The African Council for Distance Education (ACDE) recently held a three-day Train-the Trainer (TTT) workshop and review of the ACDE Quality Assurance toolkit.
The three-day hybrid event, which opened on Monday, 27th March 2023, was hosted by Kenyatta University, Nairobi, the headquarters of the Council’s Secretariat.
At the event were dignitaries from the National Universities Commission (NUC), Nigeria; Ghana National Commission for Tertiary Education; Higher Education Commission, Mauritius; Commission for University Education, Kenya; including Principal Officers of Kenyatta University.
The participants cuts across university leaders, professors, and academics, attended from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Ghana, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, to mention a few.
In his warm felicitation with participants presented virtually, the First Vice-President of ACDE and Vice-Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Olufemi Peters, apologised for his inability to attend the colourful event in person, due to other supervening official matters in his institution.
He was, however, delighted to participate via Zoom, given the hybrid nature of the workshop.He went on to give a brief insight on the ACDE toolkit as the brainchild of the ACDE Accreditation Agency.
According to him, the accreditation agency was situated in NOUN from its establishment in 2008 to date and expressed gratitude to ACDE on behalf of NOUN, for situating the QA Agency in NOUN, while adding that it played a huge role in raising the consciousness of NOUN regarding its responsibilities where quality was concerned, particularly in education service delivery to stakeholders.
He further shared that the Agency was responsible for the conceptualisation and realisation of the ACDE Quality Assurance (QA) toolkit, which served as a means of promoting quality in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) delivery by developing and implementing mechanisms for continental quality assurance framework.
The Vice-Chancellor stated that the quality assurance agency since the development of the toolkit had held several TTT workshops for the use of the instrument for self-assessment of institutions and programmes.
He, however, disclosed that the current Workshop would be first in the series of others that will focus on the review of the ACDE Quality Assurance Toolkit.
He said that the review was generally informed by developments in higher education, rising from, but not limited to, the increase in the use of technology in teaching and learning, as well as the changing competency skills now required in the 21st century workplace.
Professor Peters recognised the presence of the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL, ably represented by the Deputy Executive Secretary (Administration), Mr. Chris J. Maiyaki.
He recalled that NOUN, in 2022, played host to the President of ACDE, Professor Goski Alabi, in Nigeria and facilitated a courtesy visit to NUC, where the ACDE QA Toolkit was presented.
He hoped that closer ties would be forged between ACDE, NUC and, indeed, other national regulatory agencies across the continent, towards enhancing quality assurance in ODL.
The ACDE First Vice-President acknowledged Professor Goski Alabi for her outstanding leadership role as the President and Executive Director, ACDE; the host institution Vice-Chancellor and Secretary General, ACDE Secretariat, Professor Paul K. Waynana for taking up the responsibility of hosting the workshop, and, indeed, all the facilitators and organisers of the event, for their collective effort towards the realisation of the workshop.
He pledged the continuous support of NOUN to ACDE, and particularly, the QA Agency, as part of efforts towards achieving the vision and mandates of the continental body.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Secretary-General, ACDE and Vice-Chancellor, Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Professor Paul K. Waynana extended the warm welcome of his University and Kenya, in general, to the distinguished guests.
He particularly appreciated the presence of the NUC and hoped to learn from Nigeria’s experience with regards to ODL. Thereafter, he gave an overview of the host institution.
The Vice-Chancellor shared that Kenyatta University has nine schools, notably, Schools of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences; Business Economics and Tourism; Education; Engineering and Architecture; Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health; Law, Arts and Social Sciences; Pure and Applied Sciences; the Graduate School and the Digital School of Virtual and Open Learning.
He added that Kenyatta University welcomes students from all walks of life and was currently hosting 925 active international students, including Nigerians who made up over a hundred of the population.
Professor Waynana stated that, in line with its vision and mission, one of Kenyatta University’s objectives was to promote the development and expansion of higher education opportunities through the initiation of new programmes and alternative modes of delivery, using modern technology.
He went on to disclose that during the Covid-19 pandemic, the University was the only university in Kenya that was able to admit students virtually, reason being the existence of its Digital School of Virtual and Open Learning, prior to the pandemic.
Members of staff were trained on technology assisted delivery and thus the school was able to deliver lecture to students for a complete semester during the pandemic.
This, he pointed out, resonated with the strategic goal of enhancing access to university education to meet the ever-increasing demands for higher education by strengthening the Open, Distance and e-learning (ODE) mode of delivery.
Professor Waynana acknowledged the leading role of Kenyatta University, as a member of the ACDE, in expanding access and promoting public awareness of the benefits of e-learning through its Digital School.
He guaranteed the commitment of the Institution, which hosted the ACDE Secretariat and a few of its members of staff seconded to the Secretariat to ensure the smooth running of its operations, to work with the Council to achieve its set objectives.
He hoped that the train-the-trainer workshop would raise, not only a cohort of champions that would thereafter, train and mentor other members of staff and colleagues, but also a team that ACDE would be proud of.
Delivering his goodwill message, Representative of the Executive Secretary, NUC, Mr. Chris J. Maiyaki who extended the warm felicitations of the Commission, and by extension the 222 Nigerian Universities, the Deputy Executive Secretary (Administration), acknowledged the significant progress recorded thus far on the African continent considering the measures in place to uphold and guarantee the delivery of quality programmes through the ODL mode.
He appreciated the commitment of stakeholders whose sacrifices of time and resources over the years, yielded the visible fruits to date, in various African countries.
He adjudged the workshop to be of significant and historical proportion and congratulated the ACDE Executives and the host institution for the roles played in putting up the event.
He noted the proactiveness of facilitating the workshop at a time when the clarion call for the reinvention of university education and, more so, the pivotal role of ODL was gaining appreciable ground, in addition to the case for the examination of the role of policy, implementation, and best practices of Open and Distance Learning.
Mr. Maiyaki underscored the importance of building reputational capital, with regards to university enterprise, and as such must be demonstrated and sustained consistently.
He congratulated the participants for attending the event and prayed for a fulfilling, purposeful and productive outing.
He pledged that NUC will leverage on its convening power, by virtue of superintending 222 universities, to work actively with ACDE in ensuring that the quality assurance toolkit is domesticated, and member institutions give it louder expression.
In her address before declaring open the meeting via zoom, the President and Executive Director, ACDE, Professor Goski Alabi extended the warm felicitations of ACDE to the guests and apologised for her inability to attend the event physically.
She, however, thanked all Vice-Chancellors and Director-Generals present or who nominated their staff to participate in the Workshop, for their commitment and conviction in the Council. She went ahead to share her belief that participants, at the end of the 3-day training would depart to their various institutions, well-equipped, to roll out the training of their colleagues and members of staff on knowledge gained.
She particularly encouraged the various regulatory bodies from Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, etc., present at the training, to support, promote and ensure that the ACDE quality assurance toolkit is adopted in their various member institutions.
She stated that participating members, as the first cohort to train on the review of the ACDE QA toolkit would be listed as ACDE certified experts on Open and Distance Education as well as resource persons for ACDE certification programmes.
Giving an overview of the ACDE, she highlighted that it was established in 2004, as a continental educational organisation comprising of African Universities and other higher education institutions of learning, which are committed to expanding access to quality education and training through ODL.
The Council is a member of the International Council for Distance Education (ICDE) headquartered in Canada and has observer status at the African Union Commission (AUC) as the lead implementing institution for the Commission’s open, distance and e-learning agenda.
It also participates actively in the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) and have collaborated with and earned the support of the Commonwealth of Learning (CoL) in many different ways.
The President spoke at length on the ACDE QA toolkit, which is expected to provide guidelines for the management and regulation of ODL in Africa higher education space.
She reported that it was developed in collaboration with some international bodies, including the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), UNESCO to mention a few.
She added that the workshop sought to acquaint participants with the instrument and the appropriate use. She was also hopeful that participants would make constructive input to the ongoing review.
Sharing her thoughts, Professor Goski Alabi enthused that the workshop was expected to discuss four key issues in ODL:
1. Micro-credentialing-industry-aligned short units of learning that are certified or credentialed to count towards a higher education qualification;
2. Transnational Education (TNE) and its regulation;
3. ChatGPT – an AI-powered language model developed and trained to generate massive amounts of human-like texts, and
4. Steps in ACDE certification programme.
She concluded by underscoring the importance of ODL, as the new driver of education service delivery using modern technology, which became more imperative during the Covid-19 pandemic.
She also acknowledged the ACDE quality assurance toolkit as a veritable tool for driving quality and advancing the frontiers of education through the ODL model, and prayed the participants to ensure that the training is taken forward towards active use of the toolkit.
The Workshop also featured paper presentations on “The Role of the NUC in Enhancing Quality in Open and Distance Education and E-Learning,” by the Deputy Executive Secretary (Administration) National Universities Commission, Nigeria Mr. Chris J. Maiyaki; “Quality Assurance Measures for Regulating Open, Distance and E-Learning,” by the Director, Quality Assurance and Compliance, Ghana Tertiary Education Commission, Dr. Emmanuel Oware and “The Quality Assurance Measures Put in Place to Enhance Quality in Open and Distance Education,” by the Commissioner, Higher Education Commission, Mauritius, Professor Romeela Mohee.
The overarching objective of the papers was to highlight the operations of the regulatory bodies and the individual mechanisms in place and instruments developed by each agency to enhance quality in the delivery of university education, particularly in ODL.
At the end, it was acknowledged that quality was cross-cutting and that a common challenge facing university education across the continent was access.
Therefore, the recognition of ODL as a viable alternative mode of education delivery, with a great capacity to accommodate a large number of prospective students, was forward-thinking.
Following the paper presentations was feedback on the use of the ACDE QA Toolkit, and inputs and suggestions towards the review of the quality assurance instrument.