

“The combination of the four steps would lead to risk taking, which will continue to drive innovation in any field of study, be it in education such as e-learning or in manufacturing and product development. The manufacturing of iPhone by Steve Job, was a risk to the existing products, but he insisted that innovation was all about risk taking. Innovation should therefore be built around solving bigger challenges, which has always remained the secret of innovation, since innovation is about people, prospects and philosophy that is tilted towards risk taking,” Akano said.

He listed factors that could hinder innovation to include: mistrust, lack of openness, fear, doubt and uncertainty. He therefore advised government and management of various organisations to avoid such pitfalls to innovation.

Trends in Educational Technology

Head of Department, Mathematics and Computer Science, Coal City University, Enugu, Dr. Michael Edeh, who spoke on the topic: “Research Trends in Educational Technology,” described Educational Technology as the infusion of technology into education in order to enhance education.

He said educational technology has been propelled by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and that technology would continue to drive education and make education more accessible.

He however said Nigeria needs more indigenous technology solutions to enhance education in the new normal.

Speaking on the trends of educational technology, Edeh said with educational technology, people could learn from their homes that are distant away from the teaching environment. He however said Nigeria needs more of the educational technology tools to further enhance teaching and learning.

“Nigeria needs more research on Blockchain Technology, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics in order to improve on our educational system across the country and government should be willing and ready to fund such research,” Edeh said. He however explained that lack of infrastructure had always been the hindrance to digital and smart education across the country.