Post-Covid-19: African varsities should prepare for blended learning

Africa’s education experts have asked managements of universities across the continent to make investment in infrastructure to accommodate blended learning their priority post Covid-19.

They say the challenges faced during the closure of schools occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that relying only brick and mortar format could constitute a setback to learning considering that education cannot remain the same again without a readily available cure and vaccine for the coronavirus.

Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa notes that the new approach to online classes as stop gap to teaching during this period of covid-19 won’t be a replacement for face-to-face learning; rather it would serve as a complementary option in what is best described as a kind of blended learning in operation.

Speaking during a webinar on ‘COVID-19 and Africa’s Higher Education System: What is going on? on Tuesday, Habib said that the online approach that most African universities are trying to adopt is what is typically obtainable in parts of Western Europe, United States and Asia.

According to him, in another way, what Africa has done is not too different; rather, what the country has done in a very real sense confronted the issue of inequality and find quick solutions to those challenges.

The session, moderated by Ahmed Bawa, chief executive officer, Universities South Africa, was organised by the Centre for Higher Education, Innovation and Development (Nigeria), in collaboration with BusinessDay (Nigeria) and Universities South Africa.

He highlighted that there is a very deep learning inequality in Africa as a large number of the students don’t have access to computers, data which is affecting learning and migration to online learning.

According to him, “Social justice does not mean we go to the lowest common denominator option, but we are aware of inequality, we should be assisting and try to mitigate its consequences and lend a helping hands to those who require it”.

Aziza El Lozy, Associate Provost for Transformative Learning and Teaching, The American University in Cairo, Egypt, harped on the fact that African universities need to invest in its faculty capacity to prepare for blended learning during and post-Covid-19.

“One main lesson to learn is that if you are going to go online, even if it is blended, the design of the course is very different and that is where the challenge comes in. So, university management needs support for faculty to help them come up with design curriculum,” she said.

In American University in Cairo, Egypt pre-emptive step to tackle the learning challenges pose by Coronavirus pandemic, El Lozy said the provost had already put in place a contingency plan and prepared for the covid-19 before it came into Egypt by establishing a center for learning and teaching focused on capacity development of the various faculty members.

The session, the first in a two-part series, seeks to understand how individual institutions within the Africa continent are coping and dealing with the challenges occasioned by COVID-19.

The conference also provided that panelists the opportunity to share helpful lessons and experiences from those institutions that have made better progress, explore possible new ways of institutional collaboration in these times of crisis and beyond.

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