When academics gathered to advance open distance and e-learning programme

Just recently, researchers and academics gathered to rub minds on the need to elevate the current level of open and distance learning models whose wave is already blowing across the globe. BAYO AGBOOLA reports from one of such sessions.

All roads led to Backcock University, Ilisan-Remo in Ogun state between Monday, May 1 and 2 as over 200 participants from within and outside Nigeria from 40 institutions of learning comprising scholars, researchers, and other distance learning practitioners converged at university for the inaugural conference of the Open Distance and E-Learning Association of Nigeria (ODeLAN) in collaboration with the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) with a conference titled, ‘Global Spaces, Local Contexts: Digital Transformations and Creative Innovations in Open Distance and e-Learning (ODeL)’.

Open distance and e-learning, no doubt, has come to stay globally particularly in Nigeria and some other African countries going by the development in the education sector in the last few years and even beyond. This is even more so with the on going technological innovations throughout the globe. No wonder, the scholars, researchers, and other distance learning practitioners left no one in doubt about their readiness and commitments to contributing their quotas towards the advancement of open distance and e-learning education in the country.

Setting the ball rolling

The vice-chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Olufemi Peters in his
keynote address, titled: ‘Micro-Credentialing as an Acceptable Model for Open, Distance and eLearning – A Path to Developing a Policy Framework’ emphasized the need for embracing micro-credentialing as an acceptable model for open, distance, and e-learning in Nigeria, saying for new innovation in distance learning, higher education can no longer do things the traditional way and expect a different kind of impact on our society.
“We can no longer revel in our preferred model of doing things that higher education leaders extolled at the first Glion Colloquium on higher education about a quarter of a century ago. University leaders from around the world confirmed that universities follow a deliberate evolutionary path in making adjustments in their academic enterprise. Unlike industry which made major changes in virtually all its activities and has even reinvented itself in many cases, universities are such institutions which talk of big game about change but are hardly responsive to change in ways that can show impact.”
According to Professor Peters, the replacement of the nation’s academic programmes with a cocktail of short courses across all distance education institutions in Nigeria should be the goal of the conference, adding, that ” micro-credential programmes are often designed to be more flexible in their delivery compared to traditional degree programmes.
He noted that micro-credentials is no longer alien to the Nigerian educational system, noted
“We can say we already have an appreciable subscription to the notion of micro-credentialing in Nigeria.”
The of the National Open University of Nigeria vice chancellor while highlighting the benefits of open distance and e-learning stressed that a micro-credentials programme will be shorter than the usual number of years required to complete a college or university degree.
He said, “It typically takes weeks or months to complete. The learner will be required to demonstrate skills, knowledge and competencies through a mix of online lectures, group discussions, project work, presentations and complete tests. Upon successful completion of a micro-credential course, the learner is awarded a digital badge or digital certificate.”
The NOUN vice chancellor further identified some of the challenges facing micro-credentials to include policy and regulatory bottlenecks, the limited number of practitioners who are proficient in open distance and e-learning principles and the question of the productive economy being amenable to the notion of micro-credential and that some of the ways to surmount these challenges include adopting a pilot implementation approach to evaluate, refine and scale a sustainable solution and adopting existing open online courses published as OER to lower risk, minimise the cost and maximise impact.
Followed by VC Babcock University, others

On his part, the vice chancellor of Babcock University, Professor Ademola S. Tayo in his presentation emphasized the importance of the conference as the global space is witnessing an unprecedented revolution in technological advancements and educational delivery, most especially following the watershed Covid-19 pandemic saying, “I am happy to note that this conference has not only brought together academics from various institutions of higher learning in Nigeria and across Africa, but it has included the industry especially tech industries, thereby bridging a gap and creating a much-desired intersection between the educational sector and the industry.”
Also, the director of Babcock University Centre for Open Distance And E-Learning (BUCODeL) and chairman, LOC, ODeLAN Conference 2023, Professor Mobolanle E. Sotunsa minced no words in saying that distance and e-learning as the future of education in Nigeria dispute the false notion that regular-mode students are superior to their ODL counterparts. He noted that e-learning students have access to high-quality learning resources saying because e-learning is technologically oriented, its students are groomed to have an advantage over regular students in this area.
President of Open Distance and E-Learning Association of Nigeria (ODeLAN), Professor Frances O. Egbokhare in his presentation traced the history of ODeLAN and lauded the Nigerian government for taking the bold step to open up the Nigerian education space to the teeming population of education-hungry Nigerians. He added that the government through NUC simultaneously instituted an elaborate regime of quality assurance, saying, “Numerous distance learning centres have been licensed in conventional universities. The NUC is in the process of licensing private open universities. In addition, comprehensive e-learning and transnational education frameworks are in the pipeline. All these point to the need for adequate skills and competencies, deepening of quality assurance, innovative and creative ideas, staff resourcing, and sustainable modelling. Thus, we need research, training and collaboration for effective intervention and efficient deployment of scarce resources.”

Who’s who at the conference

The conference was attended by the president, Africa Council for Distance Education (ACDE) and president of LAWEH Open University, Prof Goski Alabi, president, National Association of Distance Education and Open Learning in South Africa NADEOSA), Dr Ruth Aluko, Babcock Vice president/Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof Philemon O. Amanze, Professors Bankole Ogunleye, Christine Ofulue from NOUN, Professors Tolulope Ogunnusi, Afe Babalola University, Romina Asiyai, Delta State University, Geidam Yaqub and Abdullai John, University of Maiduguri, Chinyere Egwogu, Tai Solarin University and Adekunle Eludire, Joseph Ayo Babalola. Drs Maruf Oladejo, University of Lagos, Samuel Awolumate, NOUN, and Dr Olusola Maitanmi, Babcock University.