THE NEED FOR RELEVANT POST-COVID-19 LEARNING AND CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
COVID-19 PANDEMIC is an epoch that will persist for some time to come. Within the lifetime of COVID-19 and beyond, several implications have been witnessed and more are yet to come.
Until recently when the COVID-19 pandemic forced all institutions of learning to observe the close-down and stay at home orders issued across the globe and Nigeria in particular, most institutions of higher learning have not really had the opportunity to test the efficiency and effectiveness of their investments in the online teaching system.
Generally, this is the first time the world will be witnessing a Pandemic of this magnitude in the last Century; hence, due preparations and evaluation of the existing system were never truly made. COVID-19 indeed is a true test of our preparedness for distance learning.
PRE-REQUISITES OF A FUNCTIONAL DISTANCE LEARNING AND MATTERS ARISING
From experience, it is obvious that for any Distance Learning System to be functional, some baseline communication tools must be put in place.
Supporting Communication Tools
WhatsApp Groups is a tool for chatting and video stands out as the most widely used. This tool requires quality data to function optimally and currently, a group on WhatsApp can only accommodate 250. Technically it is possible to increase the number of members to any size you want by following certain configuration processes, but this is not advisable.
Bulk SMS Platform is another faster means of disseminating group information and there are various Service Providers in this area. There are standalone providers and at the same time, it is possible to integrate bulk SMS into an institution’sWebsite, Learning Management System, or the Portal.
Telegram is a strong contender to WhatsApp and it has a lot of tools for group chat and interaction. The group size of Telegram can go as far as 200,000. Telegram apart from chatting, voice, video, and robust group modules has what it calls channel. The Channel is for the broadcast of news simultaneous to a large group who are not necessarily members of our group.
Bulk Email Platform:
For educational purposes, free GoogleSuites is ideal. Google Education Suites provides custom Email addresses mapped with the institutional emails. Through Google Suites, institutions have access to a series of Educational tools such as full Google classroom and other premium/robust Google services for free. To Benefit from this, it is ideal for the Institution’s domain change to .edu.ng domain extension which is currently available at N4000 only. In the course of configuration, it will require a corporate brief of the institution, a list of Officers, and a Certificate of Operation issued by the appropriate body.
For efficient bulk email services, Mailchimp Email Services is recommended for use in addition to other CRMs.
SOME ACTION PLANS.
As changes occur in our day-to-day private and corporate lives, so also, we need to review our positions and come up with enabling policies for efficiency and effectiveness.
Decisions will have to be made on ownership/acquisition of quality or manageable Smartphone or Phablet or Tablet for day to day operations and learning, which network provider is ideal for data, ownership/return of the SIM Cards/phones on disengagement, who is or are going to be the administrator(s) and what happens when such staff disengages from the organization.
The current COVID-19 scenario has really exposed the non-availability of a robust staff database to aid smooth and seamless onetime communication. For any organization to function optimally now and in the future, there must be a robust database of members to aid the instant dissemination of information by voice, SMS, and chats. The database is expected to cover variables such as Names, email addresses, Phone numbers, and status. Status for staff is expected to show whether teaching or non-teaching, Departments/Units, and Course allocation if a tertiary institution. The status for students, on the other hand, is expected to have a level and programme or Department.
Relying on the saying that “It is not a mistake to make a mistake, but it is a mistake to repeat a mistake” it is absolutely necessary that institutions of higher learning should commence the building of their communication databases, which will serve the interest of respective institutions and other subgroups.
Below are the demo profile data requirements from staff and students to aid the configuration of Learning Management Systems.
Profile of management staff a maximum of 300 words. Plus quality portrait photograph
Management and Senior Staff Profile using the following points:
1a. Profile Photograph
1c. First Name
1d. Middle Name
2b State your Appointments
2c Nature of Employment
- Email Address
- Phone on WhatsApp
- Social Media Address
- Brief Profile (five lines maximum)
- Area(s) of Specification
- Teaching Philosophy
- Personal Quote
- Profile Photograph
- First Name
- Middle Name
- Campus Responsibilities
- Email Address
- Phone on WhatsApp
- Social Media Address
- 13.Entrepreneurship Skills/Talents
- Personal Quote
RESERVATIONS ON ONLINE EDUCATION
Prior to the advent of COVID-19 majority of employers, educators and students have reservations for online degrees and certificates. These reservations centered on the general belief that online education is substandard, doubts on the credibility of the awarding institutions, quality of tuition, the scope of the curriculum, doubts on online instructions, tests, assignments, and examinations, and whether all these are adequate to replace onsite teaching and learning.
The above no doubt affected investment and interests in online or distance learning. The learning management systems in place were mainly not put to serious use or tests until the advent of COVID-19. Where the Learning Management System has been used, they have not actually tried them outside of the various supports hitherto enjoyed on campuses such as electricity, classrooms, and other instructional materials like Lectern, Projector, free bandwidth. Issues bothering on monitoring of teaching and attendance on the part of staff and students were not envisaged, online examination and how to handle invigilation by staff and students appear strange to many especially in terms of the credibility of such online examinations.
The lockdown also showed that in some cases, the widely acclaimed Learning Management System does not have the appropriate courses uploaded while in some cases, the materials have not been developed and cannot be completed so soon.
In order to remain relevant, some institutions have started something online. The situation in some cases is total lockdown and nothing could be done at home because no structures were put in place outside the onsite one. Some adopted WhatsApp as the only means of instruction, some adopted either or combination of Google Education Suite, Schooly, Edmundo, Moodle, Facebook, Zoom, Skype, Telegram, and some other ones.
In some other cases, the learning management system in place lacks human interaction. Courses have been loaded online in a series of modules and students are expected to go online at his/her own pace and read/study without human interaction. Others introduced a blended teaching and learning approach whereby students are exposed to a combination of Visuals, Audio, Reading Texts, and Kinetics through graphics, demonstration, etc.
SOFTWARE + HARDWARE + HUMAN WARE = FUNCTIONAL BLENDED TEACHING AND LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
Apart from the cost of generating power, procuring data, buying functional tools such as Laptops, Tablets, or Smartphones, provision of the ideal software, etc., there is one major challenge that must be solved if all investments in virtual or online teaching and learning are to yield the required/desired result. The problem is that of lack of the required attitudinal change and a renewed drive for relevance in a fast-changing technological environment. It is not a problem of software, neither is it hardware but simply put, the challenge is that of Human Ware.
We must be prepared for positive stress in order to learn some new functions already existing on our various devices. Most importantly, on the use of basic functions of WhatsApp to bold, italicize, strike through a text, two-step security for groups, and for admins in view of the negative implications of hackers. WhatsApp administrators are expected to be conscious of their basic roles in adding members, protecting members, removing and regulating contents that could lead to litigation, and many more. In today’s environment, we should all be able to connect our WhatsApp to our desktop/laptops for efficient and effective office, teaching, and learning activities.
In the new era, we have to train ourselves on how to record videos, produce voice notes, stream on Facebook, initiate meetings and webinars on Zoom, Google Meet, and other similar platforms such as https://meet.jit.si/, https://www.freeconferencecall.com/, etc. We must be able to create YouTube Channel and upload to it for educational purposes and set it to either private or public depending on our goals. Today’s academic environment must be prepared to use several opportunities available in google suites such as Google sheets, docs, drawing, slides, Jamboard, classroom, and many more. It is interesting to note that some are already experts; some are learning and adjusting at a faster rate, while we still have those who are yet to grapple with the unfolding technological imperatives. One fact is certain, in the train of technological advancement, those who do not aspire will definitely expire.
Management will go a long way to assist in achieving some degree of compliance with the world order with the introduction of policies on teaching on a modular basis, ensuring that teaching staff prepare and submit their teaching philosophies, deemphasizing examinations, and focusing on the application of knowledge gained, come up with policies on the adoption of ICT in all spheres of operation and other related issues.
BLENDED TEACHING AND LEARNING APPROACH
Blended learning is the combination of in-classroom person teaching and learning with online teaching and learning USING technology as the interface.
FOR ONLINE LEARNING TO BE EFFECTIVE
- Must operate on affordable technology
- Must be reliable
- Must be easy to use
- Must take care of the new entrants
- Must aid students to come to class prepared
- Teachers must become a coach who guides on the site and not a sage on the stage while onsite.
- Students must be trained to be in charge of learning and thinking
- Students must maximize their learning by watching, reading, reviewing, and applying what they learn.
- Must provide
(a) Round the clock access to training
(b) Provide feedback
(c) Collaborative learning
- Allow students to move at their own pace on familiar and unfamiliar materials.
- Students should be able to move faster, pause, and re-watched or re-accessed materials.
- Encourage students’ engagement when they are most alert. Some students are active early while some are active late in the day.
- Allow for a break when needed.
- Recognizes gaps in knowledge, hence the emphasis on time-based assignments and learning, should also consider mastery.
A good Blended Teaching and Learning Mechanism in addition to the above points should enhance mastery, efficiency, and effectiveness. It should be useful for new sets of students and serve as good revision opportunities during vacation and other unexpected breaks in the future.
It is a statement of fact that organizations and most importantly, institutions of higher learning will be confronted with a series of critical post-COVID-19 decisions bothering on sustenance and relevance.
Consequently, institutions that will remain relevant will have to go to where their students are and not the other way round. Our institutions should be able to move to a different location virtually, move to Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Linked In, etc. in line with modern-day realities.
To achieve the above will require a functional Online Teaching, Learning, and Content Management System that meets the need of the contemporary social and interactive environment.
In order words, social distancing should be complemented with an effective social learning option. The success of any learning system is not dependent on the sophistication of the tools and the contents, but on the process through which the whole arrangement is implemented within a given environment.
In today’s LMS, course materials should move from the traditional straight four-page texts to attention magnet materials in multi formats such as
- Voice notes/podcasts
- Visuals and graphics etc
LMS of today should have a discussion forum, segmentation of students into groups for Intra and intergroup discussion links to social media and profiles, chats, emails, voting, surveys, and polls. There may be the need to request a group leader to teach online at a scheduled time while tandem teaching (each-one-teach-one) could be encouraged in areas of core competence.
Teachers may have to flip their classrooms. This is a process whereby courses are first introduced online; students examine them and the teacher discusses the topic thereafter in the classroom.
The focus of a teacher in an ensuring scenario should be how to retain the learners’ attention. This could be done through the use of controversies, awards gamification, tables, and charts, illustrations, asking a question at the beginning of a topic instead of at the end, drawing comparisons, and above all, teachers should be able to use infographics and visuals to explain concepts, theories, and processes.
Teachers who want to attract attention will have to encourage critical thinking and creative minds. For instance, instead of asking “why do we have corruption in our society”, ask the learners ‘how can we have a society without corruption?’
In conclusion, for any emerging online teaching and learning environment to be relevant, learners must be able to access materials easily; the materials should of good quality and be relevant, show the expertise of the teacher, create trust, and above all, it should solve agitations in the minds of the learners.
As a guide, teaching materials should be well planned and informative. It could contain relevant points drawn from this write-up.
Below is a demo format for consideration.
DEMO FORMAT FOR THE PREPARATION OF COURSEWARE
- Course Code: GST 104
- Course Title: Developing Course Materials
- Credit Units: 2
- Course Status: Core
- Semester: First
- Study Hour: 24 hours (12 weeks minimum)
- Course Edition: 1st Edition
- Course Development: ABC University/College
- Course writer(s): Dr ABC
- Instructional Designer: Mr XYZ
- Learning Technologist: Miss ABC
- Course Editors: Mr XXX
- Copy Editors: Mr ……
Contents of the course
This is a warm aspect of your lecture to make the students feel relaxed and interact effectively. This may include asking students to state their names, hobbies, special skills, learning expectations, nicknames, etc at the commencement of your course. This is aimed at closing the existing emotional distances that may not allow the flow of interactions.
At the end of the course, students should be able to:
D Demo Course Content
Module 1: State the module title
2.0Intended Learning Outcomes at the end of the unit(ILOs)
3.0 Main Content
5.0 Quiz/Assignment/Questions eg
AN institution that will be relevant in the present dispensation should have an effective learning management system. TRUE/FALSE
7.0 Summary of the Unit or Module
8.0 References/further reading for the Unit or Module
Unit 2: state the subunits
FIRST CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENT
SECOND CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENT
THIRD CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENT
There are two or three main forms of assessments in this course that will be scored
The continuous assessments
The final examination.
Make a statement on Practical if necessary