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Surviving As a Private University in COVID-19 Era- The AIT Experience

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The thought of the above adage is illustrated by the case of the private university sector in Ghana. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the survival of the universities in this sector, which employs thousands of Ghanaians, was heavily dependent on admission numbers and students’ ability to pay fees.

Worse yet, several of these universities were even struggling for students due to the dwindling number of international students coming to study in Ghana. To add insults to injury, they faced a fierce competition from their counterpart public universities who had expanded their respective distance education programmes in a bid to boost up their Internally Generated Funds in order to compensate for the drop in Government subventions to their institutions.

As if that was not enough for the already crippling private university sector, COVID-19 reared its ugly head raking in havoc of global proportions. The sector was hard hit where it actually hurt- right in the middle of the semester- when most students had not even paid their semester school fees.

Sad to say, several of these universities did not have the requisite technological systems in place to ensure the unabated continuance of the academic activities even in the midst of the crises.

The Accra Institute of Technology (AIT), an independent technology-focused research university based in Accra, Ghana employed a model, which has by far proven to be the surest way of survival in this pandemic and beyond.

The operations of AIT have continued uninterrupted despite the pandemic due to their strength in using technology to boost teaching and learning.

The university has a Learning Management System dubbed ‘LEMASS’ which is effectively utilized in the delivery of online teaching and learning modes for their students. One would wonder how AIT came by the exact systems needed to combat the challenges that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interestingly, these systems were not developed as a mere survival measure, as it were, for COVID-19 as in the case of several struggling universities. In fact, these technological systems cannot be developed in weeks or months to solve specific problem at a time.

Development of such systems and solutions takes years of dedication, discipline and commitment to arrive at a working system fit for the specific educational purpose.

The AIT success story of implementing technology in education predates COVID-19 back to 2009 when it was the only university in Ghana that had a system, which allowed students to submit assignments, access electronic library, partake in quizzes etc. Lecturers in the university could grade their work online and assess their students in whatever form using the same system.

Therefore, a ban on physical contact with students had zero impact on their operations since they were already using systems. All the university had to do was to deploy these systems with very few modifications due to the pandemic in order to better serve our students.

In an effort to eliminate any physical interaction between students and the faculty of AIT while still realizing the same outcomes of the teaching and learning experience, the institution deployed a clearly stated protocol to better streamline the entire online learning experience.

The AIT Protocol for the Delivery of the Online Teaching and Learning Program stipulates the five (5) different components of the process namely:

  • Online (Asynchronous) Teaching and Learning
  • Online (Synchronous) Class Sessions (OCS)
  • Scheduled Online Interaction Sessions (OIS) with learners on pre-planned topics, issues) and/or general issues during Scheduled Online Office Hours of Instructor
  • Scheduled Online Forum Sessions (FSO) with Instructor
  • Online Feedback Sessions (OFBS) with Instructor

What would a student of this noble institution expect from this five-component Online Learning Process?

The Asynchronous online learning applies to the case where learners log-into say a learning management system/platform like LEMASS and/or other sources to access learning materials, resources and assignments earlier on posted or made available online on the platform by the instructor/lecturer in preparation for a scheduled Online(synchronous) Class Session(OCS).

This means that for each Online Lecture Topic (OLT) of the syllabus that a Instructor/lecturer intends to teach each week online, students would always expect the Instructor/lecturer to identify and direct them to relevant resources as a pre-reading and/or reference materials/resources to be accessed in preparation of the OCS and to refer to for revision after the OCS.

On the other hand, the Synchronous online learning or Online Synchronous Class Session (OCS) applies to instructor-to-learner and learner-to-learner learning interactions that are happening at the same time, – meaning in real-time via a teaching delivery system/platform (like GOOGLE CLASSROOM, ZOOM etc. depending on what students agree on with their lecturer) at a scheduled time on the university timetable to engage in the teaching (by the instructor) and the learning (by the learners) process.

Students would expect that the Instructor/lecturer would make available to them the lesson presentation (e.g. LSPs, prepared PowerPoint presentation, or other lesson notes) that he would be going through during the OCS at least 24 hours before the OCS so that they can go through before the session.

After every OCS, students would also expect on LEMASS, assignments/quizzes/tests on the OLT to examine their level of understanding of the course materials/notes presented during the OCS.

Each instructor is expected to schedule one Online Forum Session (OFS) per week on the OLT for that week. The OFSs are to be done using the facilities of LEMASS and/or any other prescribed platform by the university. The process is as follows:

  • The Instructor post the initial issue/subject/statement relating to the OLT in question to be discussed on the forum and learners are to contribute to the forum following laid down guidelines.
  • Participation in the forum is compulsory and would be graded as per the clearly stated guidelines in the Online Forum Grading Template developed by the university.
  • Participation in the OFSs will take the place of attendance and participation as in face-to-face teaching accounting for 10% of the final grade of students.

Instructors delivering online courses at AIT are also expected to interact with learners online in between the scheduled Online (synchronous) Class Sessions (OCS) to check on how learners are coping with the course materials assigned to them in preparation for the next Online (synchronous) Class Session (OCS) and also to discuss specific topics or aspects of the course materials that learners find challenging.

This means for each registered course, students would expect Instructors to have at least 3 OISs per course per week with learners, and spend at least a ½ hour (30 minutes) per each session.

In addition to the Online Interaction Sessions (OIS) for the asynchronous and the synchronous delivery of the course (OLT-by-OLT), Instructors are also expected to engage in an Online Feedback Session (OFBS) with learners. This will include facilitating:

  • Unscheduled one-on-one feedback session with students (if and when a student request for feedback on any aspect of the online learning process of the course in question or a particular OLT)
  • General feedback to students on a given course you are teaching on assignments/test/exams, course-learning materials, lessons among others.

All these components combine to give the students the needed guidance that is unmatched by even a face-to-face interaction with their lecturers. Yes, when technology is used in education, risks are reduced, cost is managed, learning convenience is maximized and the risk physical contacts with its accompanying challenges are contained, if not eliminated.

However, it is rather sad that a university like Accra Institute of Technology, which has been preaching the use of technology for the past ten years has not received maximum support to train, educate and help other institutions to reach their optimum level.

It would be a big shame, if after surpassing this pandemic and surmounting its accompanying challenges, we resort to the old ways of doing things. All roads must now lead to AIT to learn how they have used technology to defeat the educational challenges emanating from the pandemic.

It is COVID-19 today, but we don’t know what will come tomorrow. There is, therefore, the need to relook at our educational delivery in this technological era. A good start would be to go the AIT way.


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CSCS Sensitizes Financial Market Stakeholders on Cyber-Security

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Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) Plc, Nigeria’s capital market infrastructure, sustains cyber-security advocacy as it sensitizes financial market participants on rising rate of cybercrime.

In a webinar organized by CSCS, financial market stakeholders, including bankers and capital market operators dialogued on innovative measures for preventing cybercrimes, dire need for increased campaign and exigency of collaborative investments to reign the rising rate of cybercrime.

The online event themed “Cyber Security and Information During the Pandemic” was lauded for its timeliness, as COVID-19 pandemic and attendant remote connections may have increased cyber-security risks in many organizations, particularly as the crime rate surges globally, with rising exposure of financial services institutions in Nigeria and the broader African continent.

The event which was widely attended with participants from the banking sector, capital market and public service, had Mr. Tobe Nnadozie (Divisional Head, Technology and Innovations, CSCS Plc), Mr. Bharat Soni (Chief Information Security Officer, GTBank Plc) and Mr. Ikechukwu Ugoji (Chief Information Security Officer, Interswitch Limited) as panelists.

Speaking on the event, Mr. Haruna Jalo-Waziri, the Chief Executive Officer, CSCS Plc, noted that “cybersecurity is a collective effort and everyone must play their role to preserve the integrity and sanctity of the financial market.

The pandemic and its attendant remote connections occasioned by business continuity and work-from-home protocols have increased exposures to cyber-security risks and some businesses may have suffered colossal losses due to cyberattacks since the pandemic.

More than ever, cyberattacks are like a double whammy at this challenging time when businesses are re-strategizing to adapt to the new normal and ensure sustainability.”

Mr. Femi Onifade, the Chief Strategy Officer, CSCS Plc reiterated the CEO’s perspective, noting that “a breach on any market participant’s network may inadvertently expose the entire system, thus reinforcing why we must collaborate to prevent any vulnerabilities in the financial system and why all participants and stakeholders must take active and effective measures in ensuring and sustaining cyber-resilience.”

While speaking at the event, Mr. Bharat Soni said, “new work culture has expanded remote activities and cloud capabilities to an unprecedented level, thereby making businesses more vulnerable to cyber-attacks such as online scams and phishing, disruptive malware, malicious domains amongst others.

Hence, the use of strong authentication for accessing networks would no longer be an option but a necessity.” He concluded that “Awareness of the new realities of safe cyber practices need to be communicated to employees, partners and customers so that they can remain aware of the evolving cyber threat and how to best protect themselves and their organizations”.

In the same vein, Mr. Ikechukwu Ugoji said, “over 90% of cyber breaches are facilitated by phishing email or social engineering attack and that every employee is a first-line of defence against incoming threats and employees must be made to understand their vital roles and responsibility in protecting the organization.”

On his part, Mr. Tobe Nnadozie, posited that “the pattern of spend on cybersecurity shows clearly that organizations are making relevant investments to protect their systems and broader market, albeit sadly, lack of vigilance is the leading cause of breaches”.


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Muoghalu, Kukah Headline ARCAN Lectures

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Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN) has lined up a two-week long, five-lecture series to commemorate the 60th Independence Anniversary of Nigeria.

Muoghalu, Kukah Headline ARCAN Lectures

Ambassador Joe Keshi

The lecture series scheduled to commence from Tuesday September, 22 through to Tuesday, October 6 2020 is themed Nigeria @ 60- The Journey So Far.

Dr. Kingsley Muoghalu, former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and a presidential candidate during the 2019 presidential election is expected to kick off the lecture series on Tuesday. He speaks on the topic: Nationhood, Development and Democracy in Nigeria.

Other speakers include the highly revered Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah who would be speaking on Thursday, September 24 on the topic: 60 years of Nigeria’s Journey to Democracy: Hopes and Impediments.

Dr Vanessa Iwowo, an award-winning management scholar takes the stage on Monday 28 September, 2020 and she would dwell on the topic: [email protected]: Leadership, Democracy and the Politics of Identity.

Tuesday, 29th September, 2020  would be the turn of political activist and scholar Dr. Usman Bugaje to explore the topic: 60 years of Nation-Building: The Management of Our Diversity, Resources and Nation-Building.

Erudite scholar and specialist in International Relations, Prof W. Alade Fawole, is billed to speak on Tuesday 6th October, 2020 on the topic: Nigeria in International Affairs: Prognosis for the next Sixty Years.

The host, Ambassador Joe Keshi, said remarks would be made by an array of eminent Nigerians including ARCAN President, Amb J.K Shinkaiye, ARCAN’s Doyen , Amb Ignatius C. Olisemeka and other eminent Nigerians and diplomats.

According to Keshi, “the series will review the state of our nation in the last 60 years and how the lofty dreams of our founding fathers of building a just and equitable nation where no man is oppressed can be truly attained.

“Additionally, it will review the impact of domestic policies on our foreign policy pursuits and engagement, and above all, offer a futuristic vision of what our foreign policy priorities in the next 60 years should be like,” he said.


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Ene-Obong, CEO of 54gene Selected as Endeavor Entrepreneur

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Endeavor has welcomed a new entrepreneur into its global network; Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong of 54gene, was selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur on September 17, 2020.

54gene is a health technology company whose mission is to advance precision medicine capabilities in Africa through research, advanced molecular diagnostics and clinical programs. 54gene joins 10 other Endeavor Entrepreneur-led companies in Nigeria, and over 1,300 in Endeavor’s 37 markets across Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America.

Endeavor is a mission-driven organisation that is leading the global movement for high-impact entrepreneurs and their companies. Endeavor Nigeria selects, mentors and accelerates the best high-impact entrepreneurs in the region, supporting them to scale their companies and drive economic growth.

As well as 54gene, this year, Endeavor has welcomed the founders of Daystar Power, Migo and Kobo360 into its local and global network.

Africa is home to the most genetically diverse population in the world. However, less than 3% of the continent’s genomic data is available for research purposes making it a potentially rich source of new genetic information used for medical discoveries.

54gene is solving this challenge and equalising the access to precision medicine through the advancement of the state of healthcare in Nigeria and on the continent. This is being achieved through local clinical research programs and advanced molecular diagnostics.

“54gene is a critical part of the continent’s push to equalize access to precision medicine for millions of Africans. The rapid pace at which the company has scaled over the past year is testament to Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong’s leadership, his drive and talented team.

He is an inspiration to other high-impact entrepreneurs in Nigeria and we are thrilled to welcome him into the Endeavor network.” Says Eloho Omame, Managing Director & CEO of Endeavor in Nigeria.

Since launching in 2019, 54gene has scaled its operations in generating novel insights in human genetics research that will lead to high impact health discoveries. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, 54gene raised funds to increase the country’s testing capacity and launched mobile laboratories across 5 Nigerian states.

The company has raised $21 million in investment and also launched the African Centre for Translational Genomics (ACTG) to fund the study of Non-Communicable Diseases in 100,000 Nigerians.

In September of this year, the company announced a partnership with Illumina to establish a world class genomics facility in Lagos, Nigeria, which will help expand its sequencing-based research and molecular diagnostics offering.

Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, CEO and Founder of 54gene, says, “It is an absolute honour to be selected as an Endeavor entrepreneur. We started 54gene to significantly improve the inclusion of African populations in global genomics research and I am glad to see our work is being recognised.

“Our mission is to continue driving innovation and change in research and I look forward to the opportunities that arise as a result of being supported by the global Endeavor network in expanding 54gene’s impact globally.”

Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong was successfully selected as part of a cohort of 9 entrepreneurs from 6 markets. With the recent addition of 54gene, Endeavor Nigeria now supports 17 entrepreneurs who lead 11 scale-up stage companies in Nigeria, spanning lifesciences, fintech, renewable energy, entertainment, logistics and retail.


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