Minister, Utomi, Unilag VC canvass rebranding of open distance, e-learning education in Nigeria

The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, a political economist, Prof Pat Utomi and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe have all made case for a rebranding of open distance education and e-learning in Nigeria.

They said the rebranding is important so that Nigeria could move along in higher education with the advanced countries in the face of global development and a new reality that COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the global economy including education.

They gave this position separately at the international colloquium organised by the Distance Learning Institute of the University of Lagos on Thursday.

The forum with the theme “Recalibrating open distance education and e-learning for resilient and inclusive education” has many ODL experts including the vice-chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria, Prof Olugbemiro Jegede; UNESCO Chair on ODL University of South Africa, Prof Moeketsi Letseka; Prof Yemisi Obashoro-John from Department of Adult Education, UNILAG; Dr Akanimo Odon, who is Africa strategy adviser at Lancaster University, UK, and Mr Kayode Odedina, who is the Director of Open and Distance Education at National Universities Commission, Nigeria, as discussants.

Speaking as a guest of honour, the minister, who was represented by the Director of Economic Services in her ministry, Mr. Idris Mohammed, said since education is the process of achieving sound knowledge, values, skills, beliefs and moral habits necessary for improving the way of living and socioeconomic status, the process must be accessible to and affordable by all irrespective of sex, age, religion and geographical locations.

According to her, as the government is committing to the education of all, the ministry of women affairs is particularly dedicated to sensitizing stakeholders towards the provision of quality and affordable education to girl-child anywhere they are in the country.

She added that since COVID-19 pandemic had redefined the narrative and dynamics of the learning process globally, Nigeria cannot lag behind in using digital platforms to learn in a way that will also factor in the financial ability of every child.

On his part, Prof Utomi, who chaired the event, commended UNILAG for the colloquium initiative, saying the deliberation at the forum by experts in ODL from within and outside Nigeria would certainly help Nigeria to reshape its approach to the learning model.

Speaking earlier, the UNILAG VC, Prof Oluwatoyin said that was what actually UNILAG as a dual model university wants to achieve with the colloquium for the university and the others.

He said though UNILAG for many years had a separate institute that operates and coordinates ODL programmes in various disciplines as a way of increasing access to quality and quantitative higher education to all lifelong learners, the fluctuation and disruptions that COVID-19 pandemic and global development have brought to learning experience globally including blended classrooms, which is the combination of face-to-face learning and virtual-learning together, has necessitated Nigeria to reposition ODL for suitable adaptability, resilience and inclusiveness.

He promised that his administration would certainly repackage the ODL learning mode of the university and review its academic programmes to make the institute becoming a model in Africa.

He said ODL is beyond using digital platforms but encompassing to include curriculum, engagement, delivery, accessibility and affordability, among others.

The keynote speaker, Dr Neil Fassina, who is the President of the International Council for Distance Education at Okanagan College, in Canada, maintained that effective technology and collaboration among schools are keys to an effective ODL delivery system anywhere globally.

He, however, advised schools in less developed countries including Nigeria to maximize both face-to-face learning and ODL models to provide quality higher education to all including those in remote communities.

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