That “Open Distance and E-Learning (ODeL) is the Future” was the resounding affirmation made at the second International Colloquium held by the Distance Learning Institute (DLI) of the University of Lagos on Tuesday, August 1, 2023.
All roads led to the Nurudeen Alao Auditorium of the DLI as prominent scholars and higher education professionals from around the world converged to discuss the transformative potentials of open distance and e-learning, especially in the technology-driven era of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
‘’Hybridisation of Instructional Deliveries in the Emerging Global Higher Education Ecosystem” was the theme around which discourses at the blended event (i.e. online and on-site) were centred.
A Pivotal Moment
The Director of the Distance Learning Institute (DLI), Professor Uchenna Udeani, set the tone for the event with her Opening Speech. She established the rationale for the event in the context of a global education revolution that is driven by technology and emphasised the need for educational institutions in Africa to leverage it.
Her words: “What we are witnessing is a pivotal moment in the evolution of teaching and learning. The integration of technology and traditional pedagogical approaches is reshaping the way knowledge is imparted, acquired, and exchanged. Hybrid instruction, also known as blended learning, combines the best of both worlds: the rich engagement and interpersonal interaction offered by face-to-face teaching, and the flexibility and accessibility of online platforms. This amalgamation, when implemented skilfully, can lead to enhanced student engagement, personalised learning experiences, and greater academic success for our students. That is why this colloquium aims to serve as a catalyst for discussions on the successes, possibilities, and challenges surrounding hybrid instructional deliveries.”
UNILAG Believes in DLI and Open Education
In her Welcome Remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Folasade Ogunsola, OON, FAS, re-echoed the points earlier raised by Professor Udeani. She acknowledged the tremendous potential of technology in reshaping the education landscape and promoting lifelong learning.
“Knowledge is the currency of the 21st century and there will be no development without the qualitative development of our country’s human capital”, she said.
“At the university level, only about 25% of applicants will be absorbed. The National Open University of Nigeria has the largest enrolment at over 500,000. The present campus system will not solve the problem. Going forward, it is clear we must embrace new strategies and technology if we are to meet our obligation and actualise the development required to make our country comfortable for all.”
“UNILAG believes in DLI and Open Education. With the Coursera MOU, we recently provided licences for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to improve staff learning and certifications. As a matter of policy, also, we have removed the distinction between degree certificates issued by our conventional programmes and the Distance Learning Institute. Going forward, our degree certificates will carry the same imprimatur of the University of Lagos, as a confirmation that the quality of instruction received via both modes is the same”.
Our aim is to double the population of DLI students in the next three years by exploring technology. We will be listening attentively to learn from the Keynote Speaker and Panellists”, the Vice-Chancellor declared.
“DLI is blazing the trail …”
Professor Olugbemiro Jegede, FNAE, was the Chairman of the colloquium.
In his Opening Remarks, he also underscored the imperativeness of keying into digital technology for the provision of higher education services. He identified the mode of instruction delivery as one of the major differences between face-to-face (f2f) and open distance and e-learning (ODeL), and submitted that the dividing line would soon be non-existent.
“ODeL has always relied on technologies for instructional delivery, beginning from the 17th century. Interestingly, the two worlds of f2f and ODeL seem to be merging, so that sooner than later, the thin line of separation will be finally wiped out”.
Referencing the DLI of UNILAG, the Chairman encouraged universities in Nigeria to embrace open distance education by investing resources in the technology and personnel training required for it.
“DLI is blazing the trail, and the ODeL environment is eminently proud of what you have done by instituting this annual colloquium”.
“Education is not a commodity to be delivered”
A former President of the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia, Professor Som Naidu, delivered the Keynote Address. His presentation probed deeply into the central place that technology plays in all areas of 21st Century life, including education.
“Technology has entered the higher education space and higher education is beginning to respond to that. I submit to you that as we go further, digital experience will be a big determinant in whether students chose to stay in a university or not”.
The Keynote Speaker called for a rethinking of the idea of Education as a commodity that is delivered. He advocated for Education to be regarded as the right for all that should be accessible with openness and flexibility.
“Education is not a commodity to be delivered like you will have in a supermarket. It is the designing of a learning experience. It is a right that every individual should enjoy with openness and flexibility. Without openness and flexibility, we can never achieve the Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which is inclusive and quality education for all”.
He continued: “Openness and Flexibility in education does not mean the demise of campus-based, face-to-experience. They are value principles that must be constantly engaged, no matter the mode of education delivery. I foresee the digital spending of universities increasing in the immediate future in response to this imperative. After all is said and done, it will come down to this: Give your students the connectivity and they will find the resources”.
Panel of Experts
Discussions at the 2nd International Colloquium of the DLI were further enriched by the contributions of an international panel of experts. Each of them spoke to different areas of the theme of Hybridisation of Education, sharing unique country perspectives. Those on the panel were: Prof. Som Naidu (Australia); Prof. Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira (Brazil); Prof. Goski Alabi (Ghana); Prof. Christine Ofulue (Nigeria), and Dr. Lexi Adams (Rwanda). Professor Alabi and Dr. Adams made virtual appearances respectively. The Africa Strategy Adviser to Lancaster University, United Kingdom, Dr. Akanimo Odion moderated the panel session.
Dining, Wining, and Honours
After long hours of intellectual discourses on the subject of higher education hybridization, participants at the 2nd International Colloquium of the Distance Learning Institute were treated to a reception at the Tolu Odugbemi Hall. It was an opportunity for them to interact, socialise, and network.
The occasion also doubled as a moment of recognition and honour for the Director of the Distance Learning Institute (DLI), Professor Uchenna Udeani. The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Folasade Ogunsola showered encomium on the Director for her visionary and determined leadership of the institute. She commended her for many initiatives, one of which is the annual international colloquium of the institute, and congratulated her on the successful completion of her tenure. On behalf of Management, Staff and Students of the University of Lagos, she wished Professor Udeani continued success in her subsequent assignments.