Amidst fear of escalation of the deadly Coronavirus, the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo exhibited leadership yesterday when he announced the closure of universities with further directives for the pursuance of online training for the next four weeks. By most standards, this is a good directive that may save lives and foster the protection of our educational space.
The worry however for a practitioner in the field like this author is the preparedness of teachers and learners on the use of the directed model. The crux of the online model is systems that support learning from diverse locations by both students and teachers. In context, while students are gone back home, it is expected that the universities set up systems that allow teachers to teach from their locations, while the students participate in the studies from Bolga, Tamale, Kumasi, Zuarungu, Accra, Obuasi or wherever their location may be. While many infrastructural issues may be involved, the major is internet and computers. Internet to enable both teachers and students use Skype, GoToMeeting, Zoom or other platforms that the university directs. It further entails every student to possess a laptop, phone or related handheld device to be able to participate in the discussions from their locations. These factors seem to me would be challenges of implementing the directive of the President in Ghanaian universities.
This argument is not remote to only universities that are 100% brick and mortar but also those that have online schools in their universities. This reasoning is hinged on the context that, while most of these mixed breed institutions exist, the application of the online model is limited to their online schools. This will mean, departments that hitherto did not apply the online model will have to think of executing the model. The challenging question that begs for answers is the preparedness of students. Are Ghanaian students and parents prepared for the cost relating to their part of the learning – computers, internet and related costs? It should be noted that, in traditional online programmes, student and their parents are aware ahead of time of these cost implications before enrolling. As part of the prospectus, students are made aware they will need computers, stable internet etc thus parents and guardians are aware and make provision for such. It is proactive for a reader to reason that all university students own mobile phones and as such that will ease the situation. Whiles the line of thinking is reasonable, it is to be noted that, there are students in universities in the capital city – Accra who do not possess cell phones, yet others have phones that do not support online activities.
Then also arises the issue of preparedness of teaching faculty. Are lecturers of most of our universities in the know of this mode of teaching? (online). Perhaps the issue of online in itself is unpopular with government until Madam Coro came into town. A few years back, lecturers’ with online PhDs were literally harassed on the basis of its nontraditional nature. It is a pointer that, our policy makers are not so much in tune of the model thus a lot of infrastructural investments have not been made in that stead.
The good of the President’s directive however is that, if need be, investments would be made to ensure the practical implementation of the model within this period of crisis. This pledge we welcome to train students that will make our nation great and strong.