For educational institutions, the process for resuming education activities has transformed. It now requires an alternative approach in the operational planning of administration, teaching and learning.
The guidelines for the safe reopening of school and learning facilities, amongst other recommendations, proffers the use of remote and e-learning platforms as a requirement for continued safe and quality educational operations to meet the prescribed standards. This is a new era for education within Nigeria as most institutions have not had prior experience with infusing technology into their daily operations. This means they require a swift adoption process to meet these needs, however, baring in mind the social and developmental changes present in the society, every institution would have to develop their own unique approach and method for blended learning.
One of the key expectations from the Federal Ministry of Education School Reopening Guideline is for institutions to take responsibility for meeting the learning needs of all learners, especially those in lower-income families, girls, displaced children, those with disabilities, and those living in conflict-affected, rural or remote areas.
In that spirit, here are 5 steps to include in your approach to adopting a blended learning strategy for your university;
The first stage of creating a solution is acknowledging the problem. To create the best approach for your institution, start by identifying the “gaps” within, which is the difference between what is expected versus what is actually available or implementable, and these exist as;
Learning Gaps; the difference between what a student is expected to have learned by a certain grade level versus what they have actually learned up to that point.
Teaching Gap; the difference between what a lecturer is expected to teach based on the standard curriculum versus what they have actually covered over the course of the semester.
Administration Gap; the difference between what is expected in institutional operations and what your institution can achieve based on the resource available.
Financial Gap: the varying degrees of financial capabilities that can hinder access to data, mobile devices and internet connectivity.
Create a Gap checklist that itemizes the issues peculiar to the environment and realities that will affect the implementation of remote learning at your institution. Brainstorm and develop actionable solutions for each of these issues and create execution plans for them. We recommend you make this a collaborative effort among administrative staff and lecturers and assign committed stakeholders to actualize your plans.
Learning for all students. Ensuring no student is - left behind is a vital goal all administrators should include in creating solutions for implementing online learning.
The Federal School Reopening Guideline recommends staggered, alternate and platooning attendance as alternative learning models for implementing safe distancing measures.
Considering a highly populated university, implementing these models might pose an operational challenge for administrators. It will require lecturers to take the same class several times within a day and the reality of this is that schools would have to hire a lot more staff to lecture, manage and supervise all activities within the school premises.
Access issues are real. The digital divide that exists within our society is something with which any blending learning approach must contend to develop creative solutions that consider the infrastructures available to stakeholders.
In solving for this, Students who own or have access to mobile devices such as tablets, laptops and phones they can utilize for learning should be categorised into platoons that require minimal or none in-person attendance. While students who cannot afford such access are in platoons for in-person attendance with necessary guidelines in place.
However, administrators will be tasked with ensuring that the out-of-class students have access to similar experiences as the in-class students through providing relevant resources such as lecture recordings, notes, online Q&A sessions with lecturers, live streaming of classes and other innovative ideas that the institution can afford.
Institutions would need a learning management system to monitor performance and manage all aspects of operations. They would need to shift from a paper-based process, which is time-consuming and costly to a system that will reduce the administrative burden and automate a lot of processes to improve the experience of all stakeholders.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” - African proverb
Lecturers can see the value in Edu-tech, as it is an effective solution to move education forward in these times. However, the change in educational operation is coming from the top-down, and this means that they might be presented with tools without being consulted first and without learning how to use them to their full potential.
The action plans for the federal guideline include the conducting of training that enables lecturers to facilitate learning with the 21st-century tools.
Firstly creating courses, mini-workshops or webinars for lecturer’s professional development to help them get a sense of how an online learning platform works will drive acceptance of the new tools.
However, alongside this, it is important for lecturers and admins to have a sense of ownership and a feeling of responsibility for the process of digital transformation. This can be achieved by involving them through test pilots and being open to receive and implement constant feedback.
The presence of an online learning solution in a school setting doesn’t guarantee results. Choosing the right solution for your institution that lecturers can use effectively is very important to drive success.
In a poll we carried out, 51% of the respondents from the public school confirmed not having any access to online learning while the 49% in private schools had access to either institution-owned LMS, Telegram, WhatsApp, Zoom, Microsoft Learn or Moodle.
The survey respondents also highlighted the challenges they have experienced with online learning such as inefficient use of online learning tools by the school administrators, lack of organisation and planning, no timetable or proper format for teaching and learning by the school administrators and lecturers, difficulty in understanding, boredom and low motivation because of poor interactions during learning sessions.
Universities implementing online learning need proper feedback mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of their processes and choice of learning tools and applications they use. Discovering some earlier highlighted loopholes can guide universities to create a better learning framework, organise needed training for administrators and lecturers and also switch to the right tools they need to succeed.
You cannot overestimate or underestimate the support that admins, students and lecturers would need when they start out with a new online learning platform. The reality is; adoption is different for everyone. Some people experience or aren’t almost immediately willing to accept changes and without the right support available to guide this process, it hinders the seamlessness your institution desires.
Create a support team consisting of ICT personnel with experience and knowledge to tend to each stakeholder group and provide reliable support at all times of need. This support team can also comprise representatives from each stakeholder group who have more knowledge or have become very comfortable using the platform to create an avenue for peer-to-peer support.
Lecturers and Admins would be facing the challenge of not being tech-savvy as most of their students. Asides being intimidated by the new technology and way of interacting with students, It will surely be uncomfortable to deal with tech difficulties or feel as if you know much less than your students do.
As such they are likely faced with the pressure of always being one step ahead, however, just as enough training and help should be mandatory, accepting that not knowing isn’t a cause for embarrassment but a step in the right direction is important and we recommend creating a community for peer-to-peer support.
Blending online learning seems to be the best way universities can properly implement federal resumption guidelines. However, making online learning work in an institution requires a very deliberate decision making and implementation process. Administrators would need to set clear goals and develop unique strategies that will set them on the right path to success.
We are here to provide support in brainstorming and implementing online learning strategies and tools for ambitious universities in staying ahead.
To begin, you can use our Strategic Framework for Implementing E-learning in Institution to begin the planning process for your university.
Federal Ministry of Education, “Guidelines for Safe Reopening of Schools & Learning Facilities After COVID-19 Pandemic Closures.”, July 15, 2020, https://education.gov.ng/covid-19-guidelines-for-safe-reopening-of-schools-learning-facilities/#1.