Lecturers teaching in Ghanaian public universities have never had their pedagogical skills and competencies more tested than during teaching online during the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, teaching was predominantly face-to-face (FTF). And because of restrictions and lockdowns in some regions, tertiary institutions had to swiftly transition to integrate web-based technologies to continue teaching and learning. Notably, lecturers across various disciplines began teaching online or blended (both FTF and online) (Sangster, 2020). While research on blended learning has been conducted in different contexts with the online aspect supported by a variety of web-based technologies, the deployment of educational technology in low–middle-income countries is unique and different (Kaye & Ehren, 2021). Considering the context-specific differences in the adaptation and use of technology to facilitate teaching and learning online during the Covid-19 pandemic and limited empirical studies from educators’ perspectives, I sought to explore lecturers’ engagement experiences in hybrid learning environments during such an unprecedented time.
Using a qualitative case study conducted between October 2021 and July 2022, I purposively selected and interviewed 20 lecturers teaching Distance Education students across three prominent public universities in Ghana. Lecturers who willingly participated in the study referred the researcher to their colleagues (snowball sampling) and successive interviews were conducted following informed consent.
The findings showed that teaching blended gave lecturers more opportunities to engage adult students compared to only FTF meetings pre-pandemic. Lecturers used a range of student-centred strategies to facilitate teaching. These included problem-based, question-and-answer (Q&A), and case-based learning approaches. Problem-based learning was used to drive students critical thinking abilities, while the Q&A was adopted to discover knowledge and increase the student-lecturer interaction. A few lecturers used case-based approaches sparingly to help learners apply theoretical concepts to real-world experiences. Case-based learning aims to link theory to practice through the application of knowledge to the cases, using inquiry-based learning methods (Thistlethwaite et al., 2012).
‘Teaching blended gave lecturers more opportunities to engage adult students compared to only face-to-face meetings pre-pandemic.’
Further, lecturers who were not tech-savvy employed other strategies to increase student engagement in class such as awarding marks for class participation and mentioning students by their names to respond to questions. The explanations for adopting this strategy were to encourage active class participation, improve the student–lecturer relationship, and assess learning needs. Lecturers’ knowledge of and integration of technology and innovative pedagogies in teaching adults in hybrid spaces is important in improving educational experiences of students.
Also, lecturers were satisfied with teaching blended if electronic and ICT resources were available, if they had received ICT training to teach online, previous exposure to web-based technology, and technical support.
Lecturers reported challenges during student engagement such as
- poor online attitudes (and behaviours)
- inability to navigate new online technologies
- lack of technical support
- technological factors (poor internet connectivity, limited digital tools to facilitate online teaching).
Technology-mediated learning can greatly impact access to and quality of teaching, interaction and engagement when the required human, financial and infrastructural investments are made by all stakeholders in the higher education sector. The findings suggest that adult students’ learning experiences can be significantly enhanced when lecturers employ web-based technologies to facilitate the educational process. To conclude, higher educational institutions can leverage lecturers’ IT skills and experiences with innovative pedagogical models post-Covid by prioritising and expanding ICT and e-resources.
Kaye, T., & Ehren, M. (2021). Computer-assisted instruction tools: A model to guide use in low- and middle-income countries. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology, 17(1), 82–99. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/348931184_Computer-assisted_instruction_tools_A_model_to_guide_use_in_low-and_middle-income_countries
Sangster, A., Stoner, G., & Flood, B. (2020). Insights into accounting education in a COVID-19 world. Accounting Education, 29(5), 431–562. https://doi.org/10.1080/09639284.2020.1808487
Thistlethwaite, J. E., Davies, D., Ekeocha, S., Kidd, J. M., MacDougall, C., Matthews, P., Judith Purkis, J., & Clay, D. (2012). The effectiveness of case-based learning in health professional education. A BEME systematic review. BEME guide number 23. Medical Teacher, 34(6), E421–E444. https://doi.org/10.3109/0142159X.2012.680939