The outbreak of the coronavirus has brought out several restrictions and the shutdown of so many activities including schooling. This has birthed augmenting ideas and practices which include e-learning, thought to only serve as a temporal means to make up for face-to-face learning for the time being. In this interview however, Prof. Olomerum Okonta has foretold that e-learning will in time to come presumptuously oust out conventional learning and become the only means of education, revealing also, its advantages.
My we know you?
I am Prof. (Engr.) Olomeruom Okonta, from Okpe, Abavo in Ịka South Local Government Area of Delta State. I am the Founder/ProChancellor/Chairman, Proposed Anioma Open University, Agbor, and a Professor of Online Education (Facilitator/Supervision) at National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). I am also a Mathematics lecturer at College of Education, Agbor. I have a PhD from America in IDOL, Instructional Design in Online Learning in ICT/ E-Mathematics Education.
We learnt you were formerly based in America?
Yes, I was. I returned from America in 2011 after living there for almost four decades. I was employed by Novena University. But, the owner of the University said that he could not pay two professors at the same time, in the same department, because he had one already from Abraka. He said he had seen my papers that I had been a Professor since 1988. But, he could only pay me as Associate-Professor. I took it. That was in 2012. In 2013, College of Education, Agbor called me and employed me as a full-time lecturer in mathematics department. In 2017, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) gave me an appointment as a Professor. I have the papers with me for clarification.
Has Anioma Open University started operation?
No, but, we are almost there. It is more of computer mediated education, and we will soon commence operation. When we went to Abuja for the preliminary approval of our university, what the NUC (National University Commission) boss Professor Abubakar Adamu Rashid said was that they would approve ODL (Open and Distance Learning) request, because it is going to be hybrid60-40. That is, 60% online and 40% face-to-face learning in any centre of our choice. He said a few universities proposed 100% online for theirs, but NUC does not approve virtual Universities. As for ours, we are almost done with the registration. NUC’s requirements for Online facilitators/lecturers to be our prospective lecturers are already in the making, and we already have trusted hands coming in. For more information, please visit our website: http://www.aniomaou.com.
How does e-learning work?
E-learning is the so-called online education.
It is a misnomer. The actual name of e-learning is computer mediated learning. They are in the 115-pages book I wrote in the year 2017 (ISBN: 978-49546-99), titled: “Open and Distant Learning in Nigeria, Why “Online” Education Works; E-learning with ICT.”
What then is Computer Mediated Education?
Computer Mediated Education, the so-called online education can be juxtaposed with face-to-face learning which requires the physical presence of both the tutor and the students. In e-learning there is the absence of the physical presence of both parties. In fact, e-learning, in what it ought to be, the tutor and the student do not see each other.
It is very important to understand these two teaching methods. The first one is computer mediated education, while the second is face-to-face education, also called brick and mortar education. The whole world is used to the latter. The pedagogy and learning interaction modes comprise of: student-student interaction, student-teacher interaction, and student-content interaction. E-learning encompasses these three interaction modes, in addition to “student-interface” interaction. So, there is an additional interaction mode in e-learning (four modes), and that difference means computer mediated learning, or online learning. Obviously, one would expect more learning to occur if taught using four modes (E-learning) versus only three modes (FTF). If you wish to learn more and the theory of computer mediated education, that is, how it works, it is highly recommended that you read my e-book: Open and Distant Learning in Nigeria, Why Online Education Works; E-learning with ICT.
Who Are the Target Students: Those in Secondary or Tertiary?
It is meant for everybody. Inasmuch as you have someone or an organized body running the platform for your class, and is able to guide you with the use of the application. I have already set up mine for AOU, our Proposed Anioma Open University, Agbor. There is a pass code given to interested students who have registered for the package. This will enable them to be part of the class.
Does the public know about this package which the Open University is offering?
No. People are not aware yet. Retraining the lecturers will give them the awareness.
What is the adopted software application for this package?
In 1990, the era of online-teaching fever in America, we were used to Video Teacher; the teacher would do a video and then send it to the students who will go through it at their convenience (asynchronously). But today, it is way different. There is an e-learning software created recently, which is called “Zoom”. It was created by a Chinese man in Wuhan, China.
Zoom has a classroom setting where the teacher will be seeing his students. There is also a chalkboard (whiteboard) platform where the teacher can write while teaching.
What is the level of awareness of the Zoom application?
I don’t know how much awareness prevails here. But, on May 7, 2020, I wrote our Mathematics Department Head of Department via our WhatsApp group that I am preparing to teach my assigned courses Online. I recommended to the lecturers that it’s difficult to teach Online without first taking a class or seminar in the “Retraining the Trainer” program. I also posted the Zoom e-learning software on our Dept Platform on May 12, 2020. Luckily, or coincidentally, on May 15, 2020, College Management seemed to have agreed with my expert suggestion, because it officially ordered all lecturers to take the “Training the Trainer” program, incredibly with Zoom! All lecturers went through the seminar on campus last week. They appear to be doing well, maybe because of the knowledgeable Online Trainer that taught them, Dr. (Mrs.) Felicia Mormah, from University of Cape Town, South Africa.
How do you get to control the class with this app?
Zoom’s features provide the enablement for students to see their teachers while teaching them, and for the teachers to see their students concurrently when the class is on. That way, the teacher sees the students coming to class, the ones concentrating and the ones distracted or distracting others. The teacher can mute any student disturbing the class. So, it’s almost like the conventional classroom.
With the Zoom, what’s likely to happen to the conventional classroom education?
It will gradually fade away. The first sentence in my book reads, “the days of pen-on-paper are gone.” Brick and mortar education is capital intensive especially in setting up the required structures, but, it is not so with e-learning. Also, if you measure acquired knowledge/learning, you will find out that e-learning is far better than the conventional face-to-face education, according to cyber-researchers such as Hector (2003) and Anderson (2003): see my e-book. So, why continue with the latter?
What is its spelt out advantages overface-to-face education in terms of finance?
It is far more advantageous than the conventional brick-and -mortar education. Firstly, it is the cheapest form of education. Secondly, it is more convenient; learning is done wherever you are. You don’t need to travel a long distance, pay for accommodation and all that, to gain education. Also, moderation, lecturers’ harassment, sorting and students’ seduction will all be a thing of the past.
Won’t it increase the unemployment rate in Nigeria?
Not at all. Rather, it will increase employment
Please, elucidate the above
Unemployment comes as a result of lack of available jobs, which is end product of mediocrity and dependence. Studies have shown that online education produces better result than the conventional brick and mortar education (Anderson, 2003 a; Hector, 2003). Now, when the students graduate with a good knowledge of their field of study accompanied by a broadening of their minds, they will be job creators rather than job seekers. The multiple jobs that will be created as a result will then be begging for workers. Lack of jobs comes as a result of a stream of graduates pouring out every year with over 90% looking for a company to absorb them. To solve the issue of unemployment, we must therefore groom minds that will create jobs rather than queue up in the labour market.
Are there e-learning registered students already in the College of Education?
In my department, Mathematics, there are. The management has said that we can start taking e-learning classes. We cannot leave the students at home doing nothing in this COVID-19 lockdown. The students have registered. They have paid, and are waiting for the classes to commence.
INTERVIEWERS: STEVE ASHIEN AND WILLIAMS USIFO