The use of technologies such as the internet, email, chat, newsgroups, texts, audio, and video conferencing to provide education to learners at their own pace through computer networks is defined as online learning (Dhull &Sakshi, 2017). Teaching methods have grown and changed greatly throughout time. Until the early twentieth century, students were solely taught through lectures and literature. Before this time, the only alternative option for practical teaching and learning methods was to employ schools and museums (Cockerill, et at., 2015). Students were also taken on informative field trips to get a personal look at what they were studying in class. The invention of radio transmission and recording in the 1920s and 1930s ushered in a new era in education. At the time, the "audiovisual instruction movement," which included educational videos with sound, was a cutting-edge method of teaching and learning. Instructional television began to play a larger role in classroom education after the formation of public broadcasting stations in the 1950s. Computer-assisted instruction for classroom usage was developed in the 1970s, and education began to focus on "educational technology." By the early 1980s, computers were being used in almost all-American schools for educational purposes (Reiser, 2001). Today, the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with the busy schedules of most students has led to growing demand in computer-based learning or what is now commonly known as online learning across the globe.
Ghana, a developing country in West Africa, finds itself in a similar situation. Though Formal education in Ghana during the British Colonial administration was to serve a variety of purposes ranging from preaching the gospel to forming an elite group to administer the country, today, education in Ghana is aimed towards training citizens with the necessary skills to meet the demands of industries. Ghanaian education today follows a six-three-three-four (6-3-3-4) framework, with six years of elementary education, three years of junior high school, three years of senior high school, and four years of university education beginning at the age of six (Adu-Gyamfi et al. 2016). Students who pass the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) can go on to universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, nursing training institutes, or other tertiary institutions to further their studies. However, over the years there have been various reforms in Ghana’s educational system.
The various improvements to Ghana's education system have only served to aid in the development of a more successful educational model in Ghana (Quist, 2003). However, observing how teaching and learning are carried out in Ghanaian schools is just as important as observing how education should be mirrored in the country. Ghana, like many other countries, must respond to the growing demand for remote or online education as a means of closing the country's education gap, especially during the current pandemic. Researchers in Ghana are paying attention to online learning. While some scholars have concentrated on the advantages of online learning in Ghana, others have emphasized the difficulties that this new method of teaching and learning presents (Edwin & Yaw 2016; Narh et al. 2019).
In Ghana, a few academics have looked into students' opinions of online learning (Edwin and Yaw, 2016; Narh et al. 2019). Edwin and Yaw (2016) conducted a study to look into the effectiveness of distance and online education in Ghana. They discovered that distance and online education has improved the quality and accessibility of higher education in Ghana, resulting in significant increases in productivity in both the public and private sectors of the economy over time. They further argued that online education programs typically provide access to postsecondary education, convenience, flexibility, and better knowledge and staff efficiency. Narh et al. (2019) examined the challenges Ghanaian students face when using virtual platforms or e-learning from the perspectives of students' capacities, institutional perspectives, and external factors such as the environment or context, and found that students face the following challenges when learning on virtual platforms: ineffective orientation of students by service providers, systems failures, and a lack of resources. In terms of Ghanaian students' attitudes about online learning, surveys have revealed that the majority of Ghanaian students have negative attitudes against it (Asunka, 2008 and Tagoe, 2012). Asunka (2008) surveyed some university students in Ghana to determine the students’ perceptions of online learning and discovered that students have a negative attitude towards online learning especially based on the collaborative and independent learning approach. Tagoe (2012), however, argued that Ghanaian students preferred hybrid learning approaches such as web supplemented courses to fully web-dependent or online courses, according to
The impact of COVID-19 on Ghana's educational system has heightened the need to improve online learning in Ghana. According to the United Nations' report on Ghana's response to the impact of COVID-19 on education, shortly after school closures were announced, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ghana Education Service (GES) developed the COVID-19 Emergency Support Provision of Distance and Remote Learning Systems Solutions, which was followed by the launch of distance and online learning platforms and the adoption of lessons broadcast on Ghana Learning Television (GLTV) for 1 million students. Though there have been some studies on the use of e-learning in Ghana much of these studies have focused heavily on the challenges associated with this new way of learning (Asunka, 2008; Narh et al., 2012 and Tagoe; 2012) with little emphasis on the potential for using e-learning to promote education in Ghana a more serious omission in the extant literature is the use of blended e-learning approaches in Ghana and how this method of teaching and learning can be used to close the educational inequalities in Ghana, especially during the pandemic.
This study, therefore, seeks to fill that gap by surveying some Ghanaian students in the University of Cape Coast (UCC) on their experiences with using e-learning platforms in continuing their education during the pandemic, identifying the challenges they faced, and suggesting ways to promote e-learning in Ghanaian universities by testing the effects of using a blended e-learning approach to teaching certain lessons on the learning achievement of students. To this end, the study seeks to achieve the following objectives; to outline the challenges University of Cape Coast students faced with using e-learning platforms during the pandemic; to test whether there is a relationship between ICT training input and the ability to use e-learning platforms effectively for learning during the pandemic; to compare students’ scores before and after taking a lesson in Public Relations (PR) through a blended e-learning format and assess students’ satisfaction with using the blended e-learning format
At the end of the study, the following questions will be answered:
What challenges did UCC students face with the use of E-learning platforms for continuing education during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Is there a relationship between ICT proficiency and the ability to use eLearning platforms effectively for learning?
What are the differences in students’ scores (Pre-test and post-test) after taking a lesson in PR through a blended e-learning approach?
What was the level of the students’ satisfaction with taking a lesson on PR through the blended e-learning format?
The following hypotheses will also be tested at the end of the study:
i. H1: Students with less ICT training before studying online during the pandemic are likely to face challenges with using eLearning platforms for learning.
ii. H0: There is no significant statistical association between having prior ICT training and students’ ability to study online effectively during the pandemic.
iii. H2: Students have a high level of learning achievement after learning a lesson in Public Relations through the blended e-learning approach.
This study is significant because it aids in determining the efficacy of blended e-learning to improve students' academic achievement in universities in Ghana. The research also contributes to a better understanding of instructional design and encourages teachers to embrace e-learning platforms in the teaching and learning process to improve efficiency. The research also makes a contribution to the body of knowledge on the advantages of e-learning in Ghana's educational system. Finally, the study also serves as a source of reference for future researchers who seek to explore this subject further. In this sense, the findings will add to the pool of data needed by other educational researchers as they attempt to build interventions to address educational issues such as the challenges associated with learning via digital technologies.