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The Viroscape Series: Use of Technology in education during Covid-19

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By Dr Masha, Dr Eze, Dr Lamont-Mbawuli

According to an article written by Bonilla-Molina, the concept of “Global Pedagogical Blackout” refers to the conversion between the Third and Fourth Industrial Revolution, for a progressive educational reality. 

It is important for one to consider the complex interaction of “viral behaviors” in all spheres of life. A publication in Education Philosophy and Theory, defines the concept of “viral modernity”, as an example of “bio-informationalism”, which applies to “viral technologies, codes and ecosystems in information systems, publication, education and emerging knowledge”. There is a necessity for flexible education (teaching and learning anywhere, anytime) that promotes a more just, accessible, autonomous, and creative system. 

To develop educators, one needs to employ the use of digital technologies in classrooms which is still far from generating systemic change, rather promoting “islands of innovation”, based on the work of excellent teachers who carry out innovation in their teaching practices using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) without mediating a formal process of lifelong learning. Confounding factors that can affect the use of ICT in education are the following: lack of trust within the educational centre, the role of the ICT coordinator and the management team, as well as the existence of networks for access to new information and knowledge sharing among teachers, have greater positive effect on the use of ICTs compared to traditional lifelong learning activities .Teacher training must go beyond the development of basic digital skills but rather to seek to strategize an integrative the interpretative and creative potential of ICT into their training actions. 

One of the important factors needed to build good nations is education, as it is considered a backbone of most countries (Raheem & Khan, 2020). As the essence of education is to empower the lives of students, with a prerequisite of ensuring their health and well-being (Yong, 2020), Higher Education Institutes (HEI’s) are forced to reconsider what part of their educational delivery will be offered in person and what part will be offered on-line (Dennis, 2020). 

Against the backdrop of uncertainty about the trajectory of the pandemic and therefore the length of the lockdown (Bawa, 2020), HEIs in South Africa have committed themselves to completing the 2020 academic year and one of the three possible scenarios in the uncertain terrain presented by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic (Dell, 2020) is the use of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) in teaching and learning (Behari-leak & Ganas, 2020; Demuyakor, 2020; Mhlanga & Moloi, 2020), a platform on which lecturers’ and students’ interactions of all kinds are strictly on-line.

As a result of the massification of the higher education system in South Africa, HEIs now see that participation of students who are diverse in terms of age, gender, social background, schooling background and expectations (Crisp, Palmer, Turnbull, Nettelbeck, Ward, LeCouteur, Sarria, Strelan & Schneider, 2009) include first year students (Tinto, 1988; Brewer, 2013; Brinkworth, McCann, Matthews & Nordstrom, 2009). 

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These are mainly international students (Chysikos, Ahmed & Ward, 2017), indigenous students from isolated locations (Abdullah & Elia, 2009), students from rural backgrounds (Maila & Ross, 2018; Pillay, 2010), students from disadvantaged backgrounds (Hobden & Hobden, 2015), students who are first-generation students (FGS) in HEIs (Bayaga & Lekena, 2018; Heymann & Carolissen, 2011) and first time entering (FTEN) university students. FTEN undergraduate students refer to all students who are entering university for the first time and enrolled in formal undergraduate academic programmes (DHET, 2018). Most students from HEIs in South Africa are from either rural areas, farms, or townships.

Artificial Intelligence/Technology Assistance in Education 

The VLE platform is now widely accepted as a system that supports learning within the HEI realm (Dunn, 2003). It comes with facilities that allow lecturers to download notes in different formats and to receive feedback from students (Adu et al., 2020). There are several other advantages as far as the use of VLEs is concerned as revealed by several authors (e.g., Erasmus, Loedolff, Mda, & Nel, 2019; Montazer, 2014; Najafi, 2014; Negash & Vilkas, 2017; Warnich, Carrell, Elbert, & Hatfield, 2018). The common advantages of VLE include three elements; namely convenience for individual paperwork, automatic traditionalism and conformity. Accordingly, learning via the VLE platform is imperceptibly becoming a learning strategy in the teaching and learning realm, as such it is utilised by HEIs in many developed economies (Negash & Vilkas, 2017).

As part of the VLE platform, HEIs have seen the use and application of information and communication technologies to improve teaching and learning processes. Seen as a unifying phrase accustomed to explaining the areas associated with the internet, web-based instruction and technologies directions (Lorrain, 2017), VLEs enable numerous students in HEIs to study synchronously; thus HEIs have grown to enjoy its popularity since this method improves students’ academic achievement (Khalkhali, Shakibayi & Andosh, 2015).

However, since most students in South African HEIs come from majorly rural and peri-urban areas that are geographically spread across the nine Provinces, the VLE platform has resulted in challenges (experienced by both lecturers and students) such as lack of on-line learning environment, accessibility to data/Wi-Fi/internet and their usage, lack of connectivity, personality traits and attitude towards the use of smartphones, laptops and iPads. HEIs draw most of their students from rural areas of the Eastern Cape Province, with some coming from low quality primary and secondary schooling. Having not settled into their first year on campus when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, most students were immensely under-prepared to undertake instructions using the VLE platform.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) development is entrenched in the idea of distance education and openness in education. It has the potential of 24 hours access to cost-effective information, which attracts many learners across the globe. This type of learning can be useful for those learners who pursue university degrees whilst working. MOOCs are different from traditional university online modules in that participation is not limited, it is free, and it has a high scale production of modules for a high number of participants.

Other advantages of MOOCs include the reality that it has the potential of expansion, hence, it provides an avenue for income generation, it also provides a wide range of students’ access to the online education programme at low cost (Jung Lee, 2018; Phan et al., 2016; Zhou, 2016), it is flexible and accommodates some short courses apart from online degree qualifications, lastly it offers high accessibility and greater autonomy in the learning process (Shah, 2018a).

MOOCs flexibility includes participation without necessary entry or prerequisite qualification. This does not mean that it is meant for novice. According to Li and Powell (2013), MOOC is not an extension of the online teaching and learning approach but offers an opportunity for the recipients to think outside the box on different modules that include fundamentals of open education. Language and information communication and technologies (ICT) skills are also requirements for MOOCs. As submitted by Lee et al. (2016), it is behavioural to engage in terms of completing a task, having feelings toward a task, and intellectual or mental efforts. Ben-Eliyahu et al. (2018) and Oga-Baldwin et al. (2017) shared similar conceptualization, that involvement is about contribution in learning activities, which has three important elements that include behavioural engagement, emotional engagement, and intellectual engagement. Hsieh (2014) report that there are three types of learner behaviours which exhibit signs of engagement namely: cognitive effort, active participation, and interactions with instructors.

Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (MOODLE) 

Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (MOODLE) is a free web application that promotes effective online learning sites. It can be in the form of a course management system (Course Management System – CMS) through the Internet, also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). One of its main advantages is that it allows any user with knowledge of programming to adapt and modify it according to their needs because it is open source. MOODLE can be installed at no cost at all and there is no cost for upgrading. Making any update is not by force, neither can one be forced to buy tools that they do not want. The teacher is expected to manage the platform per their needs (Adu et al., 2020).

In conclusion, the use of artificial intelligence/technologies in education already has a strong and affirmative influence on higher education delivery as educational resources (all human, material, non-material audio-visual, school environment and community) from around the world have become more freely accessible and more interactive medium for learning are employed. COVID 19 has perpetuated the use of artificial intelligence/technology in education in three major ways. 

Firstly, a new educational and classroom tools that enable new techniques of offering the course; secondly, a change in pedagogy in teaching and learning and thirdly new educational systems to enrich and enhance the conventional teaching pattern. Examples of these new educational and classroom tools are Google Apps, Basecamp, Slack, Trello, Red Pen, BeeCanvas, Yammer and Wrike. These tools facilitate interactions between instructors and students to share documents online. Electronic readers are portable devices for reading digital books and periodicals, such as the Amazon Kindle, Apple ipad, Barnes & Noble Nook, Bookeen Cybook Opus, the Kobo Reader, Sony Reader, the Samsung Galaxy, and the likes. These assist instructors and students to communicate through diagrams, drawings, and text.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Dr Maribanyana Lebeko who is part of the advisory for Simanye Clinic for his assistance in terms of compilation, editing and proofreading of this article. Dr Eric Makoni for his initial thoughts and contributions to the Viroscape series.

 

Education

BAO Exclusive with Dr. Musa Akinyemi, Rector of Crown Maritime Academy

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Dr. Musa Akinyemi is an experienced Rector with a demonstrated history of working in the maritime industry. He is currently the Rector/CEO of Crown Maritime Academy, CMA a go-to maritime training institution. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online (BAO), Dr. Musa shares more insights on the maritime training institution, its certifications, milestones and much more. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Could please tell us about Crown Maritime Academy and your role?

Dr. Musa: Crown Maritime Academy, CMA was muted as an experiment in 2011. That was 10 years after my return from exile in Cote d’Ivoire having suffered insecurity as Gen. Sani Abacha deprived me of my Federal Government employment without any reason in 1996. Between 2011 and 2014, just within 3 years of existence, the Academy was recognized as a Centre of Academic Excellence by the Commonwealth in London and Listed in the 2014/2015 Edition of the Commonwealth Education Ministers Publication. In addition, Crown Maritime Academy, CMA was also featured Online by the Commonwealth Education Partnerships (CEP) of London.

My role from the onset was strategically collapsed between Lecturing and Administering. Thus, I chose to be addressed with the status of Registrar. Yet, I had to decide and also design courses to offer as well as which curriculum to evolve or develop. Therefore, I added the CEO title, even as Registrar. That made me search for a seasoned and very resourceful postgraduate fellow who became the Rector.

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Alaba: What sets Crown Maritime Academy apart from other Maritime Academy and how is it positioned to be the go-to institution?

Dr. Musa: This Academy has been set apart uniquely, abinitio, because we envisioned and delivered an Academy with a qualitative, affordable and available platform capable of achieving pan-Africanism, especially the African youth emancipation.

Already, we have commanded progressive credibility and stable camaraderie with fellow academies and universities locally and in the diaspora. It is expected that continuity, creativity and just-in-time delivery of our programmes would position Crown Maritime Academy, CMA as a go-to maritime training institution.

Alaba: Please tell us about the certifications offered, accreditation and opportunities that come after completion?

Dr. Musa: The Academy started with Diploma award for 2 years programme, at the end of which, after some 1 year practice in the industry, awardees could return to do the Advanced Diploma. Indeed, it was a sound and recommendable beginning. What we are doing now is to fully blend with the Federal Ministry of Education’s regulatory framework so as to start the National Innovative Diploma (NID) or National Diploma (ND) in our own name.

Many of our graduates are already engaged in the military, para-military, port operations and the like, while a few others have set-up their own businesses.

Alaba: Can you highlights some of  your significant milestones and challenges?

Dr. Musa: Crown Maritime Academy, CMA is at the forefront of sustainable maritime education and training in Nigeria. In 2021, our senior management team was specifically selected and sponsored to conduct a Facility Tour of the Federal Government-owned Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) at Oron, Akwa Ibom State. The only private maritime training institution in Nigeria to be so recognized.

Don’t forget also that we produced the Best-Graduated Shipping Management Student in Nigeria in 2017/2018. In 2018/2019, we repeated the academic feat by also producing the Best-Graduated Shipping Management Student in Nigeria. We are equally among those leading in Transport and Logistics Management, as we produced the Best-Graduated in this specialization in Nigeria in the 2020/2021 session.

Meanwhile, our challenges remain, namely, the harsh and unsupported maritime domain plus the capital intensive nature of providing tertiary education.

Alaba: What is your overall assessment of the entire situation of Nigerian maritime  training and capacity building?

Dr. Musa: We are still operating at 50 % capacity. Most sincerely though, if not for the resuscitation of the MAN Oron by the current Rector, Rtd. Commodore Effedua, the capacity could have been far lower.

So, let it be known that with the MAN Oron bouncing-back, the Federal Government would get the graduating cadets the much-needed training vessels and, as a matter of urgency, float an ocean-going fleet to employ them. Of course, training should, from this achievement, become a life-long development.

Alaba: What are CMA priorities/plans for the year and where do you see the academy in the next 5 years?

Dr. Musa: Our current priorities include moving to our permanent site as well as to smoothly and successfully partner with the Federal authorities in respect of educational qualifications, regulations, standards, control and compliance.

I am very confident that foreign students would regularly seek admission and come to study at Crown Maritime Academy, CMA in Nigeria.

Alaba: Your advice for students  and professionals in or aspiring to go into the maritime sector?

Dr. Musa: The first advice from me is that they should not fail to understand the importance of triple “T” or T raised to power 3. The first T is Time, they should not be looking for how to cut corners or abuse the process. Let them give all the time needed to study! The second T is for Talent. This means that they should not come empty and go back empty, they should be loaded with effervescent intellectual deposits!! Finally, the third T, which stands for Trust. This is to say that you can not excel and sustain the lucrative life of a shipping professional if colleagues and the stakeholders can not trust you.

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The Space Prize Foundation and UNESCO partners to propel Space Education across Africa

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The Space Prize Foundation announces the launch of its partnership with UNESCO, aimed at democratizing access to space education and inspiring a new generation of female scientists and engineers in Africa. Despite sixty years of space exploration, women are grossly underrepresented in the space industry, making this initiative potentially transformative on the educational landscape and, ultimately, the future of space exploration. 

Starting in Rwanda, this visionary partnership will unfold over the next several months as both organizations meticulously plan the framework for the implementation of the Space Prize Foundation’s Space Education Curriculum. The initiative is designed to equip teachers across Africa with the tools and resources they need to empower young minds, particularly young women, to pursue careers in scientific and engineering fields. The open source curriculum is the first of its kind and was developed by leading science teachers across the United States of America. 

Key elements of this initiative include: 

Survey for Teacher Development: The Space Prize Foundation will conduct a comprehensive survey to identify the specific needs and levels of development required by teachers. The survey will delve into teaching styles, current practices in space education, and the resources available to educators. 

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Workshops for Curriculum Implementation and Teacher Empowerment: UNESCO and the Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO will identify participating teachers. The first workshop will provide participating teachers with an introduction to the Space Education Curriculum. A leading expert in space education will guide teachers in customizing the curriculum for their students and schools. The second workshop will be dedicated to Q&A, ensuring teachers have time to digest the curriculum. 

Curriculum Reception: Following the initial workshops, teachers will be encouraged to present the tailored curriculum to their students at least twice a month. Feedback from this implementation will be reviewed in two 90-minute workshops to discuss the curriculum’s reception. 

Structured Roll-out in Q2 2024: The formal launch of the curriculum is scheduled for Q2 2024, during which the Space Prize Foundation, UNESCO and participating teachers will design the cadence of classes and schedule monthly review sessions. This flexible approach aims to cater to the unique needs and capacities of different educational settings. 

Impact Assessment: UNESCO will design an impact survey to measure the effectiveness of the Space Education Curriculum.

By commencing this journey in Rwanda, the Space Prize Foundation and UNESCO are laying the groundwork for a transformative educational initiative that will resonate across the continent. This partnership embodies a commitment to fostering the next generation of space enthusiasts, driving innovation, and building a brighter future for humanity. 

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Ubongo Celebrates 10 Years of Transforming Education in Africa

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Ubongo, Africa’s leading children’s edutainment and media company, is excited to announce its 10-year anniversary, marking a decade of transforming education and empowering millions of children across the continent. With an impressive portfolio of educational programs including Akili and Me, Ubongo Kids, and the recent addition of the captivating new show Nuzo and Namia, Ubongo continues to set the standard in innovative learning experiences for kids.

Since its founding in July of 2013 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Ubongo has been dedicated to providing fun, localized, and multi-platform educational content that helps children foster a lifelong love of learning. Through accessible technologies like TV, radio, and mobile phones, Ubongo has reached over 32 million families across Africa, making a significant impact on the continent’s education landscape. Independent research studies examining Ubongo’s programs have consistently revealed their profound impact, enhancing school readiness, improving learning outcomes, and fostering positive social and behavioral change among both children and their caregivers.

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Over the past 10 years, Ubongo has grown from a small Tanzanian grassroots startup to a Pan-African non-profit organization and the market leader in African edutainment. Ubongo’s innovative and engaging edutainment programs empower kids with the knowledge and critical skills they need to change their lives and their communities for the better.

“We are thrilled to celebrate this incredible milestone of 10 years,” said Mwasi Wilmore, CEO of Ubongo. “It is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and passion of our team, partners, and supporters who have believed in our mission and contributed to our success. Together, we have made a significant impact on education in Africa, and we are committed to continuing our journey of transforming learning for generations to come.”

In commemoration of this significant milestone, Ubongo has arranged a special 10-year anniversary event in Dar es Salaam to celebrate the accomplishments and milestones achieved throughout the years. The event will feature inspiring speeches and captivating presentations showcasing the journey and impact of Ubongo’s edutainment programs.

“We invite all our partners, supporters, and stakeholders to join us in celebrating this significant milestone,” added Mwasi Wilmore. “Together, let us reflect on our journey, express our gratitude, and renew our commitment to providing quality education and transformative learning experiences for children in Africa.”

“As we look ahead to the next decade, we remain steadfast in our mission to reach even more children, leveraging the power of edutainment to unlock their potential and shape a brighter future for Africa,” added Mwasi Wilmore.

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