4th May, 2023
Scholars, researchers, and other Distance Learning practitioners, from Monday, May 1 to Tuesday, May 2, 2023, converged at Backcock University, Ilisan-Remo, Ogun State 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)
The conference with the theme, “Global Spaces, Local Contexts: Digital Transformations and Creative Innovations in Open Distance and e-Learning (ODeL)”, was attended by over 200 participants from and outside Nigeria from 40 institutions of learning.
Delivering the keynote address, titled “Micro-Credentialing as an Acceptable Model for Open, Distance and eLearning – A Path to Developing a Policy Framework” the Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Olufemi Peters, call for embracing micro-credentialing as an acceptable model for open, distance, and eLearning in Nigeria.
He noted the need for new innovation in distance learning, stating, “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 staid institutions which talk a big game about change but are hardly responsive to change in ways that can show impact.”
He suggested the replacement of the nation’s academic programmes with a cocktail of short courses across all distance education institutions in Nigeria to be the goal of the conference.
According to him, micro-credentials programmes are often designed to be more flexible in their delivery, compared to traditional degree programmes.
Noting that micro-credentials is no longer alien to the Nigerian educational system, he stated, “We can say we already have an appreciable subscription to the notion of micro-credentialing in Nigeria”.
Highlighting the benefits, he stated that a micro-credentials programme will be shorter than the usual number of years required to complete a college or university degree.
“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”, he said.
Peter, however, 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.
He recommended some ways to surmount these challenges, including 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.
Earlier, the Vice-Chancellor of Babcock University, Professor Ademola S. Tayo underscored the importance of the conference as the global space is witnessing an unprecedented revolution in technological advancements and educational delivery, following the watershed Covid-19 pandemic.
He stated, “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.”
In her welcome address, the Director of Babcock University Centre for Open Distance And E-Learning (BUCODeL) and Chair, LOC, ODeLAN Conference 2023, Professor Mobolanle E. Sotunsa, reiterated the importance of distance and E-learning as the future of education in Nigeria.
Sotunsa disputed what she described as the false notion that regular-mode students are superior to their ODL counterparts, noting that E-learning students have access to high-quality learning resources.
She stated that because e-learning is technologically oriented, its students are groomed to have an advantage over regular students in this area.
In his speech, ODeLAN President, Professor Frances O. Egbokhare 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, adding that the government through NUC simultaneously instituted an elaborate regime of quality assurance.
He stated, “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.”
The conference featured both physical and virtual paper presentations, a tech fair, where a number of organisations exhibited a cross range of technological tools and innovations, a Roundtable Discussion, where discussants from different IT companies enlightened the participants on the topic, The Tech Eco System and Education Revolution, Health check-up encompassing blood pressure, sugar level, and eye check.
The conference had in attendance: 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, Professor Paul Prinsloo from the University of South Africa, 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.
Others are Drs Maruf Oladejo, University of Lagos, Samuel Awolumate, NOUN, and Dr Olusola Maitanmi, Babcock University.