Nigeria and The Quest for A Sustainable EdTech Agenda, By Inyene Ibanga
New and evolving technologies are providing huge disruptions across every sector of human activity at a very rapid rate. Digital technologies have completely transformed the process and practice of education, which used to be the norm before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, education has gone beyond the traditional four walls of classrooms and physical contacts between teachers and students. EdTech is spearheading the shift from the conventional learning environment into the virtual sphere.
Education Technology (EdTech or EduTech) refers to an area of technology dedicated to the development and application of tools for promoting education. The tools, in this instance, include software, hardware, processes and resources.
It involves the practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating and deploying appropriate technological processes and resources. It is the combination of Information Technology (IT) tools and educational practices aimed at facilitating and enhancing both theoretical and practical learning at all levels.
What this means is that Edtech blends technological tools with traditional educational methods to enhance learning experiences within or outside the classrooms. These IT tools are rapidly transforming classrooms in a variety of fascinating ways for students and teachers alike.
For instance, EdTech robots help to keep students engaged by bringing fun into the learning process; the Internet of Things (IoT) devices have successfully created digital classrooms for students in schools and distant locations, and blockchain tools are assisting teachers with grading tests and holding students accountable for homework.
Indeed, technology is opening up more opportunities and channels for millions of Nigerians to access education from any location and at their convenience. EdTech offers an innovative system for building a highly competent crop of experts across all fields of human endeavour.
While it is basically about e-learning and mobile learning (m-learning), it also describes the practice of introducing IT tools into the classroom to create a more engaging, inclusive and individualised learning experience.
Although, still a developing field in Nigeria, EdTech has the potential to positively impact various segments of the country’s population.
For the students, EdTech offers a round-the-clock or 24/7 access to learning from any location wherever; tablets loaded with learning games and online lessons give children the tools to solve problems together, while also allowing teachers and students to enjoy increased collaboration through the effective exchange of communication.
Through video lectures and learning apps, students now watch lessons at home and at their own pace; they gain creativity and a sense of collaboration from this style of learning. This adds variety to the traditional method by allowing students to use class time to work on projects as a group, thereby further building collaboration among them.
EdTech opens up opportunities for educators to craft personalised or customised learning plans for each of their students, on the basis of their strengths, skills and interests. It enables students to actively participate and interact with other classrooms around the world through video.
Students are not the only beneficiaries of EdTech. For teachers, it is a means of developing efficient learning practices and saving time in the classroom.
Teachers are using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to cut down the hours they spend on grading assignments by employing automated grading systems. This leaves extra time for teachers to devise creative ways of guiding their students according to each individual’s capacity.
EdTech makes it relatively easy for teachers to manage and work with their students because it addresses the challenge of getting a large group of students to pay attention to activities in class. It goes a long way in helping to reduce the chaotic atmosphere in the classrooms.
Most importantly, there abound tools that help the teacher to assess the skills or areas of improvement of their students. Digital tools, data platforms and apps are used to constantly evaluate the skills and needs of students, and these relay the information to the teacher in real-time.
In view of the significant importance of IT education in Nigeria’s evolving digital economy, educators and educational institutions have a vital role to play.
As it stands now, the sector requires a focused, driven and committed facilitator to create the enabling platform for robust and solutions-based collaboration among education stakeholders.
Frontline educational institutions/bodies include Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC); National Board for Technical Education (NBTE); National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) and National Universities Commission (NUC).
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) remains the best equipped organisation to facilitate result-oriented collaboration among educational institutions to achieve a knowledge-based society.
The agency’s commitment to the fulfillment of its core mandate of developing, regulating and coordinating the growth of IT in Nigeria is remarkably impacting the digital economy agenda.
This collaborative platform will put Nigeria in a vantage position to harness the abundant human and material resources for developing proficient human capital and manpower to drive the new knowledge-based economy.
However, it is imperative for the agency to foster strategic and sustained dialogue among the educator/educational institutions and technology professionals because the future of EdTech relies on the collective actions of the key actors.
NITDA should expand its Tech Innovation Challenge to encourage more startups to join the likes of uLesson; Pass.ng; Tuteria; Prepclass and others who are using EdTech to address needs in the education sector. These emerging technologies would help to expand the e-learning and m-learning space in the country.
There is need for the agency to establish collaborative platforms for all the key educational and innovation actors to leverage the increasing mobility of knowledge and innovation that will greatly empower EdTech companies to solve local e-learning issues.
Evidently, every investment in education creates ripple effects which add great value to all other sectors. Education holds the key to acquiring critical knowledge for new insights and innovative technologies to create practical solutions for enhanced progress in health, agriculture, commercial, banking and financial sectors.
NITDA has to create strategic partnership with all relevant stakeholders to explore the limitless growth opportunities that EdTech offers in order to develop more proficient human capital and globally competitive manpower to drive national development.
On the whole, the leadership of the Ministry of Education and that of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy must continue to show the determination and political will that practically supports growth and innovations in EDTech.
Inyene Ibanga is Managing Editor Techdigest.ng and writes from Wuye District, Abuja. Email: [email protected]