The world has evolved from traditional methods of learning to a more digital method. Edtech has become one of the fastest rising startup sectors in the world largely due to the pandemic.
This tech sector has grown beyond making learning easy for students. It has expanded to include many forms of technological innovations in the educational sector with several education start-ups offering unique means to connect teachers with students. eLearning is now in the mouths of school owners, teachers, and parents as a way to still experience the classroom from home.
The landscape of formal education in Nigeria is based largely on a relatively archaic model. Students still attend brick-and-mortar establishments to get educated. The system is largely exam-driven, theoretical, and impractical.
As much as the ed-tech sector has tried to make learning easier for schools, online learning is still not widely adopted by public universities in Nigeria, although their counterparts (private universities) have since adopted the learning method and are now running fast with the model.
In a country with a high level of low-income earners, unstable electricity, poor internet connection, and high cost of data, the digital divide is very glaring. Many students cannot afford the tools that facilitate e-learning such as smartphones, desktop or laptop computers, access to the internet and constant electricity to power their devices. This is keeping e-learning out of the reach of the poor and limiting it to the middle/high-income earners in Nigeria.
The pandemic has aggravated pre-existing inequalities, and expectedly, students from lower-income homes are the most negatively impacted. This is a threat to the decades of progress made in education, and with the country already grappling with the problem of over 13 million out-of-school children, the prospects for Nigeria’s socio-economic future are gloomy.
Amid these daunting challenges, some Nigerian innovators are creating sustainable solutions to close the education gap. One of them is Olu Babatunde, Country Director of Robotel. In a brief chat with Mr Babatunde, he showed us how Robotel provided innovative solutions to students during the pandemic.
What does Robotel do?
Robotel Inc., develops, manufactures, and markets Robotel SmartClass+HUB, LIVE and Digital Language Content (English, Spanish and German); the 21st Century Digital Classroom Management System and Multilingual Laboratory Management Resource. SmartClass + is a blended learning system that can be used in elementary schools, colleges, universities, adult education centres, military classrooms, corporate training centres, and special learning environments such as cognitive and sign language centres. Robotel SmartClass+ resource can be configured as a Language Lab, Medical and Science Lab, Engineering and AI Lab, Mass Communications and Media Arts Lab, e-Library, ICT Centre, etc., to meet a school’s needs and expectations. SmartClass+ can be used in a multi-discipline environment to teach any subject.
What are your thoughts on the pandemic’s effect on the educational sector?
The pandemic affected educational systems worldwide. It brought about the abrupt closure of schools (elementary, colleges, universities) and learning centres that had not embraced the blended system of teaching and learning. Teaching and learning stopped totally for many schools especially public schools in Nigeria. The educated parents became overwhelmed and burdened with teaching their children while learning stopped completely for the children of uneducated parents. It was a very pathetic situation in Nigeria and other underdeveloped countries. According to the UNESCO Monitoring report, 192 countries implemented nationwide closures which affected about 99% of the world’s school population. The economically challenged were the most vulnerable during the crisis and beyond. The school closures affected not only students, teachers, and families but also had far-reaching economic and societal consequences. Lessons were learnt during the messiness of adapting through the pandemic which revealed the disparities in students’ access to support and opportunities. The question is, how do we make our school, education, and child development systems more individually responsive to the needs of our students? Why not construct a system that meets children where they are and gives them what they need inside and outside of school in order to be successful? This is an opportunity to end the “one-size-fits-all” (in-class only teaching) factory model of education.
What innovative solution did Robotel provide during the pandemic?
Robotel developed the SmartClass+ HUB which integrates technology to support teaching and learning in-class and remotely. It gave more attention to learning design and pedagogical issues of teaching and learning.
Robotel SmartClass+ enables learning to happen anytime, at any place, in any language and on any device. When school closures happen at any time, SmartClass+ HUB empowers schools to remotely continue education safely, seamlessly, and effectively. This means that students can continue their learning and tackle their exercises outside of the classroom, and teachers can review students’ work, grade it, and provide feedback from any location, via the Internet. Robotel SmartClass+ is the best-blended learning solution available in the market today. The resource is versatile, flexible, and highly user-friendly.
What do you think can be done to enable the wide adaptation of online learning in both public and private schools?
Teachers and students must urgently adapt to the blended learning system that allows teaching and learning to continue when the need to limit human interaction arises. It is important to look at how teacher education has adapted to the restriction in human interactions, and move to new ways of teaching and learning in the preparation of future teachers for a world marked by uncertainty. We must begin to:
- (Re)educate teachers for scenarios that are unpredictable and unknown.
- Open up the whole frontier of remote learning by ensuring that all students have access to the internet and the technology for remote learning. Where schools, teachers, and students in certain areas cannot afford this in their budgets, the federal, state, local government, and private companies can look into it and lend a helping hand.
21st-century learning absolutely requires technology and the internet, therefore, improving the quality and reach of internet connectivity is key. All teachers and students should have the technology to teach and learn from outside the traditional face-to-face learning model.
Other Edtechs that provided solutions to the educational sector during the pandemic include:
- uLesson – An organization that leverages the best-in-class teachers, media, and technology to create high-quality, affordable, and accessible education for African students.
- Gradely – Which uses analytics and data-driven recommendations to help schools and parents intervene in real-time to students’ learning gaps.
- Pass-ng – A self-testing online platform in Nigeria that allows users to practice for national exams through interactive modules.
- Prep class – An edtech company that connects learners with qualified tutors across Nigeria.