The Regional Training and Research Institute for Distance and Open Learning (RETRIDOL) collaborates with the Africa Centre of Excellence on Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL) to celebrate its 20th Anniversary.

The two-day event, which held physically and virtually, took place on Tuesday 8th to Wednesday 9th August, 2023, in the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) headquarters Jabi, Abuja.

The hybrid event with the topics: Reimagining Education Futures at the Intersections of Technology, Education and Design and The Importance of LifeLong Learning in Social Policies with Emphasis on Health Care, featured Guest lectures and a roundtable discussion.

The Vice Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Prof. Olufemi Peters represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) Admin, Prof. Isaac Butswat, in his opening address congratulated RETRIDOL for the remarkable milestone.

Prof. Peters commended RETRIDOL and ACETEL for their achievements in the fulfillment of their distinct but related mandate

He said “the need for training in the fundamentals of ODL theory and practice , and more specifically in designing learning experiences is more pressing now with the many forms of modern ODL that have evolved, including online learning.”

“This form of learning is no longer the exclusive preserve of a single mode higher education institutions, as many institutions are adopting online learning and new technologies for learning while new open universities are coming on stream in Nigeria and on the continent.” he said.

Peters said, in light of the trends, we must strategies and leverage the wealth of experience and expertise amassed over the years.”

He said while technological advances may shape the mode of delivery, the core principles of distance education should remain the guiding light, noting that the philosophy of Open Learning, in terms of access and flexibility must remain steadfast amidst technological shifts.

He said the university is committed to the mandate and vision of the institute it has demonstrated through its recent approval of a building for the institute on the NOUN university campus with the support of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund), and a building for ACETEL has been approved by the World Bank.

The Director, RETRIDOL, Prof. Christine Ofulue in her welcome remarks, thanked the vice chancellor for approving the event, she acknowledged the presence of all the invited guests and participants at the event, she thanked Emeritus Prof. Olugbemiro Jegede, former Vice Chancellor of NOUN, for facilitating the event, through the invitation and acceptance of the invitation by the guests.

Ofulue said, “RETRIDOL was established as a partnership between NOUN and the Commonwealth of Learning Canada, which is an intercontinental agency of the commonwealth heads of government of which Nigeria is a member along with other commonwealth countries in the sub-region.”

She noted that the primary mandate of RETRIDOL is to build capacity of higher education for the practice and research in Open and Distance Learning, also to foster regional networking, partnerships and collaboration in promoting ODL in the West Africa sub-region.

She further expressed gratitude over ACETEL’s collaboration with RETRIDOL in marking its 20th anniversary, as she noted that the mission of the centre and that of Retridol are related, as they both build capacity for ODL and in offering digital solutions for adoption in the education space.

The Guest Speaker for Day one (1) event, Prof. Som Naidu, Principal Associate, Technology, Education and Design, from Melbourne, Australia, and a former Pro Vice Chancellor, Flexible Learning, University of South Pacific, while delivering his lecture, said in order to digitize the campuses education leaders need a frame work to plan and operationalise for the new normal over the long term.

Prof. Naidu, said teaching should be rewarded more than ever before by glorifying the skills that are required so as to attract people to teaching, emphasising the need to rethink teaching.

“We need to rethink the spaces we have, Do we build more buildings? Or should we provide people with connectivity and technology so that they can be more open and more flexible? Rather than be confined and constrained?

“We need to change our institutional choreography, how we recruit students, how we register students, how we assess students, how we support students, all those things we need to accommodate for the future.”

He said to rethink the way you go by your educational business, given the pandemic and availability of contemporary technology and educational resources more openly, then this has to happen bottom down and bottom up to avoid putting continuous pressure on students and faculties.

The roundtable discussion, moderated by Prof. Francis Egbokhare from the University of Ibadan, had former Vice-Chancellor NOUN Prof. Olugbemiro Jegede, Prof. Mercy Ogunsola Bandele from NOUN and Prof. Carlos Pereira Oliveira, of the State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as the discussants.

Responding to questions from Prof. EgboKhare, Prof. Jegede said “before thinking of technology, you must use what is efficient, what you can use and what the students can understand, Prof. Bandele on the other hand raised an issue on the curriculum, saying that it is faulty and not learner centered, she also raised an issue of workload on the teachers.

He said learning right from the primary school to the tertiary level, should be determined based on what the teachers want the students to learn in a period of five (5) years and where the country should be in ten (10) years,

Prof. Pereira, speaking on the extent at which the school system can pursue freedom of learning and strategies for sustainable technology, he said, “the best technology is the one that is available and possible for us to use.”

Concerns about education becoming obsolete in years to come were raised as most people think that having skills will be more relevant than having an education.

On the second day of the event, the Guest Lecturer, Prof. Carlos Periera de Oliveira, spoke on the topic; The Importance of Lifelong Learning in Social Policies with Emphasies on Health Care.

In his lecture on Lifelong Learning (LLL), Oliveira said, “Increasingly, the global community is waking up to the fact that investing in learning throughout life, for everyone, fosters active citizenship, improves employability, promotes people’s health and wellbeing, and makes communities more cohesive.”

He noted that “the value of LLL has become even more apparent as the global community tackles the profound, shared challenge of the Covid-19 Pandemic, as non-formal and informal learning has come to the fore with a proliferation of more flexible online courses, new communication channels between education stakeholders and the opening up of digital resources.”

Oliveira further stated that “LLL has the capacity to respond to trends and public policy issues requiring urgent attention from policy makers, while noting that LLL also mitigates challenges posed by the digital revolution as; robotics, artificial intelligence, and increased connectivity transform our world rapidly, demands for new skills for workers, and different forms of citizenship emerge.”

Speaking further he said, “a basic condition for mainstreaming LLL into Higher Education Institutions is funding, as more coherent and streamlined financing mechanisms will be critical to enable wider participation, particularly for non-traditional learners and the vulnerable group, which requires conducive national policies that define LLL as a mandate of higher education and allocate specific funds to reach these groups.”

During the roundtable discussion, the discussants, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Prof. Shehu Usman Adamu from NOUN, Prof. Helen Kwanashie from NOUN, Prof. Hadiza Galadanci from Bayero University Kano (BUK), who joined virtually, Prof. Som Naidu from Australia, and the moderator, former VC, NOUN, Prof. Olugbemiro Jegede,

Prof. Jegede while setting the tone for discussions made it clear that open and distance education cannot be seen as face to face education, citing examples of other countries who pride themselves more in running the Open and Distance Education than the face-to-face system.

Discussants, while making their points maintained that there’s the need for technology to be adopted in the education system as reference to a point Prof. Oliveira made in his lecture, saying, “if the education system is serious about leaving no one behind and education for all, then we need to rethink the way we do business, by ensuring openness and flexibility as the new normal.

They emphasised the need for Lifelong Learning to be considered in nursing as it ensures collaboration and aids in adapting policies to evolving landscapes and emerging medical technologies.

Prof. Shehu while making his point said, one of the major components in Open and Distance Learning is need assessment.

“You have to go out and find out, what people need so that you can come and run it.”

To bring the event to a close, the Director, ACETEL, Prof. Grace Jokthan, represented by the Deputy Director, Dr. Johnson Opateye gave the vote of thanks, in his remarks, he highlighted the activities of the centre and the academic programmes offered, emphasizing the use of technology in the ACETEL.

He thanked the VC, Principal Officers and the sponsors for making the event possible, he also thanked participants for attending the workshop.

He thanked discussants for their presence at the event.

Special Plaques and RETRIDOL’s WAJOFEL Journal were given to the guests and distinguished personalities.