E-learning and Caleb Varsity giant strides - SALIENT TIMES ONLINE

E-learning and Caleb Varsity giant strides

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By Our Correspondent

One of the lessons learnt from the coronavirus pandemic in the education sector is the adoption of e-learning as against the face to face method of imparting knowledge to the students.

Salient Times reports that the global health challenge has dealt a big blow on the face-to-face learning thereby becoming one of the biggest casualties of the pandemic. 

Caleb University, located at Imota in Ikorodu area of Lagos State is one of the foremost private university that opt for the e-learning platform so that its academic calendar was not tampered with in spite of closure of schools and lockdown.

Speaking with newsmen recently at the University campus in Imota, the Vice Chancellor of Caleb University, Prof Nosa Owens-Ibie said the institution pivoted  online learning in order to ensure that it's academic calendar was not tampered with.

It could be recalled that on March 19, as the number of coronavirus cases in Nigeria rose to 11, the Federal Government announced the shutdown of all educational institutions. 

Millions of students from primary to university levels were forced to return home; to isolate and practice social distancing until the pandemic was addressed.

The Vice Chancellor of Caleb University, Prof Nosa Owens-Ibie, said during a press briefing held at the institution campus in Imota, Lagos  that Caleb University created e-learning platform to avoid interruption with the institution’s academic calendar during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The e-learning platform is a product of necessity but we are happy that we did not miss a day out of the semester. We started on schedule and will be ending the semester on schedule. We had all our classes online, both undergraduate and postgraduate classes.”

Apart from academic activities, Prof Owens-Ibie said the students carried out some of their extracurricular activities online.

“On July 17, we inaugurated our Students Representative Council.

The campaign, manifesto, election and all the things we believed students should engage in, even though we are a private university were done online,” the vice chancellor added.

But the move stirred up minor controversy as few parents raised eyebrow over payment of sundry fees, including accommodation when schools are not in session.

Speaking to Journalists at the briefing, the vice chancellor, said the university’s e-portal was earlier opened in anticipation of resumption, but when it became apparent that schools would not resume in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, students were told to stop paying,

The vice chancellor disclosed that there are some students who have not paid any fee and were still given access to the platform.

Some aggrieved parents had protested the fees paid by their wards. The parents wrote the university questioning the payment for hostel accommodation and other services that were not provided as a result of the pandemic.

Other issues raised by the parents include the demand for full tuition during the pandemic, migration of students to the online platform without the knowledge of parents and guardians as well as decision making on a parent forum, which allegedly comprised less than seven per cent of the university.

But Owens-Ibie while reassuring parents of their understanding said the school is ready to refund the accommodation fees paid by students if they so desire or can use it once normalcy returns.

“Anyone that paid for accommodation can have his or her money back or carry it forward. 

The records are there. There are some students who have not paid their school fees but were granted access to the school’s portal. When we started, every student was mandated to join the platform whether they had paid or not.”

The vice chancellor disclosed that the school has created some applications on Google Play store to further bridge the communication gap between the management and the parents.

“As at July 9, we launched two apps on Google Play store, Caleb Watch and Caleb Comment. The Caleb Watch is a health and security app. Every staff and student is supposed to download it. It also serves to protect our students because there is a whistleblower feature there. 

The Caleb Comment is for communication for parents and alumni. Any parent who wants to get across to the school can use those apps that we have thought about since last year,” he stated.

On the controversial parents forum, Prof Owens-Ibie said the school has only one forum, which every parent is encouraged to be part of.

“We can’t have two. As we speak, the parents’ forum is building a medical centre for us and that is what we are saying, the parents should be our partner in progress.”

Meanwhile, Parents of Caleb University, Imota, Lagos State, have denied having any crack in their relationship with the university management over school fees.

A cross-section of the parents, who said this in a chat with newsmen, explained that the parents’ body – Caleb University Parents Forum, has always been impressed with the school management decisions over the years.

Vice Chairman of the Parents’ Forum, Mr Oritseweyinmi Boyo, said that the parents have been relating with the university management through the body, and at no time was there an unresolved issue that could lead to any crack in their relationship.

He, however, confirmed that some students had paid their accommodation fees in anticipation of resumption, but were advised by the school management to either carry such fees forward or get a refund.

Mr. Boyo said he had personally called on any parent who had paid his or her child’s accommodation fee, to come up with receipts of such payment for a refund.

While commending the university management for ensuring no disruption in the school academic calendar with the e-learning initiative, which has enabled the students to interface with their lecturers, he advised any parent with better suggestions to either channel such through the parents’ forum or directly to the vice-chancellor, and stop making demands on the university.

The forum’s vice chairman expressed parents’ appreciation to the university management for coming up with a broader platform – “Caleb Connect”, a mobile App, through which parents and alumni can communicate directly with the university, while the second App – “Caleb Watch” takes care of the health and security needs of staff and students.

With the two recently launched mobile applications, the stage has been set for even better communication between the university and its stakeholders.

He explained that it was the cordial relationship existing between the parents and the university management that made it possible for the parents to commence the construction of a well-equipped multi-million naira medical centre in the school, which is expected to be commissioned in the last quarter of the year.

The forum treasurer, Mrs. Juliana Falodun, commended the university for the effectiveness of the e-learning programme, stressing that with it, the university has been able to do everything online without any hitch.

Other parents like Deaconess Olubukonla Akinrinsola, Engr. Oluwafemi Ajayi, Elder Kunle Kilasho, Mrs Adaobi Ekwempu and Pastor (Mrs) Uche Omitayo corroborated Mr Boyo and Mrs Falodun’s position that the school authority had made it known that it would either make a refund to those who had paid accommodation fees or get it carried forward.

They advised their colleagues to team up with the Parents’ Forum to always appreciate the management for its consistency in policy direction, ability to maintain the university’s high academic standard, as well as ensuring no disruption in their children’s academic activities in spite of the lockdown.

The parents noted that with the effectiveness of the e-learning programme, the university should not discontinue the initiative even after the lockdown, but merge it with the traditional form of classroom teaching as it had reduced a lot of risk involved in travelling for lectures, meetings, project presentation/ defence and other activities.

Mrs Ekwempu and some other parents, who explained that their children did not pay the accommodation fees and had unfettered access to the e-learning portal, thanked the university management for making available to the students’ periodic guidelines, and also for organising both general training session, college and departmental-level training for them to gain a mastery of teaching and assessment tools available on the e-learning platform.