One of the industries in Ghana that is most hit by the COVID-19 pandemic from Archaeology to Zoology is the Education Industry. Industry players never anticipated this storm as they enjoyed the comfort of face-to-face lectures.
To them, they were the best institutions in Ghana fighting over awards etc. Today, the government has not shut down educational institutions. The government has only banned educational activities that will involve physical contacts and several universities including some of the big boys in the industry are virtually shut down. What has accounted for this misery? The answer is simple; total disregard for the deployment of technology in improving educational delivery in Ghana over the years.
THE AIT CASE (THE UNSUNG HEROES)
In 2009, a new university called THE ACCRA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (AIT) was born. Led by their President, Professor Clement Dzidonu ( A world Renowned Computer Scientist) their mode of education delivery was different. Way back in 2009/2010 academic year, the university started deploying technology in education in Ghana. The following are some of the technologies deployed.
Learning Management and Administrative System (LEMASS)
In 2009, the university had developed a Learning Management System where all the university activities took place. The LEMASS became the center of the university where most of the activities took place. Besides the face-to-face lectures, all other academic activities took place on the LEMASS.
Part of the LEMASS allowed students as of 2009/2010 (10 years ago) to submit assignments using technology. Since the establishment of the university, their students have never submitted hard copy assignments. The university does not insist on students buying books from lecturers. Assignments are posted on the system, students access them, answer them and come back to upload.
Access to Learning Materials and Other Resources
For ten years, all students of AIT after their registration into the university are automatically given their learning materials including books, handouts, articles, audios, and videos. With collaboration with MIT, the university has all the Open Source Materials from MIT and load them on the LEMASS. As a student, once you log in, you access all your materials. These resources can be accessed on mobile phones, laptops, and other electronic devices. Students can therefore read anywhere they find themselves. This again started way back in 2010.
AIT is one of the few if not the only university that introduced a fully functional 100% Electronic Library. With only a reading room where students can have their peace to read, the university does not keep a physical library. They have eBooks, audios and videos, etc all stored on their Electronic Library for years. Therefore, students can access all materials anywhere they find themselves.
Ban on Sale of Books and Handouts
AIT became the first university to ban the sale of books and handouts by lecturers. Typical of Ghanaians, you can deploy all the technologies in the world, people will not use until you put policies in place to ensure compliance. This became one of the basic requirements to employ any lecturer. If you do not sign on this agreement, you are not employed. The only lecturer who decided to disregard this directive, the university administration used his salary to refund all the monies he took from the students to them. This is a university that is committed to the use of technology
Introduction of Open University Education
AIT is the pioneer of Open University Education in Ghana. With all the technologies discussed above and in collaboration with Open University of Malaysia, the university introduced this unique program even before some universities thought of distance learning programs. Most of the distance learning programs in Ghana are structured around Open University Concept introduced by AIT in 2009/2010
Instructor Recorded Videos
In January 2019, not thinking COVID-19 will show up, the university started video recording all their lectures meant to be uploaded on their LEMASS so students who miss lectures or even those at lectures can watch and listen later. In this COVID-19 season, all these videos have been deployed to students and they can sit at the comfort of their homes, watch their lecturers teach and later meet them online for discussions. No wonder this COVID-19 problem has had no negative impact on them.
Indeed, from the above, the Management of AIT saw into the future and identified technology as the tool for improving education. No wonder they call themselves ‘The University of the Future’. Yes, they saw the future way back in 2009. However, this success did not come without resistance. Typical of humans and our unwillingness to embrace change, several industry players including employers, mentors, regulatory agencies rubbished these ideas and at some stage threatened to punish AIT if they do not stop and follow what everyone was doing. When AIT graduated their Open University students in 2012/2013, companies did not employ the graduates. Even educational institutions refused to recognize the accredited certificate by the National Accreditation Board and refused to promote our graduates.
Some members on boards or panels of regulatory agencies who did not see this future found several grounds to discredit the technology deployment. I remember in one of such meetings, a renowned Professor on the panel did not understand why AIT is using E-Library and posited that an E-Library is not necessary and possible in Ghana because our networks are bad, students don’t know how to use computers and no one including himself likes to read lecture notes and materials from only computers. They should be printed or else. Our graduates would call and be lamenting that their certificates are not being recognized because the people claim the course was done online and it is not genuine even after explaining to them that they attended physical lectures on weekends. The recognition of certificates and progress of AIT did not even come from people
generally recognizing the role of technology. It came from our graduates who got the opportunity to prove themselves and they started showing the knowledge and skills they acquired from AIT. This paved way for companies to now request the services of our graduates. Not even until COVID-19, Ghanaians still did not respect online degrees. How many people have online degrees recognized in Ghana? That is not to say I don’t know
some of these online schools are fake.
After COVID-19 and the banning of physical lectures and physical campus activities, what has become of educational institutions in Ghana? I once saw a whole directive from a renowned university in Ghana asking their lecturers to meet their students on WhatsApp to teach them. Can you imagine that? In 2020, some universities don’t even have Learning Management Systems to load their results. They still publish results on notice boards and others still keep their results only in Microsoft Excel. Another publication I saw somewhere stated that their lecturers are now putting together their learning materials together for upload on their systems so students can have access. I ended up asking myself ‘so what have they been teaching the students all this while? Most likely from the heads of the lecturers or some of the 1920 old notebooks. Did we have to wait for COVID-19 before loading materials on a learning management system?
Don’t be surprised that in 2020, some of your Professors may not even know how to prepare PowerPoint slides to think of teaching students on ZOOM or Google classroom. It is a big shame that in 2020, a ban on physical activities on campuses could just shut down higher institutions, create this panic to the extent that student bodies release press statements asking for a halt of online learning. The world has moved on and technology in education is no more an option. It will be a big shock to me if we go back to our normal way of education after COVID-19. It will just mean we did no learn. Let Ghana learn from the AIT example and indeed other good examples in the world and deploy technologies to improve education. I hope that one of the positives of COVID-19 will be a total overhaul of our educational systems with technology at the center.
God Bless Our Homeland Ghana
Source: Mr. Dominic Osei Boakye