The deadly coronavirus, otherwise called COVID-19, took the world by storm. This is because the virus has caused collateral damage to virtually all the spheres of our lives.
Since then, schools, offices and other public places have closed down in accordance with the various precautionary measures to stem the spread of the virus.
The Lagos State University(LASU), South-West Nigeria, rather than surrendering to the limitations of the pandemic, converted the lockdown into a golden opportunity to explore other academic experiences.
Consequently, the stay-at-home order does not affect academic learning rather it has opened new vista of opportunities as the University is leveraging on existing e-learning infra structure to deliver quality assessment outcomes.
The Vice-Chancellor, LASU, Prof. Olanrewaju Adigun Fagbohun, in a chat with JAMBulletin in Abuja, made this disclosure when he was lending his voice to the call by the Hon. Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, on the need by institutions to embrace e-platforms for imparting knowledge to their teeming student population as obtained in other climes.
This call was coming on the heels of some pundits expressing reservations on the workability of virtual learning and teaching in the Nigerian context citing non-availability of infrastructure among other factors.
However, the LASU experience has changed the narratives and in the words of the multiple Award winner and Professor of Environmental Law, “We cannot continue to give excuses otherwise we would end up as ‘excusesiologists’.”
Prof. Fagbohun said LASU was poised to achieve two things. First, it aims at engaging students positively and productively as a result of the lockdown while encouraging them to respect all measures put in place to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof. Fagboun, who is also a National Productivity Merit Award winner said, “For us at LASU, we plan to finish the session as scheduled. So what we did when the lockdown came was to open conversation at all levels of Management in addition to expanding the Management Committee comprising the Provosts, Deans and Faculty Officers. Everybody keyed into all measurements we would be putting in place to actualise online lectures.”
Continuing, Prof. Fagboun disclosed that it was that momentous decision that culminated in the fine-tuning of the existing Distance Learning Programme originally run by the institution but managed by ENVIVO to become a veritable e-learning platform.
He attributed the success of the programme to the ability of the LASU Management to secure the buy-in of the Governor of Lagos State.
He stated that the Governor was very enthusiastic about the e-learning project and gave the institution all the support required without limiting the services of ENVIVO to the Distance Learning Programme of the University but rather gave approval for the extension of the programme to all tertiary institutions in Lagos State.
The Vice Chancellor added that the goodwill of the Governor to fund the platform, more than anything, ensured that everybody keyed into it.
The Vice-Chancellor said, “The way we went about the project was for us to have recorded presentations, which included slides featuring the narration and the questions, for onward recording and loading into the ENVIVO platform.”
According to the erudite professor, the platform was made so robust that students were able to access these lectures offline.
He said it was not only a lot cheaper that way but students could also fall back on the recorded lectures at their own convenient time. They were, however, constrained to maintain constant link with the platform through the quizzes and assignments which lecturers give at the end of every presentation.”
Similarly, Prof. Fagboun said, “We equally created a blog where questions are asked and answered. In addition, all questions are monitored by Technical Assistants so that once a question has been asked and answered, no other student could ask such a question again in the course of an interaction. The essence of this is to prevent repetition of questions.”
He explained that similar e-lectures were being held for medical students in the College of Medicine with the practical aspects of the course put on hold until normalcy returned.
According to him, the implication of doing that would be that all theoretical engagements were completed during the period of the lockdown and no academic exercise suffers as a result of the lockdown.
To begin the e-learning programme, the Vice-Chancellor disclosed that a webinar was held for the institution’s Management and the Student Union leaders who, in turn, went back to sensitise their fellow students.
He emphasised that there was no basis for the University to be comatose and then blame such inertia on lack of infrastructure.
He added that the University Chapter of ASUU was so understanding that their decision to eschew strikes during this challenging period had positively impacted on the e-learning policy.
He urged other institutions which desired to continue with their academic engagements to do so immediately via e-learning as they would not need huge infrastructural facilities before successfully engaging with their students.
Commenting on the process of the 2019 Admissions, the Vice-Chancellor pointed out that the University, along with other tertiary institutions in the country, constantly interfaced with the Board’s Central Admissions Processing System (CAPS).
He described CAPS as an amazing concept which had succeeded in not only streamlining the admission process but also bringing integrity, transparency and credibility to the process.
He said, “When you have a system like CAPS, abuses are likely to be prevented as the system is structured in such a way that whatever you want to do must be in consonance with acceptable guidelines.
Similarly, CAPS also gives opportunity to double check and ensure that every player admits candidates according to their set rules. It is one of the greatest things that has happened to the administration of the admissions process in Nigeria.”
On the continued relevance of JAMB, he said, “We have a system that is working for us, why must we change it?”
Continuing, he stated that the Board had done very well over the years and had not derailed from the mandate and vision of its founding fathers.
He added that the purposeful leadership provided by successive Registrars have greatly positioned the Board to deliver world-class assessment outcomes as well as enhanced the harmonious relationship with tertiary institutions across the country.
Fielding question on the quality of education in Nigeria at present, Prof. Fagboun said the country was not doing badly but urged educational administrators to scale up the curriculum in line with 21st century realities.
He said, “At LASU, we are training students not only to be ambassadors of the Nigerian educational system but veritable workforce and global citizens capable of holding their own wherever they might find themselves.”
The Vice Chancellor, who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), expressed his delight with the National Universities Commission(NUC), which, according to him, had made noticeable impact on the Nigerian university system through the assembly of experts such as the former Vice-Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Nimi Briggs, former Executive Secretary, NUC and Chairman Board of National Open university of Nigeria (NOUN), Prof. Peter Okebukola, former Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyah Ahmed Rufa’i and many others to drive the process of upscaling of the curriculum of the Nigerian university system.
Prof. Fagboun also declared “Nigerians are very intelligent but they have to be prepared for the workplace of the future. With the intellectual resources available by way of data at NUC and JAMB coupled with the timely and copious interventions by TETFUND in the provision of infrastructural needs of tertiary institutions, it would not be long before the nation got to where it ought to be technologically and economically. “
* JAMBulletin (the weekly Newsletter of JAMB)
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