Teaching through COVID-19 pandemic - Lessons from OLA College of Education

BY: Victor King Anyanful & Mark Valentine Aikins
•  The writers
• The writers

The world’s unexpected pandemic, COVID-19 , grounded many activities worldwide, including education, and Ghana was not spared.

The government announced the closure of all schools on Sunday, March 15, 2020 and further directed tertiary institutions to take steps to continue academic work.

As a measure to fight the pandemic, the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission(GTEC) and mentoring universities supported by Transforming Teaching, Education & Learning (T-TEL) instituted a teacher education ‘“virtual learning taskforce” to ensure continuity of teaching and learning in response to school closures caused by COVID-19.

The initiative included the training of 1,900 tutors of all 46 colleges of education on effective online delivery by the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences; training, and deployment of trouble shooters from the colleges who provided further assistance to tutors; provision of smart phones and SD cards pre-loaded with Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) resources for close to 4,000 student teachers; zero rating a B.Ed.

microsite (including course materials and references) as well as the provision of e-Learning fund for Wi-Fi extension project in some colleges.

What did we do?

Building on the national initiatives rolled out, the management of OLA College of Education and the ICT unit in collaboration with the quality assurance unit rolled out a fast-track refresher online training for its tutors and students to equip them to be efficient in facilitating online teaching and learning interaction using the google classroom platform and telegram; discussion/interactive approaches.

What changed?

As a result of these interventions, both staff and students became technology literate.

They were able to access materials online, integrated the use of online tools in teaching and learning and became conversant in using electronic assessment tools such as Google Forms and Quiz Bot on Telegram —these made it easier for feedback as compared to the traditional manual forms. With this approach, learners now received feedback in real-time.

The use of the online Google Classroom helped improve teaching and learning in the areas of lesson planning, online integration of lessons, assessment of lessons and research and the professional development of tutors.

What have we learnt?

One of the key elements of virtual learning is flexibility. At the beginning of the online lessons, we realised that about 60 per cent of students were not patronising the course during the agreed time schedule because of the synchronous mode adopted.

An asynchronous mode was adopted which provided learners the opportunity to go online at their own time and upload their assignments.

The number of students accessing the Google Classroom platform increased as compared to when the college adopted a Learning Management System (LMS) its mentoring university was using.

Blended learning

One of the challenges identified with blended learning was the cost of data. As a result, OLA College of Education collaborated with one of Ghana’s telecom providers to help close the connectivity gap tutors and student teachers faced during the pandemic.

A year down the lane, OLA College of Education is implementing blended learning.

All 50 teaching staff are confident using the Google Classroom and it has remained the dominant LMS on campus with its use monitored by the college.

The theme for this year’s World Teacher Day: “Teachers at the Heart of Education Delivery” is an apt phrase which tutors in Colleges of Education in Ghana, particularly OLA College of Education have embraced.

At OLA College of Education, tutors and students can use ICT to teach and learn all subjects effectively.

It was an opportunity to prove that online teaching and learning is possible and beneficial. The exercise showed that significant technological and skills gap existed among student teachers and tutors in colleges of education and that much investment in technology infrastructure is required to make education more accessible in the 21st Century.

The writers: Mr. Anyanful is Head of ICT Unit, while Mr. Aikins is the E-Learning Coordinator, both at the OLA College of Education, Cape Coast