By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor & Juliet Umeh
Coronavirus COVID-19 has changed almost everything in the world. It has turned the economy upside down, ravaged health system, destroyed hospitality business, disrupted social interaction and created new normal in the education sector.
In pre-COVID era, mobile phones, and other tech gadgets were not allowed in schools, but today, schools are in mobile phones and other tech gadgets. That is, as much disruption as the pandemic has brought to the status quo.
However, some tech experts in the education sector, say it is rather a blessing than a curse. They believe that the years it would have taken Nigeria to standardise its education system to compete favourably with that of the developed world is shortened, as the transition from analogue to digital learning is now a necessity, and no longer by choice.
They see a post-COVID era where foreign students could enroll in Nigerian schools, graduate and proudly flaunt their Nigerian degree certificates because it ticks all the international standard boxes.
Meanwhile, they don’t see all these happening by wishful thinking. The predictions may not come to pass if attitudinal changes do not occur and proactive measures taken.
For instance, General Manager, EduTech, Mr Olufemi Shonubi says the first step in taking advantage of the disruptions COVID-19 has caused in the education sector, is for the federal government to quickly adopt a decentralized learning process for all schools in Nigeria.
He believes the negative effects of Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the search for a convenient school system to strengthen learning in the country
Shonubi’s EduTech is an establishment geared towards transforming education with hands-on and technology-based learning solutions in educational campuses and organizations.
Shonubi argued that although this model was still desirable in the country due to the gap between demand and access to quality education, the outbreak of COVID-19 has made it more imperative, and, any country that delays in adopting it will play catch-up in the future and pay the price with low skilled and half-baked graduates.
He said: “In recent years, the provision of e-learning solutions was necessitated by the growing gap between demand and access to education. Considering the current situation brought about by the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, however, we are finding that e-learning solutions are needed now more than ever.”
Why VigiLearn 3.0 ticks the box
He said in a bid to lead the way to what he is preaching, his company has successfully launched a new e-learning platform, VigiLearn 3.0, which will enable individuals to gain
valuable knowledge through short courses as well as full degrees from reputable Nigerian universities.
According to him, “the launch of VigiLearn 3.0, EduTech is perfectly poised to provide access to quality education to all and sundry. Learners, whether at undergraduate, postgraduate or even professional levels will experience unparalleled ease as they have a unique opportunity to add value to themselves during this period of isolation and thereafter.
“VigiLearn 3.0 is the latest installment in a series of learning management platforms introduced by EduTech, and it boasts of an improved virtual classroom experience improved user management capabilities, big data analytics and seamless social networking functions which all combine to provide a significantly improved user experience for platform administrators, tutors and learners” he added.
The VigiLearn platform presently houses e-learning content for nine-degree programmes across Ahmadu Bello University and Obafemi Awolowo University which has given individuals the opportunity to gain undergraduate and postgraduate degrees without putting their lives on hold. All degree programmes are said to enjoy National Universities Commission (NUC) accreditation.
Streamlining digital learning
Another tech expert and CEO Venture Garden Group, VGG, Mr. Bunmi Akinyemiju, echoed the views of Shonubi.
According to him, “digital learning is definitely not new, but prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a choice, and today, it has become a necessity. The truth is that the world is changing, more sectors and jobs today are digitally enabled, and the growth of many industries is on the back of technology.
“So in a way, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced an issue that was previously not in the forefront of our priorities, the need to re-examine and revamp not just our curriculum through the lifecycle of every child’s education but also the tools we must leverage to deliver this curriculum.
Akinyemiju whose company provides innovative, data-driven and end-to-end technology, also flaunted some tech solutions he said would help streamline digital education if Nigeria is ready to take the bull by the horn.
“We have so much content you can learn from on very accessible tools like YouTube for informal learning; and we have had MOOC platforms like Udemy, eDX, and Coursera for more formal and self-paced certified short courses.
Akinyemiju said that while digital tools can provide resilience, sustainability, access, affordability and flexibility to Nigerian educational system, it is also dependent on the premise that the necessary infrastructure to support digital learning is readily available.
He said: “To marry and maintain this new critical learning channel, educators and students must have access to computers, tablets or smartphones.
“However, the poverty rate in Nigeria is a limiting factor to digital learning. For instance, larger percentage of Nigerians is yet to connect online and a huge percentage does not even have access to a personal computer, PC. Going by the Digital 2020 Global Overview Report, only 20 percent of Nigerians have access to Smartphones and 40 percent have access to the internet. Even at that, they are mostly in urban communities.
He stated that Nigeria must invest handsomely in the necessary structures that will enable e-learning to thrive. For him, there must be a huge investment in broadband connectivity expansion.
The more Nigerians have access to connectivity the more they engage the internet to create content, and the more they will get comfortable with consuming learning content digitally.
There was also a strong case for investment in educational institution for modernization of teaching practices to drive digital learning. This is to have a more blended learning system where students who attend school physically also have digital channels embedded into their day to day activities; where they digitally engage with significant parts of their course content, digital communication and interactions between educators and students; tasks, assignments and continuous assessments.
Again, the experts say Nigeria needs to look at taking programmes completely digital. Programmes in distant learning, at university levels that still require students to travel miles to attend sessions should be done away with and replaced with access to the best schools irrespective of the student’s location in Nigeria.
There is the belief that if government activates policy and governance to enable digital learning, drive competition and engender education system sustainability, Nigeria could revamp the economy with proceeds from the education sector.