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THE NEED TO EMBRACE MODERN LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES

The vision and foresight to embrace change and modern learning technologies can make a world of difference in the education sector in Nigeria.  Indeed, the use of ICT will allow for strategic reforms for effective and quality education by overriding all areas of human ineptitude, putting away manual manipulation of the key processes of teaching, learning, testing and monitoring.  The role of ICT is to police the key processes and make them transparent.  Our failures in the key processes of student training (outlined in Fig 1) have stood in the way of our becoming globally competitive in the quality of graduates that are turned out of present the Nigeria’s education system.

We accept that in our educational system, there are those who are technophobic but the truth is that nobody will be able to stand in the way of technological development in the spheres of life. It is better to face reality, especially as scholars in the education sphere who ought to learn every day. The Bible has predicted that in the last days knowledge shall increase and we are currently experiencing breath-taking technological breakthroughs.  The electronic purchases which are a common place today had been predicted; where the Bible says we shall buy without money.  Just in the recent past, automated teller machines (ATM) sounded like a fairy tale but today ATM cards are commonly used and banking transactions are even done with the use of mobile phones. Electronic access to places was also predicted in the Bible that at a time only those who bear a special number (666) will have access to specified places and conduct businesses. Biometric is used today through fingerprints to give access into restricted places or obtain a whole range of data about a person. All these advances are coming to better our lives and educational pursuit cannot be excluded.

In recent times there has been impressive human technological evolution. The global communication and information infrastructure has been built and the devices that we use to access it are becoming more and more sophisticated.  Analog experiences are been converted  to digital ones and with that every process we ever thought we understood is beginning to change. Exploring the key role of ICT in Nigeria, ICT is at the forefront in the bid to fight corruption, improve cyber security, explore economic diversification and enhance government productivity in Nigeria by contributing to monitoring and tracking information in real time, allowing better decision-making. On economic diversification through revolutionising agriculture using ICT, Silvia referred to Ignitia, a Swedish tech company which “…found that there are approximately 100 million farmers in Nigeria which corresponds to more than 60% of the population and through the use of the Ignitia app, farmers have been able to generate, on average, between 80 and 90% increase in revenue thanks to better decision making regarding the timing for seed purchase, crop planning, fertilising, harvesting…” However, as noted by Silvia, there is need for increased mobile and internet penetration in Nigeria; especially in rural areas given that about 75% of Nigerians currently live in those areas.

Nigeria boasts an extremely entrepreneurial, tech-savvy and young population. The continuous support of Nigeria’s bright entrepreneurs must continue especially as Lagos represents the most valuable ecosystem; thanks to the success in establishing “Yabacon Valley”. However, ICT-driven businesses require ICT developments to survive. Silvia recommended that the Nigerian government needs to provide a more enabling environment through liberalisation of key ICT sub-sectors such as broadband, managed services, software, IoT and even blockchain, to create more competition and attract FDI. This must be driven by consistent, deliberate and long-term policies and most importantly, through investment in education. Although an ICT university is a step forward, Silvia believes the establishment of strong STEM programmes from a much younger age is a better starting point.

Even with overpopulation in Universities in a bid to “open access” for education, within a VLE, more students can be reached with recorded lecture/practical sessions and can review/replayed at a more importuned time outside the classroom.  Virtual laboratories also allow students to participate in practical classes within little spaces.

An effective feedback system shapes learning.  It is now common that teachers, especially in the tertiary institutions, do not return graded continuous assessments scripts to students anymore.  This was the old way of obtaining feedback because the student is able to see his/her performance and note the teachers comments on the answer scripts so as to prepare for the main examination. With an effective VLE, it will be possible for the teacher and the learner to obtain feedback, irrespective of class size.

Being ICT-rich gives an educational institution a competitive advantage in recruiting quality students. In Nigeria, demand for higher education far outstrips supply; therefore Governments and institutions must turn more to the use of ICTs to bridge the access gap.  Online administration policies are unlikely to be influenced by politics.  When clear cut cut-off marks are determined online, merit is not sacrificed on the altar of politics, corruption, mediocrity or ethnicity.

New times demand new ways of learning.  The world is becoming more and more complex; forcing people to realize the inadequacy of manually operated information systems and hence become more dependent on computer technology.

In addition to introduction of ICT, there is need for continuous professional development (CPD) through training to equip teachers with cutting-edge pedagogical skills. According to a group study presented at the Commonwealth of Learning for the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education, in Paris, 2009, today’s students (digital natives) have a different way of approaching and using technologies like cell phones and computers that their teachers (digital immigrants) still need to come to terms with.  Training of educators is therefore necessary to gain an understanding of the virtual worlds that their learners move in so that they can better understand how to interact with them in ways that make sense to the digital natives. For us to benefit from the emerging trends in learning, it is required that teachers and students are educated on various computer platforms and software environments. CPD should not be made optional but should be demanded by the employers because, “he who pays the piper dictates the tune.”

The traditional learning model may not be relevant to real student needs. Today’s workplaces and communities have tougher requirements than ever before. They need citizens who can think critically, innovatively and strategically to solve problems.  These individuals must learn in a rapid changing environment, and build on knowledge taken from numerous sources and different perspectives. They must understand systems in diverse contexts, and collaborate locally and globally.  This is only possible through internet based networks which allow for real time collaboration. Our students therefore ought to be engaged in authentic and multidisciplinary tasks and assessments based on students’ performance of real tasks.

 

 

Article by: Busayo Tomoh

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