Hybridise education

The reality of the ‘new normal’ imposed by the Coronavirus pandemic, the new strain of which is causing a second wave of lockdowns and restrictions in the world, is a further proof that Nigerians cannot afford to pretend that the world is the same. The world has changed!

Therefore, as another year begins and the waste of last year is consigned to the trashcan of history, there is an urgent need to save the future by saving education from imminent collapse. There were serious issues threatening the education of young Nigerians that a state of emergency was considered necessary in 2018. Now, education in Nigeria requires a revolution and all hands must be on deck to actualise it.

The revolution that education requires is on many layers but the one that is of interest to me now is the mode of instructional delivery. A lot of ground had been lost last year for those whose advancing age cannot be reversed but there was still a reason to impose another (partial) lockdown which has affected the resumption of students. Definitely, there is a need for a paradigm shift in education delivery and it is doable.

Let’s face it, the Internet-Based Education (IBE) is no longer an exclusive preserve of the West or the developed countries. It is a compelling necessity of the day, as Nigeria gains increased internet penetration, in order to prepare students who will be able to lead the future and the future is now.

Thus, it is the responsibility of governments and school proprietors to create an enabling environment and the infrastructural backbone for this intervention, which is essentially the hybridisation of education. This basically means the mainstreaming or standardisation of virtual and physical modes of educational delivery.

This is a system that I have been operating for about a decade, having realised that the increasing number of undergraduate students is hampering classroom interactivity. Thus, every physical class would have a virtual component through which resources would be shared, assignments would be given and even class presentations would take place in both synchronous and asynchronous patterns seven days in a week instead of the two-hour physical contact per week.

Synchronous online teaching is when everyone meets at the same time for the classroom activity such that if a learner is not present, s/he misses the class and the presentation of the lecturer. Asynchronous online teaching, however, allows flexibility as the learners find the materials posted and study them at their convenience. Teaching via Zoom, for instance, is synchronous but it can also be asynchronous if the session is recorded and shared with the class on a platform like WhatsApp or Telegram.

The truth is that education has transited along with the trajectories of industrial revolution from Industrial Revolution 1.0 to Industrial Revolution 4.0. However, while this has been the case in many places, especially the developed countries, our education is still largely Education 1.0 in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

Education 1.0 engendered the shift of education from home to the classroom or the transition from informality to formality. In the 21st Century, this is where our education still remains and it is imperative now to step up even beyond Education 2.0, where students are more involved in their own learning, not just regurgitating what the teacher pours into them.

Education 3.0 evolved with the Internet as the teacher becomes more of a facilitator or “a guide by the side”, no longer as “a sage on the stage” that characterises Education 1.0. In Education 3.0, learning becomes a process of cultivating learners through synchronous and asynchronous delivery. The concept of the classroom also changes and it now transcends the traditional four walls of a building.

But while all this is happening in other parts of the world, which have even moved to Education 4.0, many Africans at large and Nigerians in particular are still fixated on talking and chalking as the poorly paid teacher force-feeds education to distracted and poorly motivated learners. Whereas, Education 4.0 is taking giant steps as it manifests in robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other cognitive technologies as well as advanced materials, augmented reality, Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) that are making the world a global village.

The Federal Government should create a policy of hybridising education by deliberately providing resources and infrastructure for virtual learning in addition to the existing physical learning. Institutions and schools as a matter of necessity should have Interactive Whiteboards and Learning Management Systems (LMS) which align with today’s age. Open resources like the Free Open Source Software (FOSS) and Learning Management Systems, which include Moodle, Sakai, ATutor, Skooler, CANVAS, etc. with their embedded Learning Interoperability Tools (LIT) should complement the functional use of the social media for academic activities.

There is no excuse for shutting down education any time as modes of delivery can be integrated or alternated as circumstances allow. The time is now!