‘Why govt should establish e-learning centres at COEs’

A typical e-learning and connectivity centre

A typical e-learning and connectivity centre

Following a recent call by the National Association of Nigerian Colleges of Education Students (NANCES), for the computerisation of learning processes in all colleges of education, as well as ensuring that each student has access to electronic learning (e-learning) device, experts have challenged the government to establish e-learning centres at the affected colleges.

Creating e-learning centres at the colleges, they however, contended was a pragmatic and feasible option compared to availing each student a laptop or tablet, taking into cognizance, the students’ population and the financial implication of doing that.

In making the appeal, the NANCES leadership further urged the Federal Government to specifically create a policy that would mandate each of its members to own a customised laptop or tablet specially designed for teacher education.

Citing the Opon Imo initiative in Osun State as an example, they requested that learning in teachers training institutes across the country should be woven around Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as the world goes digital.

In their considered opinion, if the country desires growth in the sector, computerisation of education must start with teachers who are being trained at the colleges of education.

Commenting on the issue in an interview with The Guardian, former chief lecturer at the Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) and Chief Executive Officer, ICON Training and Consultancy, Dr. Patricia Akumabor, described the student’s demand as logical, since they must be well equipped in order to take care of Nigerian students. He regretted that paucity of may cause their dreams to never come to fruition.

Akumabor maintained that developed countries were still benefitting from numerous advantages inherent in ICT, so Nigeria should not be left behind, noting that if the country desires to get it right in the sector, teachers should be equipped with the right tools to operate effectively.

“Providing e-learning facilities to student teachers will help them to have quick access to the Internet. If there are tutorials that are required to make teaching and learning effective, they will download same and benefit from it. Some of us were trained by the World Bank and the Eko Project of Lagos State government to become teacher-mentors and I became a master mentor thereafter. Normally we go on the web and download 21st century strategies for improving teaching and learning.

“Now, if students have access to the Internet they will do better. Even the programme they are running, they will be able to gather information from the Internet on various courses and also find out what is trending in other countries. They can even enter into classrooms in different part of the world through the Internet,” she explained.”

But, “Since government might not be able to afford every student a laptop/ tablet, it should establish e-learning centres at the colleges for their use.”

Akumabor, who is also a consultant in teacher training, advised that such centres should be equipped with Internet-enabled computer sets and printers to avoid the use of flash drives by students, adding that, “that would be cheaper for government to put in place than buying laptops/tablets for individual students who would take them along upon graduation.

She also said if this is done, it would enhance learning, improve teaching and allow student teachers to maximise the benefits of ICT.

“When they go for teaching practice for instance, they will be able to practice all they have seen and learn on the Internet. If we want to produce high quality teachers, government must invest heavily in the education sector because it is quality teachers that would produce quality students, who would in turn influence positive development of all other sectors,” she submitted.

The NANCES request has the backing of the Dean, College of Science and Technology, Covenant University (CU), Ogun State, Prof Nicholas Omoregbe, who said, “The student teachers demand is a good one, but their teachers should be exposed first to be able to train these students. If government must give out e-learning devices to students, it should start with their lecturers so as to enable them have access to lots of what would ultimately enhance their quality of teaching.

“For instance in Covenant University, all the lecturers are conversant with the use ICT infrastructure. Not too long ago, tablets were given to students, but the lecturers already knew what is involved and are already available on the ICT platform. That is the best way government should go about it if the funds are available. If not, it should equip the colleges technologically and create functional e-learning centres there because at the end of the day it is the quality of teachers we have in the nation that would determine the quality of students that would eventually be produced.”

He also advised that government should as much as possible invest heavily in ICT, as it is through ICT that Nigeria would enjoy the benefits of globalisation.

Head of Department, Educational Foundation, University of Lagos, Prof. Ngozi Osarenren, who doubted the possibility of government granting the student teachers requests, noted that almost all federal government workers are yet to be paid.

According to her, “e-learning is important and e-learning facility is also good. But it is a policy that has to be deliberate and has to be planned for. First, government should think of how many students we have in the colleges of education nationwide. We are talking of almost a million students. And we all know as I speak now, all federal workers have not been paid because they said there is no money.

“So, where is the money for the project going to come from? You know some of these things have to be part of the budget, is not something that is automatic, it is something that has to be planned for and included in the budget.”

She said apart from monetary involvement, adequate planning should go into the entire process to determine which courses and programmes that are supposed to be uploaded on the device.

“There are so many courses in education, the compulsory core education courses and the teaching subjects. These are factors to put into consideration, but beyond that, students target should be to enhance learning and not for social media interaction. Also, the lecturers should be trained and be carried along because there has to be proper planning.

To move the sector forward, Osarenren, who is also a fellow of the Counselling Association of Nigeria, suggested that government should focus on education, because, according to her, the education sector is in real problem.

“We should not see education as an all comers affair. This is idea of relegating things in the sector to party patronage and bringing in party faithful who don’t have expertise in education should stop. Education is a specialisation. Part of why we have problems in the education sector are because people who don’t understand the workings of the sector are running the system.

“None lawyers are not appointed Attorneys General of the Federation. So if they have to respect that, why won’t they respect education so that things will go on well in the sector,” she questioned.

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