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GBSN Fellow: Where are the Students? My Open University UK Fellowship Experience

GBSN Member, The Open University Business School is hosting four faculty fellowships from Lagos Business School. The fellows are Ogechi Adeola, Yetunde Anibaba, Nubi Achebo and Obinna Muogboh. The four of them are staying with at the university for 6 weeks during November and December of 2016. This is the first guest blog from fellowOgechi Adeola.

Ogechi Adeola
Ogechi Adeola

Ogechi Adeola teaches Marketing Management at Lagos Business School. She started her career at Citibank Nigeria in 1995, and spent approximately 14 years in the nation’s financial sector during which she garnered experience in strategy, product development, sales and marketing, and cultural change management, among others.

Adeola holds a doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) from Manchester Business School, an MBA from the same institution and a law degree from University of Nigeria. She attended management and teaching courses at Cranfield School of Management, UK; the Flexcube Centre of Learning, Mumbai, India; Gordon School of Business Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Phoenix Educational Institute, Dubai and International Faculty Programme (IFP), IESE, Barcelona, Spain. Additionally, she holds a certificate in Internet Marketing from the University of Cape Town and a certificate of merit from the Institute of Financial Management, Wales. She is a certified Sales and Marketing Manager (American Institute of Management Studies). Her academic interests include sales force management, new product development, digital marketing, branding strategy and customer service leadership.

She has been a guest speaker and discussant at local and international conferences featuring top-rated companies and organisations, including the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) business clinic and the West African Power Industry Convention (WAPIC). She has taught in the Women Entrepreneurship & Leadership for Africa (WELA) programme of China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), held in Lagos. She served as an expert-in-residence in a business advisory clinic for Goldman Sachs scholars on completion of a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management (CEM) programme at Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos.

Adeola currently serves as Associate Dean of Business Administration at the California-based University of the People, an accredited online tuition-free institution. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Strategic Management, Nigeria and the National Institute of Marketing.

Where are the Students? My Open University UK Fellowship Experience

By Ogechi Adeola (Lagos Business School, Nigeria)

A very interesting question, answers to which I am still musing about, though perhaps, more infrequently now than when I first arrived at the Michael Young Building of The Open University Business School (OUBS), Milton Keynes from Lagos, Nigeria. My colleagues, Obinna Muogboh, Nubi Achebo, Yetunde Anibaba and I from the Lagos Business School (LBS) are participating in a six-week Open University International Faculty Fellowship for online education offered to Global Business School Network (GBSN) member schools. We are here to interact with the OUBS team and learn about their unique approach to online learning.

We arrived on November 1, 2016, amidst what I can only describe as a whirlwind of global activities Ð the Brexit court challenge, a highly controversial impending American election, and a blisteringly cold weather spell. Autumn suddenly cast its gaze upon us as we stepped out of Heathrow Terminal 5, with cold winds causing us to wrap what we thought were cold-resistant jackets tightly around us like a shield of defense from an unseen force. Heading out of the airport and approaching Milton Keynes, it was easy to observe the falling dry orange-brown leaves, branches in a burst of autumn colours cascading off tall trees moving to the beats of the rhythmical wind, and a cloudy sky. We looked at one another, numb with cold, with silent but eager faces that seemed to say ‘Welcome to Milton Keynes!’

As we arrived from Nigeria, Prof Mark Fenton-O’Creevy, Associate Dean, External Engagement of OUBS, was on his way to Ghana to attend the GBSN conference. Mark had warned us to pack plenty of warm clothes as the UK was entering a cold time of year with expected temperatures ranging between 12C and -3C. We were also told to expect “some days of wind, rain, mist and frost,” with slight hope of bright sunny days. With Lagos temperature hovering around 32C, our bodies needed major adjustments to acclimatize to the new temperature. The somewhat bleak prospect was made bearable by the reception of the friendly team of Janet Barker, International Fellowship Programme Co-ordinator and Patricia Taylor, International Fellowship Administrator – two charming ladies who ensured that we were comfortably settled into lovely apartments near the Milton Keynes Theatre District. And I must add, an excellent shopping district. To our delight, they had shopped for groceries and other necessaries! It was a great end to the first day. We were certainly off to a good start.

D2 wing of Michael Young Building of The Open University Business School, Milton Keynes, would be our office location for the next few weeks. We promptly settled into our work areas, and the adventure began with Patricia and Janet handing us beautiful bouquets of flowers. As I settled in, I mused on why we are here. We are here because, LBS, a member of GBSN and a predominantly face-to-face learning environment, had set for itself, strategic goals that included broadening educational opportunities through online learning. To achieve these goals, LBS would need faculty grounded in the best use of digital technologies to create content, develop instructional materials, design appropriate instructional strategies, methodologies and determine suitable assessment tools. Needless to say, the fellowship opportunity from OUBS certainly came at the right time when the growing demand for online learning is gradually disrupting the traditional learning environment.

OUBS is a different world from what we are used to at LBS. Settling into the first week, we experienced a lot of whoas. Where are the students? At the back of my mind, there was the lingering look-out for students. We did not encounter any student(s) and the few ‘students’ we noticed in the well-stocked library were from other schools making use of the facilities. Taking a walk around the impressive and extensive campus surrounded by tall oak trees, impressive eponymous building, beautiful landscape, two lakes, rather than seeing students carrying books and slinging heavy backpacks or laptop bags, we encountered the vibrant Open University community sans students.

Designed for independent distance learning, OUBS places emphasis on the provision of appropriate infrastructure, bespoke interactive solutions and robust VLE tools and services to support students that are predominantly online. As Mark informed us when he arrived a few days later, the OUBS method of curriculum development is team based, headed by a Module Team Chair with academics and professionals from other units such as Technology Enhanced Learning, Media Production, Learning and Development, Project Management, Accounting and Finance, amongst others. Utilising a structured stage-gate process of curriculum development, with an ultimate outcome of fit-for-purpose programs, OUBS is a large eco-system of professionals involved in a Moodle-based virtual learning environment (VLE). Attending one of the module team meetings, it was interesting to observe the team dynamics – an interplay of academic and professional staff in a wave-like symphony of co-creation of value. This highly professional team designs online courses for a diverse group of students with age range from 16 to 90s. The oldest student is 94! Interestingly, within this range, exists an unusual demography of hobby or leisure learners, the latter being a significant demographic group in the student population.

Time flies and one week is gone already. Lessons resonating in this early days include the statement by Dr Terry O’Sullivan, the MOOC Programme Director, a pleasant gentleman with a great sense of humour, a MOOC Maestro I must add, that the key to success in online course development is to “Keep it Simple.” Also, Dr Devendra Kodwani, Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching, an engaging personality with a warm smile, set the context of the Fellowship by providing an induction into OUBS approach to online teaching and learning. In his words, “it all begins with the identification of clear learning outcomes.”

I am excited to be an OUBS Fellow and intend to make optimal use of the Fellowship for the benefit of LBS, OUBS, the wider GBSN community, and my professional development. I am certainly looking forward to the next five weeks on the vibrant OUBS Campus of about 8000 staff and more than 250,000 enrolled studentsÉyes, students. Students very visible in the huge volume of activities generated for interactive online learning in just one year – ‘200,000,000 words, 1,000,000 images, 1,800 videos, 1,700 audios and 1,000 interactives’ as we were informed. Yes, now I know where the students are. A great Epiphany![/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]