On Wednesday, 10 June 2020 at 11:00AM (WAT), Godfrey Okoye University hosted its first Zoom conference on e-learning. This was the institution’s contribution to the future of education in Nigeria and Africa in the face of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference featured experts from universities and institutions within and outside Nigeria to share their wealth of experience on e-learning.

The host and Vice Chancellor of Godfrey Okoye University, Rev. Fr. Prof. Dr. Christian Anieke, welcomed the guest speakers in the order of their presentations. The speakers were: Rev. Msgr. Prof. Obiora Ike, Executive Director of Globethics.net Geneva; Prof. Dr. Christoph Stuckelberger, President and Founder of Globethics; Prof. Dr. Amélé Adamavi-Ahuo EKue, Academic Dean of Globethics; Meggy Kantert, International Liaison Officer of Godfrey Okoye University; Andreas Gebauer, Head of GO University International Projects; Sr. Dr. MarySylvia Nwachukwu, Director of Academic Planning of  Godfrey Okoye University and Mr. Chinedu Chibuzor, ICT Manager of Godfrey Okoye University.

The first speaker, Rev. Msgr. Prof. Obiora Ike, spoke on the topic “Changing the Face of University Education and its Challenges in Africa”. He described the restructuring of the world as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic  which had made many people face existential threats caused by environmental and unethical conducts at all levels. He further explained  the agenda of Globethics: “our agenda is to strengthen the ethical compass especially in education which has become much more relevant than ever.” He commended Godfrey Okoye University for hosting  the first e-learning conference in Nigeria.  He also mentioned  some key points in changing the face of higher education institutions globally, particularly in Africa. The scope and role of education should be centered on the formation of all-round personalities. He described the university “as a lab where the young student enters to find his space and orientation in a world beyond him/her.” Also universities should give students models for character formation and an orientation for life. To solve the grave problems in the world today such as climate change, population growth, environmental degradation and extinction of species, etc., Prof. Obiora Ike  said that knowledge must be integrated to serve the human being. He concluded by explaining the acronym ETHICS as prescribed by Gloethics:  E for empowerment, T for transformation, H for holisticism, I for integrity, C for competence and S for sustainability.

The President and Founder of Globethics, Prof. Dr. Christoph Stückelberger, spoke on the topic “Ethics in E-Learning”. He described his experience during the lockdown as “a new experience of humanity” and the huge discovery of being connected with one another over the net. He looked at the ethical challenges and benefits of e-learning. From the definition of the acronym ETHICS, he picked out the ‘I’ for integrity and buttressed the need to strengthen integrity and have character education through e-learning. He further stated that education was not just about acquiring knowledge but about building character. He described one of the limitations of online learning as not seeing those you are interacting with physically. Finally, he said it was possible to have integrity in online learning. He also urged students to have self-discipline in learning online.

The third speaker, Prof. Dr. Amèlé Adamavi-Ahuo  Ekue, who spoke on the topic “Let’s Stay Connected: E-learning, Ethics and Global Knowledge,” described the current situation as an “intensifier and accelerator for the way, with whom and where we engage with knowledge.” She also listed the key areas for refocusing the pedagogical space as: human life in relation to other life, how to think outside of mastery and dominion and how to organise life together based on reciprocity and vulnerability. Next, she looked at the re-arrangement of the engagement with knowledge in e-learning, taking note of space and time, belonging-becoming and imagination/future-knowledge. On  e-learning as emancipating learning around knowledge critique, she took into consideration reflection and grappling with external and internal critique. In her last slide, she highlighted the importance of ethics in e-learning. She described ethics as a theoretical and practical field of experimenting with the arrangement of spaces for the discovery of learning.

The fourth speaker, Ms. Meggy Kantert, spoke on the topic “Prospects of E-Learning”. Like the previous speaker, she also shared some slides. She described online learning as a “crisis-driven experiment.” She looked at the shift from the industrial era to the knowledge era with technological advancement. She further described the prospects of e-learning for universities: close the “digital divide” through the development of e-literacy, save cost and resources, reach more students, lower cost of education and customize training of staff and students. She also looked at the prospects of e-learning for teachers and how they would need to “transition from a teacher-centered approach to a balanced interactive e-learning and FtF learning concept.” She described the task of the students as even more tedious: keeping themselves motivated, keeping discipline, dealing with disappointment and frustration, etc.

The Director of Academic Planning, Rev. Sr. Prof. Dr. MarySylvia Nwachukwu, spoke on the topic “Sustaining Online Learning in the Post Covid-19 Time”. Her speech revolved around two issues. The first was on Covid-19 as a challenge and an opportunity. The second was on making e-learning a culture in higher education. She looked at the pandemic ravaging the world as an opportunity and the African response to the pandemic. She described “reframing the challenge” as the first response to the challenge. In sustaining e-learning in higher institutions, she prescribed that the push for e-learning must come from top management officials. Also the culture of e-learning must be upheld and strengthened. Online resources and technological tools should be harnessed and an e-learning domain should also be created.

The ICT Manager of Godfrey Okoye University and its group of institutions, Mr. Chinedu Chibuzor, who spoke on the topic “Practical Guide to Online Learning Platform Implementation,” looked at online learning as “the prevailing custom with various teaching techniques being undertaken on diverse digital platforms”.  He further added that studying online had helped to improve technical skills in students while learning on various platforms. He examined  the necessary digital skills for educators such as the ability to use smartphones, tablets and computers, proficiency in key applications (Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Zoom, amongst others), the ability to use the internet for academic and business purposes, the ability to compose, attach documents and distribute electronically, etc. He further added that to teach effectively online, the following would be needed: a good recording device, a decent camera or webcam, microphone, good lighting, a quiet environment and a strong internet connection. He concluded by explaining the things to consider when setting up an online learning platform and also the methods of implementation.

Israel Rosales, an operator for Brightspace Online Management Platform, rounded of the presentations. He explained that the platform was aimed at transforming the learning process of the world. He further added that education had ripple effects and would increase the quality of life for everyone.

Reported by the GO University ICT Team

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