Online education not inferior, gov’t should expedite public open university – Prof. Goski Alabi

Photo: President of the Laweh Open University, Professor Goski Alabi. Credit: Laweh Open University

The President of the Laweh Open University, Professor Goski Alabi, has called on the government to expedite institution of the public Open University – stating that it is the prudent thing to do in light of the disruptions to university learning caused by COVID-19; and also it aligns perfectly with the ongoing digistisation agenda.

She argued that the perception of e-learning, particularly at the tertiary level, being substandard vis-a-vis traditional methods is erroneous; as online learning offers many advantages over in-person meetings.

Speaking to the B&FT on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on education and the way forward, she admitted that while there might be apathy or outright resistance from some faculty members and students alike, the returns which the added transparency, flexibility and accountability brings will raise the quality-profile of graduates produced by the local universities, as plagiarism and large-scale malpractices will be minimised to the barest minimum, if not entirely eradicated.

“For one, online teaching and learning is more timely and engaging than face-to-face. The curriculum must be well-structured, standardised and ready online. Unlike the traditional whereby students must go to school before they are given the course outline.

“Whatever the lecturer has taught, the system will show that the lecturer has taught it. When students do their assignments, the system will show proof. The level of transparency and accountability is very high. We won’t have a situation wherein the lecturer is supposed to cover lessons over twelve weeks, but does it in three or four weeks and gets away with it. It’s just not possible with online teaching and learning.

“Also, a lecturer cannot cheat for a student who has missed an assignment – especially as there’s an online ‘plagiarism-checker’ to ensure credibility. You also won’t have a situation where the recommended material is not available [online]. The book, the chapters are available; it is already within the system,” she explained.

This, she noted, is important – especially in view of recent high-profile cases involving examination misconduct as well as the comparatively low rankings recorded by the nation’s universities.

Citing examples from other African countries like Nigeria and Tanzania, she further explained how e-learning would significantly increase the intake capacity of universities. “Our public universities currently have an intake capacity of less than 150,000 students. How will we deal with the approximately 500,000 expected to graduate from our second-cycle schools? Online learning provides the answer,” she stated.

Not unaware of the current structural handicap, Prof. Alabi indicated that she would not advocate for abrupt implementation of wholesale e-learning, but rather a phased, blended learning approach.

“I would recommend blended learning, particularly when it comes to the practical professional courses… There are science and social science simulations available for practical work. Of course, for the sciences, for some practicals, you would need a degree of human interaction; but we have augmented and virtual reality solutions which allow for this.”

She called for stakeholder engagement in the provision of affordable and reliable data services, as well as highlighted the opportunities which abound for local software and hardware players to drive innovation.

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