Prof Adeniyi Agunbiade, Vice-Chancellor, McPherson University (McU), Seriki-Sotayo, Ogun State is passionate about the potentials and the possibilities of digital transformation and online learning. He spoke with The Education Report on what the institution is doing to keep learning going amid COVID-19 lockdown.
What is the situation about the e-learning in McPherson University?
At McPherson University, we place high premium on the need for students and staff to stay connected to the rest of the world. This is more of a tradition and it is fast becoming our hallmark. So when the Ministry of Education, through the National Universities Commission (NUC), approved e-learning for universities, we only activated and shifted to ‘gear 5’! Prior to the announcement, members of staff had been exposed to digitalisation and e-learning possibilities. The Parents Consultative Forum (PCF) was informed that the university would be adopting online learning. On the twilight of the university’s closure, the Dean of Student Affairs met with our students as mandated by the university management and briefed them that online platforms would be activated fully. The idea was welcomed and it has been running. To be candid, I will say our students and faculty saw this coming in a way. On the 25th September, 2019, I delivered a lecture titled: Interrogating the 4th Industrial Revolution: Politics and Dynamics of Navigating an Age of Unemployability, in a private university in Oyo State. Earlier in 2018, precisely in February, Bolaji Ogunseye delivered a lecture on our campus titled: “From ‘White-collar’ Jobs to ‘New-collar’ Jobs: Getting Nigeria’s Youth Prepared for the 4th Industrial Revolution” and this year, the Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Wema Bank Plc, Mr. Ademola Adebise, delivered our 2020 matriculation lecture titled: Untold truth about Digital Transformation. We used all these platforms among others to prepare our students that disruption could come and they needed to embrace technology and innovation. So you see, we are dedicated to ensuring that students are thoroughly prepared for the now and future as the world is changing. Our students and staff prepared for the e-learning because this has being echoing in a way.
Are all the students involved in online learning?
Of course. Our students were thoroughly briefed at the commencement of the second semester that e-learning would substitute conventional classroom as mandated by the NUC. No thanks to Coronavirus (COVID-19) which has been declared a pandemic. The management is monitoring the development across all the colleges on a weekly basis. The reports from the four colleges have been largely positive and progressive. Students’ weekly performance and participation index is between 93-95 percent. The lowest percentage was recorded within the first two weeks of commencement of e-learning anyway. Most of our students are very okay with the migration to e-learning. Interestingly, our students and faculty members can access additional resource materials.
Does the e-learning affect payment of fees in terms of reduction?
McPherson University is owned by the Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria; and the institution is poised to expanding in scope by complementing government efforts in producing highly skilled human resources, through the establishment of a university that is geared towards building people who are imbibed with sound and balanced academic and moral education and godly virtues. This means a lot to us. I must say that the quality of our service (teaching) has not diminished in any way and we are constantly checking the process to ensure strict compliance to excellence. The fees at the university have been subsidized greatly at inception. Fact is we are among the most affordable private universities in Nigeria today.
What is the feedback like from the students?
Waoooo!!! For some of them, the first two weeks were more of struggles. We got more complaints largely from 100 level students. The other levels (200 – 400) mastered the e-learning easily. The ICT Unit personnel swung into action and assisted the students having challenges. From time to time, we harvest recommendations with a view to further strengthening the online learning experience for students. Interestingly, we have been running full online learning for seven weeks now and all complaints from the students have, to a large extent, practically ‘disappeared’. But that notwithstanding, the management, three weeks ago, approved the circulation of e-evaluation forms to students for them to rate their e-learning experience. We are concerned about the feedback from the students. The heads of departments are also briefing the deans and the director of academic planning, with necessary information based on their interaction with level course advisers on weekly basis. All these are necessary because we must stay true to our mission of providing qualitative, functional and sound education with Godly virtues that will prepare men and women for leadership and positive impact on society. Our core values are embedded in them and that is key to us.
Can McPherson University conduct examinations online?
We won’t have any problem with that process if the current lockdown and the Coronavirus scare would extend till the end of semester. However, the university Senate is yet to take a decision on that. The issue has been listed as part of the agenda for our next Senate meeting which should hold in the next few weeks. We have the necessary infrastructure to accommodate that process, if need be. We have the necessary manpower and mechanism cum processes to run that. Online examinations are sometimes integral part of the system in some Ivy League universities outside Nigeria. So why can’t we do the same? Our platform and e-learning design are structured to enhance students’ academic ability and maximise possibilities. The digital is the future and we are not shying away from that. We ‘re ready.