Covid-19 pandemic: Our University in adversity (2)

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In part 1 of the series, the author laid the canvas to the devastating effect of Covid-19 on the world with emphasis on education specifically university education with reference to Ghana. Ghana’s university education has become one which always runs to the policy table to draw a policy when hit with a situation.

It seems that the lack of foresight has bedevilled Ghana’s university education so much so that it is always ill-prepared for the slightest shake up. The impact of Covid-19 has been the latest King Kong on Ghana’s university education…the centre of highest learning is under attack for failure to catch-up with online learning. As a result, effective teaching is truncated. Many reasons alluded to the failure usually point to the students’ refusal to adapt to change but the truth shines undiminished. The students are less to be blamed.

In the following subheadings, I will analyse the effect of Covid-19 on Ghana’s universities situating them in adversity. The problem could have been mitigated if sound reasoning existed and allowed love for country to override individual sentimentalities.

Effective online teaching and learning in Ghana’s universities has been hindered by the following factors:

  1. IT infrastructure

Effective online teaching and learning hugely depends on IT infrastructure ownership by universities and students. The advent of Covid-19 introduces lecturers as third party to own IT infrastructure. The necessity for social distancing gives no laxity for any of the three parties’ failure to own an IT infrastructure necessary for effective online teaching and learning.

IT infrastructure is broad but for the purpose of this article, I will limit it to the most relevant parts required for online teaching and learning. Simply put, IT infrastructure is the IT framework that supports the system of an organisation. They are both physical and virtual resources that augment the flow, storage, processing and analysis of data centre. The data centres may be decentralised and controlled by the organisation and/or third party.

Therefore the IT infrastructure needed for effective online teaching and learning will be controlled by the universities and third party (in this case the telcos and other service providers). The universities will be classified under the university management, lecturers (teachers) one hand, and the students (learners) on the other hand. While the third party are the IT service providers. For data, you will consider MTN, Vodafone, Airteltigo, CSquared, etc.

IT infrastructure requires financial investment which should have been committed into the existence of the infrastructure. I dare say that one will hardly find many (if any) interactive teaching boards in Ghana’s public universities. Using markers and dusters on white boards are a common phenomenon. Sharp cameras and microphones for videoing, technicians to monitor and ensure quality production are some of the basic IT infrastructure without which effective online teaching and learning cannot be achieved.

To what extent are Ghana’s universities prepared for this task? This cannot be negotiated in downward review terms else it will affect the quality of support required for effective online teaching and learning.

  1.   Lecturer skills and experience in online teaching

Arguably, online teaching is different from oral-face-to-face teaching. One needs to master the skills of online teaching so as to do it effectively. This requires constant practice and playing back the recording to correct both verbal and non-verbal communication forms. Online teaching differs from classroom teaching. The approach is completely different if you are to achieve good result.

The technological skills for online teaching are fundamental; this is not the same as social media skills. Social media skills develop the lecturer’s interest in online activities but such skills do not necessarily make successful online teaching. The needed skills include; basic computer skills, proficiency with software applications, installing/updating software and plug-ins, internet search literacy, proficiency with features and functions within the Online Management System (OMS) including uploading files, grading tools and grade book, OMS tools for asynchronous/synchronous communication, familiarity with platform for communication/engagement outside OMS example Google+

Administrative skills such as time management; ability to respond to student questions within stipulated time, provided feedback timeously and relevant to the course of study, monitor and follow up with all the integrity and seriousness applied in the physical administration setting though its online.

Online teaching approach must be geared towards; students focused learning model, instructor focused on supporting and guiding learning not only delivering content and instruction, providing constructive feedback, and establishing and sustaining pleasant online presence.

To what extent are Ghana’s universities prepared for this task? This cannot be negotiated in downward review terms else it will affect the quality of support required for effective online teaching and learning.

 

 

  1. Online teaching assistants

Considering the number of students enrolled in Ghana’s universities, it will require a good number of online teaching assistants with the relevant subject knowledge and online skills to help students who require assistance. The physical lecture room practice where teaching assistants take students on tutorials must be applied in the online teaching mode.

Also, there must be IT technicians to provide students with technical support when necessary; to ensure a smooth teaching and learning process.

Among other qualities, the online teaching assistant must possess the following skills; ability to click well with the students, clear understanding of assigned task, having a checklist that covers all necessary aspects of effective online teaching and learning, technology skills, course policies, course content, manner of expression in online classroom, course management and grading.

To what extent are Ghana’s universities prepared for this task? This cannot be negotiated in downward review terms else it will affect the quality of support required effective online teaching and learning.

  1. University repository of online teaching materials (particularly university’s own YouTube videos)

Locally, the university must have a repository of online teaching materials produced by the university. This takes a retrospective effect that the university lecturers should have produced their teaching videos and in the library and/or on YouTube. The content must be contextualised in the teaching of defined learners instead of a generalised content.

Not taking full advantage of online teaching in the past is the lost being paid for now. This does not in any way suggest that existing learning materials on YouTube are not to be followed, this advocates for locally generated YouTube content that addresses local needs.

To what extent are Ghana’s universities prepared for this task? This cannot be negotiated in downward review terms else it will affect the quality of support required for effective online teaching and learning.

  1. Internet Connectivity

While Covid-19 has become a nightmare for Ghana’s university education, the telcos are laughing to the bank with huge profit growth in the first quarter of 2020 at the peak of Covid-19. Internet connectivity is required for online teaching and learning. Not just internet connectivity but super-fast.

The issue of poor internet connectivity is one huge challenge to online teaching and learning. The telcos will have to do the very best in this abnormal time of Covid-19 to support students’ online teaching and learning. Internet connectivity must be super-fast at no charge to university students during this time. Recognising the public good of education and particularly higher education is a necessary step to helping developing the human resource capital for Ghana’s industrialisation.

To what extent are telcos in Ghana prepared for this task? This cannot be negotiated in downward review terms else it will affect the quality of support required for effective online teaching and learning.

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