E-learning is the next generation of ‘education product’ and AIT Ghana believe that higher education e-learning have great potential and prospects in Africa - Professor Clement Dzidonu, President, AIT, Ghana.

As part of our drive to share views of universities authorities on how they want prospective students to select their career and university, we reached to Prof. Clement Dzidonu, President of Accra Institute of Technology, Ghana. Prof. Dzidonu shared his views on education transformation in Africa with e-learning and how AIT is playing a crucial role in this transformation. Below is the complete interview with Prof. Dzidonu.

 

UA: Accra Institute of Technology will enter its 10th year of offering higher education in Ghana. How do you see your journey since its inception in 2007? Do you feel that you have made an impact on the life of African youth in these 10 years?

 

Prof. Clement Dzidonu: The Accra Institute of Technology (AIT) was established in 2005 and admitted its first batch of students in 2009. So you could say we started operations in 2009, and that will make us 8 years old. The AIT journey since its inception has been an eventful and productive one with the university clocking a number of achievements along the way. We for example started with a number of certificate and degree programs in engineering, computer science, information technology and business administration in September 2009. By January 2010 we started our postgraduate programs at the Masters and the PhD level; in fact we were the first private university to offer PhD programs. In addition to offering conventional campus-based programs at the undergraduate, the year 2010 also saw the commencement of the Open University programs at AIT. This means that AIT operates a dual mode university system: campus-based and open university systems. In fact AIT is the premier Open University in Ghana. I want to believe that AIT has made great strides over the past eight years and this has translated into making some impact on the higher education sector in Ghana and within the sub-region and beyond  

 

UA: AIT pioneered in bringing distance learning in the sub-region, as a private university. How satisfied are you with the development and acceptance of online and distance education in the country? What future holds for online and distance education in Africa?

 

Prof. Clement Dzidonu: We are the first on the block to introduce modern technology-based Open University program delivery in Ghana and in the sub-region.  For us at AIT we see Open University academic programs delivery different from the traditional distance education programs being offered at a number of the public and private universities in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa. AIT introduced the Open University approach to education delivery in Ghana in order to dramatically improve enrollment and broaden access to tertiary education. AIT does recognize that the  accelerating pace of technological change is having  a major  impact on university  education, including  altering  and   influencing  how   students,  faculty,   and   staff interact. Students expect to interact with their peers and with faculty 24 hours/7  days   and   to   have   immediate  access  to   digital   resources, instructional technology, and  interactive learning. Online  information, sophisticated Internet-based search engines, digital  libraries,  and multimedia  learning  resources  are   transforming  where  and   when students learn and what constitutes a classroom. Learning that  was once closely  held   in  designated spaces now  becomes available   from  any location where there is computer access and a willing learner.

 

For us at AIT, the distinctive feature of our  Open University  education delivery  is e-learning - with  learners having  unlimited online   access    to learning resources anytime and anywhere, whether they are in a classroom environment, at home, at work or on-the-move (mobile). Because  of  its interactive capacity and  because it  provides learning resources  which can be  changed and  turned into  new information, e-learning is qualitatively different from the traditional model in education.

 

AIT is playing a leading  role in pioneering the  Open University concept within  the West-Africa higher education sector. Open University education based on e-learning means that the learning is associated with a person – not a place; it is therefore not the same thing as distance education. With e-learning, geography and distance is not  a variable  as is in the  case  of distance education. There is no concept of ‘distance’ in an Open University e-learning environment. I want to believe that with the pioneering role played by AIT in the last six years, the Open University concept is taking hold in Ghana and in other African countries. There is now a widespread agreement  that   e-learning is  the   next generation  of  ‘education  product’ and we at AIT do believe that higher education e-learning as an aspect of open university program delivery do have great potential and prospects in Africa.

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UA: With more African students opting to pursue their university education within the continent, do you think that AIT is aptly placed as a truly pan-African University? Can you share some interesting facts about your university which will excite our readers.

 

Prof. Clement Dzidonu: There is no doubt that internationalization is changing the world of higher education. While African universities, including those in Ghana hardly recruit international students from outside the continent, a number of them including AIT are making in-roads into  intra-regional recruitment of international students within the African region. AIT for example, is fast becoming a preferred university of choice for international students from the ECOWAS region. The university recently won the Foreign Student Friendly University of the Year award at the 2016 Ghana Tertiary Institutions Awards. AIT through its open university  is also attracting postgraduate students on its Masters and PhD programs from other African countries and I want to believe that AIT  will soon achieve the status of a pan-African university attracting students from all over the continent.

 

I can touch on some  few interesting facts about AIT.  It will interest your viewers to know that, AIT has one of the most academically high-powered Board of Trustees in Africa. For example, the membership of the Board is made up of five former Vice Chancellors of top universities from Ghana, Mauritius and Malaysia; with one of these members being the former President of the International Association of Universities and the Former Executive Secretary of the Association of Africa Universities. Other members of the Board include eminent Professors, a former United Nations Under Secretary General and the Managing Director of the Ghana Stock Exchange. In fact it said that the members of the AIT Board of Trustees have between them over 300 years accumulated experience in academia. Also at AIT, our students do not buy textbooks, they have unlimited access to all their learning resources, e-books, lecture notes, video lectures and video labs, etc. It is also of interest to note that AIT is just not a teaching and research university, we have already attained the status of an entrepreneurial university – meaning we  expose our students to an enriching and motivational learning environment that provides them with  opportunities, practices, cultures conducive  to actively encourage them to aggressively and relentlessly embrace student and  graduate entrepreneurship. In this regards, at AIT we try to  move away from producing  just job seekers to also produce on all our academic programs graduates with the potential to be job creators through setting up their own corporations and businesses in various fields.

 

 

 

UA: Regional education hubs not only attract a share of the global population of mobile students but are becoming favored destinations for students within regions. What do you feel are some of the factors maintaining Ghana as favoured destination for higher education in Africa

 

Prof. Clement Dzidonu: Ghana  over the years since  independence in 1957,  has been attracting international students from West Africa and f other African countries. The standard  of Ghana’s educational system is  relatively high within the sub-region  and the fact that Ghana is now regarded as providing a stable and peaceful environment conducive for education  at all level of its educational system, means that it is becoming a destination of choice for students within the sub-region. Particularly on university education, Ghana now boast of one hundred and seventy-six (176) accredited private and public tertiary institutions; and a number of these including AIT are offering top-class degree programs across a range  of academic programs covering, engineering, medicine, business administration, computing sciences among others. Ghana learning from the experience of Malaysia is positioning herself to serve as a regional education hub for the West and Central Africa sub-regions. AIT is in the forefront in promoting and pushing this agenda targeting recruiting international students from the region and beyond.

 

UA: Do you agree that most often students choose universities and courses based upon other’s preferences, be it following the peers, accepting choices made by parents, influence by media or just following the current trends. What advice you would like to offer to students and the parents, from Ghana and other African countries, who wish to pursue their higher education in Ghana?

 

Prof. Clement Dzidonu: The widespread use of communication technologies and platforms like the Internet, is widely opening up opportunities to research on educational opportunities beyond the borders of one’s country. Potential students and their parents now have at their disposal the ways and means to research on and make the best choice of university to attend that meets their preferences and budget. The communications media now do play a major role in assisting students and their parents to make an informed decision. I do believe that a student’s decision on the choice of university to accept offer of admission from and eventually enrolled at is strongly influenced by the information they obtained on these schools on the web. Advice from their peers and in fact  the decision on  the informed preferences of their parents to influence the choice students make on which university to attend.

 

My advice to students and parents from Ghana and other African countries seeking university admissions  in Ghana is:  they must put some efforts into searching for of the best institution to enroll at  and base their decisions on the track record and the reputation of the institution in respect to the quality of their academic programs; the strength of the faculty and the facilities of the university to support the delivery of these programs. Assessing online Career Guidance and Advisory information sources and portals to get some guidance on what academic program to pursue in order to meet future career development and advancement goals and preferences. At AIT we do offer this  type of career  information services through our website (www.ait.edu.gh) targeted at potential AIT students.

 

UA: Students usually find it difficult to get information about universities for admission in other countries. How do you feel UniAfrica.net is helping to bridge this student - university information gap?

 

Prof. Clement Dzidonu: UniAfrica.net is no doubt providing a key information and advisory service to potential university students seeking admission to enter universities in African countries. Given that higher education is key to the development of the knowledge work force needed for driving economic development in African countries in the emerging information and technological age, it goes without saying that the role being played by UniAfrica.net to bridge the student-university information gap is contributing to addressing Africa’s human resource gap in critical skill areas. The role being played by UniAfrica.net is also assisting the universities in Africa  to publicize and showcase their programs, facilities and capabilities to potential students within and beyond the continent

 

UA: How do you see Accra Institute of Technology changing in the next five (5) years, and how do you see you yourself creating that change?

 

Prof. Clement Dzidonu: AIT just won the Technology University of the Year Award at the 2016 Ghana Tertiary Education Awards and we see ourselves in the next five (5) being a world-class technological university with strong focus of delivery quality academic programs and recording major achievements in cutting-edge research including innovative R&D work.  AIT is committed  to educating and training of  tomorrow's global leaders in all disciplines and fields through innovation in its teaching and research.  AIT’s  highest obligation as a University  is to: prepare its students who will live most of their lives in the 21st century.  In line with this, we plan in the next five years to intensify our efforts in respect to: deploying educational delivery and learning support technologies to develop and deliver quality and affordable academic programs; and the application of appropriate technologies to improve student recruitment, retention,  provision of services and learning  outcomes. We do expect that in the next five years, AIT will be well positioned to become a world class: technological university of the future; modern entrepreneurial university; student-centered university; relevant and responsive university; growing and expanding university; and an internationally visible university. We do believe that in the next five years, AIT will be leading in PhD research institution  given that we now have over 250 students  enrolled on our PhD programs. We also planned to complete our ultra-modern City Campus in Accra and the Knowledge City Campus in the next five years.

 

UA: What advice do you have for young Africans who aspire to be like you?

 

 

Prof. Clement Dzidonu: I want to leave the youth of Africa with the advice I normally give our students on graduation day: Always remember that:  it is not the past, but rather it is the future which is at stake and this future starts from today.  That future, I promise you will offer you opportunities that will present you with  a number of possibilities to choose from to make a difference in your lives, your families, society, country and in the world at large.  Whatever you do, as a youth of Africa,  remember to do something great with your life. And remember, no one climbs high by thinking low; you can't get any higher than the height you set yourself. Putting it another way: "If you place a limit on what you can do, you have placed a limit on what you can become." …. never forget that.