The conversation about Education Technology (Edtech) has already been over flogged in the Nigerian media space recently, but it is a conversation that must be had repeatedly if we want to better our educational system in the 21st century.
To reiterate, edtech is simply the delivery of education employing technology. It is the adoption of technology devices, broadband and other tools to teach people what they will otherwise learn in a traditional classroom setting or in informal settings like driving schools and others.
Owing to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the argument for edtech as an alternative means of education for students has sprung up with many schools of thought proposing how it should work and others pointing to the challenges that face the adoption of edtech in the Sub-Saharan African region.
It is true, there are many challenges with edtech when it comes to Africa and indeed Nigeria, but we have already given too much power to the challenges. What we must do now, is focus on the solutions and share the positives so that innovators can be encouraged to do better in bringing quality education to people of all ages using technology.
Having said that, there’s another issue that is more worrying than the other challenges that edtech has encountered so far in Sub saharan Africa; the inability of higher institutions to drive the adoption of edtech across sectors.
As Peter Haddawy and Barbara Igel so eloquently put it in this paper, “One of the most important roles of institutions of higher education is to serve as well springs of innovation and creativity.”
So the question is, why have Nigerian universities for example not embraced edtech? And why are they not at the forefront of driving the adoption of the technology?
In an age where universities and polytechnics across the globe have embraced more and more technology to improve their educational processes, Nigerian universities seem to have retrogressed when it comes to even the simplest things like sending a project over the internet.
During a confidential conversation that I had with a former Master of Arts student in the University of Benin, she told me that a lecturer of hers told her to travel down to Abraka in Delta State to submit a project. The more surprising aspect is that the lecturer in question asked her to travel all the way from Lagos to Delta State simply because she did not know how to download files over the internet!
As surprising as that might be, it is not an isolated incident nor is it a problem peculiar to the University of Benin, which happens to be my alma mater. Anywhere you ask, you will hear stories of polytechnic and university lecturers who can not even maneuver a projector, never mind holding a class over the internet.
This is an integral issue that the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) and the Ministry of Education must address if we want to truly see actionable growth in the edtech sector and in fact, the educational sector.
If the country’s biggest citadels of learning have lecturers and teachers that cannot find their way around technology, how then do we expect to have strongly skilled graduates in society that can move the needle in terms of innovation?
For edtech to progress and for it to be seen as a necessity in today’s educational realities, then the higher institutions need to be at the forefront of driving it.
Adopting edtech will not be enough by the higher institutions of learning as they must, as a matter of urgency, train prospective graduates to handle edtech tools and solutions. Although most edtech tools and solutions are quite simple to maneuver, you can’t undermine the effect of consciously training people going into the labour market on how to use and embrace edtech.
This is especially true for colleges of education and other teacher training institutes as they are the ones that will be directly impacting the number of teachers who can handle edtech in the future.
The truth is, we need edtech in Nigeria whether we know it yet or not. In a society as volatile as we have in Africa, you can’t have enough educational avenues. Also, with the low quality of education obtainable in many schools today, edtech will present an opportunity for students to augment what they have learnt in classrooms. Edtech is a strong innovation and higher institutions should be at the forefront.