• Monday, April 22, 2024
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Experts advocate open, distance learning for inclusive, equitable higher education

Experts advocate open, distance learning for inclusive, equitable higher education

Experts in the education sector are advocating for open and distance learning to drive inclusive and equitable higher education in the country.

According to them, to attain the sustainable development goal four (SDG4), the country must adopt the open, distance and e-learning (ODeL) approach.

Som Naidu, head of research and evaluation in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Research Support at the University of Melbourne, Australia, said there is a need to unbundle the way higher institutions package learning via integration of technology in teaching and learning.

“For a future focused education, a rethink and recalibration of the educational as well as institutional choreographies is required,” he said in his keynote address at the second international colloquium organised by the Distance Learning Institute (DLI), University of Lagos (UNILAG) recently.

Naidu speaking on the theme: “Hybridisation of Instructional Deliveries in the Emerging Global Higher Education Ecosystem”, pointed out the Covid-19 pandemic globally distorted learning process, and that people should learn from the experience.

“As of mid-April 2021, 1.5 billion children and youth have been affected by school closures in 195 countries, from pre-primary to higher education,” he noted.

He maintained that the pandemic like any other disaster challenged the readiness of man to manage his affairs, hence, the new approach to learning should be embraced and not seen as disruptive.

“Technology such as artificial intelligence is a tool and not a disaster, we are to use the tool to the best of our ability.

Education is a public good, and if everyone must have it, then we must hybridise it, mixing and matching according to needs and demands,” he said.

Uchenna Udeani, director of Distance Learning Institute (DLI) at UNILAG in her address said that the integration of technology and traditional pedagogical approaches is reshaping the way knowledge is imparted, acquired, and exchanged.

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“In today’s rapidly changing world, where technology permeates every aspect of our lives, it is imperative that we adapt our educational practices accordingly.

Our institutions of higher education must embrace this opportunity to reimagine the learning experience and equip our students with the skills necessary to navigate the challenges of the 21st century,” she said.

Udeani explained that hybrid instruction, also known as blended learning, combines the best of both of the physical and virtual worlds: the rich engagement and interpersonal interaction offered by face-to-face teaching, and the flexibility and accessibility of online platforms.

Folasade Ogunsola, vice-chancellor at UNILAG in her welcome remarks said the theme for the colloquium “Hybridisationj of Instructional Deliveries in the Emerging Global Higher Education Ecosystem”, resonates with realities of the time.

“The Covid- 19 pandemic brought to the fore the absolute need for technology in higher education.

We became extremely dependent on technology, and at the end of it, we were left with the realisation that the future of higher education has to have technology in it,” she said.

The vice-chancellor described knowledge as the currency of the 21st century, and that any country that hopes to develop must develop human capital.

She revealed that more than 30 percent of Nigeria’s over 200 million people are within education seeking age.

“76 million Nigerians need to be catered for in higher education. And unfortunately, the present system of campuses will not solve the problem, because the university system caters for a very low percent of people,” she noted.

To bridge the gap, she said that the country need technology, hence open distance learning is the way it must go.

She reiterated that UNILAG believes in distance learning, and open education.

“Recently we removed the dichotomy between distance learning and conventional education because we are more interested in the quality and the way the knowledge is acquired,” she said.

Olugbemiro Jegede, chairman at DLI in his remarks noted that the world has always been in a state of continuous change which has affected virtually everything including education.

He said that the education system has found itself in the vista of hybridisation because while the faster world is moving at the speed of light into fully digital online instructional deliveries, the ecosystem of global higher education is neither ready to relinquish face-to-face learning nor willing to embrace hook, line and sinker the emerging technologies.

The panel section pointed out the future of education is that everyone is included, hence the need to hybridise the approach.

“According to the submission by the panelists, “Education is about building the ultimate learning experience, hence, instructors should have knowledge and skills in technology to be able to impact learners who will translate the knowledge to workplace skills.”

The Distance Learning Institute (DLI) is an organ of UNILAG that operates and coordinates the open and distance learning programmes. The university recognises that open, and distance learning is a veritable alternative to increase access to higher education in all countries, thereby providing unique opportunities to all lifelong learners.