The story is told of an enthusiastic young teacher who had returned from a workshop on instructional materials production. He regaled the school principal about the value of the workshop. He recounted how devoted he was to the workshop activities, his intention to train other teachers, and willingness to produce instructional materials for the institution. After that, the principal’s four-words response was, “Will ten naira do?” By implication, the principal subtly told the young man, instructional materials are just mere add-on, that is not worth the expenses. That was the end of the discussion. This story emanates from the seminal publication with the same title by Prof. Abraham Inanoya Imogie, the former Secretary of Education in the Interim Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan. This story provides an insight into institutional leadership as a critical factor in the adoption of online instruction. Institutional leadership, apart from the teachers, is a crucial enabler in the adoption of online instruction. Institutional leadership determines the direction of an institution. Institutional vision sometimes can be situated within the ideas of the administration. Institutional leadership will determine the substantial changes needed to transform instructional delivery through online teaching. Broadly, at this level, leadership is either transactional or transformational when it comes to technology integration for learning or online instruction. A transactional leader sees ICTs as mere tech daily administration. A transformational leader sees ICTs as a catalyst for change, that is, substantial renewal of the instructional practices, and as tools for learning a wide variety of subject matters. In this context, the technology exists within a transformative vision of learning. While transactional leader consolidates to finetune the existing instructional delivery with or without technology, a transformational leader takes the risk, really a ‘leap out’ from the confines of the current instructional system. A transformational leader would assist teachers/lecturers to develop for new roles engendered by online instruction as learners, facilitators to student-centred learning, collaborators and researchers. Vice-Chancellors, Provosts, Rectors and other institutional heads, must become online instruction advocates. They must put in place online learning plans and actions that reflect the larger goals, values, and strategies of their institutions. Their internal advocacy must build internal alliances for the success of online instruction. They must recognise online teaching as an innovation that involves experimentation, risk, and imagination. Therefore, they must be leaders in carrying along institutional stakeholders to support and key-in into the expected changes. Institutional leaders must facilitate a directorate on e-learning or learning technology support units to support faculty and instructors develop skills to teach online and integrate technology for teaching. The unit is to provide specific technical and functional support for learning technologies. With expert web developers, instructional designers, instructional multimedia specialists, instructional technologists, assessment specialists, and librarians the directorate will collaborate with faculties/schools, departments, units, and teaching staff to develop support systems underlying institutional online course delivery. Staff development is at the core of online instruction. Institutions should support formal comprehensive and systematic training and informal staff development offerings through colleagues who have already explored online teaching. Training should aim at creating a community of online teaching change agents who can transform the instructional delivery process of their institutions. The continuous professional development will provide opportunities for instructors to be abreast of contemporary developments in the use of learning technologies. They also need online learning as part of their continuing professional development requirements. Institutional leaders must understand that teachers and students require broadband infrastructure to make full use of the Internet for online instruction. Lecturers need robust and reliable bandwidth on, and off-campus to have access to online learning opportunities, upload instructional contents, stream audio and video, and to interact with students, colleagues and other stakeholders in instructional delivery. Students also need reliable internet access for active online learning. The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) in the United States, in 2014 recommended 1Gbps for 1000 users (staff and students). Based on SETDA recommendation, the Nigerian higher educational institutions are under-subscribing for the required bandwidth.
The institutional authority needs to motivate instructors to offer quality online instruction. Institutional extrinsic motivation should include technology acquisition, and professional development through financial support to attend conferences on digital learning practices. Other incentives include stipends to re-design and re-develop existing courses for online instruction and grant for online course development. Besides, release time; written commendation; and recognition, privilege, and a tangible award for the online lecturer of the year are possible incentives. Motivation should also include policy changes to enable lecturers to gain promotion or tenure as a result of producing courseware and teaching online.
Funding always has to be an issue in online teaching. Staff and students’ payment for Internet services should not be seen as IGR to service other sectors of the institution. Instead, it should be channelled toward the provision of robust infrastructure and required bandwidth to promote online instruction. Educational institutions should develop the capacity to manage ICT infrastructure and resources internally. Educational institutions should avoid third-party and deal directly with service providers to reduce the cost of bandwidth subscription. Institutions can collaborate to source for ICT equipment and tools directly from manufacturers. Also, contiguous education institutions can share resources to reduce the cost of resource provision for online instruction.
Institutional heads must lead in creating the vision for online teaching, outlining the mission, establishing the implementation framework, provision of the enabling environment for sustainability and monitoring of implementation, through formative and summative evaluation.
This piece is a sequel to the earlier newspaper publication with the title, “Covid-19 and Inevitable Teaching Dynamics.”
Mudasiru Olalere Olalere Professor of Educational Technology, UNILORIN, is the President of the Association for Innovative Technology Integration in Education (AITIE)