BACKGROUND & INTRODUCTION
INCEDI 2017 will provide the platform to examine the relationship among governments, universities and communities of various interests. In the context of pressure on higher education institutions for more relevance to economic and social needs, collaboration among such partners is one of the ways through which universities can support regional and national economies. INCEDI will explore the nature of these partnerships, the factors that facilitate or inhibit stronger partnerships, as well as the potential opportunities for future partnerships. There is the need to create interfaces to bridge the gap between the business and academic sectors whilst at the same time emphasizing the central role governments could play in this process, acting as a facilitator and provider of funding and incentives to develop and encourage such partnerships.
It will also create a platform for academics, researchers, industry and education experts as well as doctoral candidates to share their research findings, experiences and projects in a multi-cultural atmosphere. The conference will provide a friendly and nurturing environment where participants can share their research experiences with colleagues, interact with accomplished professionals in the field and create a networking opportunity for long term professional and business relationships.
Critical areas to be covered during the conference will include the following:
- Innovation and Technology in Education
- Distance Education, Educational Access, Quality and Training
- Labour Market Skill Needs and Challenges for University-Industry Cooperation
- Issues in Higher Education and Pre-Tertiary Education
- Current Issues in Teacher Education
- Entrepreneurship Education, Career Development and Training
- Education Management and Development
- Open Learning and Distance Education
- Learner Characteristics
- Interaction and Communication in Learning Communities
- Instructional Design
- Management and Organisation
- Costs and Benefits
- Educational Technology
- Innovation And Change
- Professional Development and Faculty Support
- Learner Support Services
- Quality Assurance
- Access, Equity and Ethics
- Globalisation of Education and Cross Cultural Aspects
- Distance Teaching Systems and Institutions
- Theories and Models
- General/Development Issues.
Technology, Innovation & Education Development
Africa has challenges to implementing the Education Systems that are beneficial to a vast majority of its people. It is estimated that about 45% of young people do not receive education beyond the basic level and for those who show any interest at all, the percentage reaching the tertiary level is extremely small.
In Ghana, where this conference is taking place, the government continues to be the major provider of education and education infrastructure as the private schools are not within the affordability levels of the vast majority of Ghanaians. Inspite of significant inputs into the education system, there are worrying disparities across the country as the richer south and urban centres turn out students who are better educated at all levels. Available statistics from the Ghana Education Service indicate that 64.2% of pupils in primary schools did not make it to Junior High Schools in 2013. This is reflective of the challenge that faces all African countries.
To reverse this trend, technology is required to deliver the same quality in education irrespective of local circumstances. Indeed, trained teachers are a necessity in some parts of Africa that are more rural and have no access to potable water, paved roads and decent housing. There is a natural drift towards the areas that have the amenities of life that make living standards better.
Thus, distance learning technologies that make it possible for students to gain access to much needed text books, quality teaching and interaction are fundamental to developing the new generation of learners. Without this, many prospective students, teachers and academics will be consigned to becoming a permanent underclass relative to their peers. Without the ability of technology to support collaborative learning, Africa’s education efforts will stagnate and eventually retrogress. New thinking, ideas and research that have the ability to transform business, education and society will not be possible. Technology and innovation can support change and open up new opportunities in teaching and learning. Conferences of this nature allows for the sharing of ideas that helps customise education technologies to local conditions thereby leading to overall development based on knowledge sharing.
Distance Learning and New Learning Technologies
Traditional distance learning has not fully addressed the over-supply of those who want to access education, senior high schools and at the tertiary level. Today, with new learning models and lecture capture technology, it is possible to transform distance learning courses into an extension of the campus classroom and deliver a rich experience to students regardless of location. Education also becomes more extensible, reaching students when and how they want it – in the classroom as well as on laptops, tablets and smartphones. This transformation comes just in time to help higher education address its core challenge of serving more students with fewer resources. Using technology to expand distance learning programmes helps institutions maintain education quality, without increasing the burden on instructors or requirements for new facilities.
Online courses also give faculty and departments flexibility to adapt course and programme curricula to reflect the dynamic changes in subject matter, student learning styles and employer expectations. It is clear that higher education cannot meet student needs through classroom-based instruction alone.
Colleges and universities are entering a new era where more student learning takes place outside the classroom than within it, an experience staring right at the doorstep of Ghanaian education. Such learning should be enriched by new instructional technologies and online interaction that enables the spectrum of in-classroom, distance and blended learning. Students benefit from the ability to choose the mix of course types that best fits their learning style and available time. Institutions can also educate more students, with more flexibility, while making the best use of available faculty, facilities, technology infrastructure and academic support resources.
Interaction with Industry
One critical side to this conference is the opportunity to interact with industry. A recent analysis of Africa’s educational system states that:
Africa’s education crisis seldom makes media headlines or summit agendas and analysis by the Brookings Center for Universal Education (CUE) explains why this needs to change. With one-in-three children still out of school, progress towards universal primary education has stalled. Meanwhile, learning levels among children who are in school are abysmal. Using a newly developed Learning Barometer, CUE estimates that 61 million African children will reach adolescence lacking even the most basic literacy and numeracy skills. Failure to tackle the learning deficit will deprive a whole generation of opportunities to develop their potential and escape poverty. And it will undermine prospect for dynamic growth with shared prosperity.
Clearly, this figure is overly significant. The impact for industry within the medium to long term is dire. Where will the next generation of Africa’s workforce therefore come from? This is a question that must not only be answered but must be done innovatively. There is little time to build new classrooms, roads etc. Even if there were, where would the workforce to do this come from when we do not have adequately trained persons to meet industry requirements?
This important feature of the conference where industry will interact with kingpins of academia and research institutions will ensure that those who train and those who require the workforce will discuss directly, skill levels and knowledge requirements for the future. Additionally, the intervening institutions that develop the tools and systems to make that interface happen will also appreciate the requisite needs in order to develop to meet the outlined standards.
Technology organisations that support proof of learning, mobile telephony firms that provide internet connectivity and the necessary hardware and software organisations providing systems for use, banks and allied institutions that provide financial services will all benefit in the ensuing discussions so that a difference will be made to education delivery to the benefit of all.
PROF. ATO ESSUMAN
METHODIST UNIVERSITY COLLEGE GHANA