Resilience in TVET; The Story of a Nigerian Polytechnic

By Abosede Adenike Rufus, Department of Social Sciences, School of Liberal Studies, Yaba College of Technology; Showunmi Omozele Lynda, Department of Social Sciences, School of Liberal Studies, Yaba College of Technology.


In order to remain relevant, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions must adjust their systems to uncertainty. The pandemic has demonstrated that change is here to stay. UNESCO international carried out an assessment on one of her ten innovation hubs domicile in Nigeria just before the outbreak of COVID 19. The result of this self-guided assessment showed that the institution [Yaba College of Technology (YCT)] was ready to innovate in all parts of her operations. This study assessed the YCT’s resilience and ability to adjust to the global health crisis caused by COVID 19.

The paper examined all resources and technologies available and utilized by YCT trainers to ensure continuous teaching/learning process and their coping strategies during the pandemic. Data was gathered through qualitative approach. Thirty-eight interviews with trainers and students were conducted, and the results were content analysed.

The study showed that trainers’ preparedness through blended learning method made it easy to adapt during the pandemic. Teaching and learning were aided by the use of mobile phones and social media during this period. Despite the challenges of power supply and network issues, students’ grades were unaffected. TVET institutions are encouraged to stimulate continuous learning and use of technological tools for teaching and learning. As well as building capacity through research among trainers for synergy that will increase their social relevance.

Keywords:  Pandemic, Resilience, Teaching, Learning, Technology


Uncertainty pervades our world today, not only as a result of evolving technology, but also as a result of natural disasters and pandemics. Our ecosystem faces numerous uncertainties that must be overcome for human survival and economic stability. To remain relevant in the global and local space, higher education institutions have overcome challenges both within and outside their ecosystems over time.

In order to remain relevant to their purpose, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions must adapt their systems to uncertainties. The pandemic experience has demonstrated that change is here to stay. As a result, in order to instill resilience, TVET systems must revisit their vision, mission, and goals.

Resilience as a concept have been defined by several scholars to mean the sustained growth that result from a healthy response to stressful situation and not just a recovery from stress (Reich, Zautra, & Hall, 2010) or the interactions between individual behaviour and their environment in a way that create personal growth through available and accessible opportunities( Ungar, 2012).

It was also described as the capacity to ‘bounce back’ despite adversity, and achieve good outcomes, including in education. Luthar, Cicchetti & Becker (2000) described it as a dynamic process. The concept of resilience focus on long term system wellbeing, dynamically planning for, responding to and recovering from unplanned events.

In the face of conflict or crisis, a resilient education system should continue to provide safe, equitable access to quality education services that help learners reinforce or grow their literacy, math, or social and emotional skills. This is accomplished when systems remain adaptable and operational in the face of a major disruption. Resilience is a state of being that is stronger after a major disruption than it was before. Walker and Salt (2012) define resilience as a system’s ability to absorb disturbance and reorganize so that it retains essentially the same

function, structure, and feedbacks while maintaining its identity. It is the ability to withstand shocks while continuing to function normally. As outlined by Brian Walker and David Salt in “Resilience Practice, Building Capacity to Absorb Disturbance and Maintain Function,” their framework focuses on three stages of resilience: Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.

The ability of people, households, communities, countries, and systems to mitigate, adapt to, and recover from shocks and stresses in a way that reduces chronic vulnerability and promotes inclusive growth is defined as resilience by USAID (USAID, 2012). Their resilience programming focuses on identifying, supporting, and enhancing a variety of capacities, assets, networks, and resources that support well-being outcomes, including learning, in the face of adversity. Theirs was an inherently strengths-based approach that seeks to capitalize on opportunities for innovation, adaptation, and existing capacities already present in contexts of adversity.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the COVID-19 pandemic kept over 1.5 billion students, or 89.4% of total enrolled learners, out of school in 165 countries in April 2020. While, according to Bertling et al. (2020), the unprecedented disruption to education has piqued the interest of policymakers, educators, researchers, and the general public in understanding how education systems responded to the pandemic and how students’ learning experiences have changed. Higher education institutions are key drivers of UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (quality education), so academic continuity must be maintained even when normal circumstances are disrupted.

As a medium of communication with students, several teaching methods have been discussed. The traditional face-to-face learning, blended learning (a combination of physical and online learning), and virtual learning (online). Blended learning is defined by Bonk and Graham (2005) as a system that combines “face-to-face instruction with computer-mediated instruction.” This system has always represented an alternative to traditional teaching/learning and training, leading to the development of procedures to demonstrate its quality (Rekkedal, 2006) until 2020, when all educational institutions were required to move online during the lockdown.

E-learning has become widely used in all kinds of education (traditional and formal education, continuous education and corporate training) because of its characteristics such as flexibility, richness, resource-sharing and cost-effectiveness. Ally (2002) describe online learning as involving “the use of the Internet to access learning materials; to interact with the content, instructor, and other learners; and to obtain support during the learning process, in order to acquire knowledge, to construct personal meaning, and to grow from the learning experience.” Bonk & Graham, (2002) found that although online learning is favoured as enjoyable and flexible; however at most learning occurred in the residential face-to-face phase.

Chandra and Fisher (2009) found that web-based learning environment has been evaluated as convenient, accessible, promoted autonomy of learning, promoted positive interactions between peers during web-based lessons, enhanced enjoyment and regarded as clear, easy to follow and understandable.

Moreover, students preferred asking questions to teacher as face to face instead of asking through email (Chandra and Fisher, 2009). Rovai, (2002) noted that learners’ computer literacy and time management are crucial in distance learning contexts and concluded that such factors are meaningful in online classes. This is supported by Selim (2007) that learners need to possess time management skills and computer skills necessary for effectiveness in e- learning and blended learning.

Because of its characteristics such as flexibility, richness, resource sharing, and cost-effectiveness, e-learning has become widely used in all types of education (traditional and formal education, continuous education, and corporate training).

According  to Ally (2002), online learning entails “using the Internet to access learning materials; interacting with the content, instructor, and other learners; and obtaining support during the learning process, in order to acquire knowledge, construct personal meaning, and grow from the learning experience.” According to Bonk and Graham (2002), while online learning is favored as enjoyable and flexible, the majority of learning occurs in the residential face-to-face phase.

Marriot, and Selwyn (2004) showed learners expressing their preference for face-to-face due to its facilitation of social interaction and communication skills acquired from classroom environment. Their preference for the online session was only in as far as it complemented the traditional face- to-face learning. Learners in a study by Osgerby (2013) had positive perceptions of blended learning but preferred face-to-face with its step-by-stem instruction.

Beard, Harper and Riley (2004) shows that some learners are successful while in a personal interaction with teachers and peers thus prefer face-to-face in the blend. Kelley & Gorham, (2009) found that teacher presence in face-to-face sessions lessens psychological distance between them and the learners and leads to greater learning. This is because there are verbal aspects like giving praise, soliciting for viewpoints, humor, etc and non-verbal expressions like eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, etc which make teachers to be closer to learners psychologically.

Studies comparing blended learning with traditional face-to-face have indicated that learners perform equally well in blended learning and their performance is unaffected by the delivery method (Kwak, Menezes, & Sherwood, 2013). In another study, learning experience and performance are known to improve when traditional course delivery is integrated with online learning (Stacey & Gerbic, 2007).

Such improvement as noted may be an indicator of blended learning effectiveness but the online learning are not without its own challenges which form a crucial part of the learning process. Venkataraman (2020) raised issues on time management, learners lacking productive communication skills, distraction at home, the lack of human interaction, the absence of a teacher and an inability to discuss it with their peers, students may often get upset among others.

Educational institutions have been able to respond to a crisis and continue to provide uninterrupted services through adaptation and adjustment. Resilience for educational institution can then be described as a quality of being able to return quickly to a previously good condition after facing disruptions that would become a matter of survival for the educational institutions.

Although the phenomenon of the resilient organization had been discussed among academics scholars such as Duchek (2020), Bertling, Rojas, Alegre, & Faherty (2020), yet research on resilience in higher education in the context of COVID-19 are insufficient. In particular, not much is known about the impact of the sudden and unexpected transition from face-to-face to online learning on academic continuity.  Hence, this study assess YCT’s resilience and ability to adjust during the pandemic.


Study Area

Yaba College of Technology a TVET institution in Lagos, Nigeria was one of the ten UNESCO innovation hubs in 2019. She is usually described as the cradle of higher learning in Nigeria because she was the first higher institution established in the nation. She had undergone series of uncertainties that had built her resilience in time past. A self-guided assessment was conducted by UNESCO in 2019, the results of her guided self-assessment showed her readiness to innovate in all aspects of her operations.

YCT incorporates resilience into her organizational structure through the Flexible Skills Development Centre and introduced blended learning approach for trainers before the pandemic. The Centre provided training for academic staff in conjunction with commonwealth of learning (COL) on online teaching and encouraged blended learning before the advent of Covid 19. This place her in a strategic position at the time of the global lockdown.

Research Design

The current study was qualitative in nature, eliciting information on the Preparedness, Response, and teaching and learning strategies during covid. Participants were asked for their experience, communication platforms, participation and challenges encounter during the pandemic. In-depth interviews were conducted to assess the resources and technologies utilized by YCT trainers to help students build resilience, as well as how they coped throughout the pandemic.

The Interviews lasted between 15 and 30 minutes and were audiotaped. Audiotapes were subsequently transcribed verbatim and qualitative thematic content analysis (Sandelowski, 2000). The preliminary coding scheme was developed by the principal investigator. This coding scheme facilitated the identification of thematic areas.


A convenience sample of thirty–eight participants were recruited from academic staff (18) and students (20) of YCT. Academic staff were approached in their offices and students after lectures by trained and experienced   researchers and invited to participate in the study (complete an interview). Participants were informed about the purpose of the research. Those who agreed to participate were interviewed in the comfort of their offices while students were taken to a quiet office for interviews.


Socio-Demographic Characteristics

About 47.4% participants were female (13.2% trainers and 34.2% students) while about 42.7% were male (39.5% trainers and 13.2% students). Overall participant age range between 21 and 50 (trainers between 30-50 and student 21-29). About 70% were Yoruba, 18.4% Igbo and 10.5% were from other ethnic groups.

Trainers had the minimum of a Masters’ degree in their various specialization while students were graduating student at the Higher National Diploma level from Science, Environmental, Technology, Art and Liberal studies. Analysis of the interview transcripts revealed four main themes related to resilience in YCT: (1) Trainers preparedness and blended learning, (2) application/ technology used during COVID (3) online participation and student performance (4) challenges encountered during online learning.

Theme 1: Trainers preparedness and blended learning

All trainers were academic staff of YCT most of them voluntarily responded to a call for training under the Centre for Flexible Skills and Development (FSD) prior Covid 19. This training was conducted by COL in collaboration with FSD on online training. Almost 95% of respondents saw the call and participated in the online training. But only about 13% implemented the blended teaching method.

I saw the memo for the online training in the HOD’s office and called the number on it to indicate my interest. I was added to a group where details of the training were shared. I participated in online training using my phone and laptop. It was fun learning alternative teaching method. I returned to class and started the blended learning approach. I sent related videos links to students before classes. I asked that assignment be submitted to my email address. So when management sent the memo that all lectures should move on line during the global lockdown I was happy. I was happy because the stress of travelling in Lagos traffic was out at least for the time being”.  Female Trainer 40years

I have but the training and I participated in the online training with COL, but I did not apply what I learnt during the training because I felt the training was to be used in the future. So the directive to move from physical (face to face) class to the online class was a sudden shift for me rather than a transition because I didn’t do blended learning with the students before the Lockdown”. Male Trainer 45years

For those who did not participate in the online training:

I was not aware of the training because I was undergoing a course outside Lagos state. But the blended learning was not strange to me, it is been used in the institution where I am currently pursuing my PhD programme. The directive for virtual teaching during the lockdown was expected. It was easy on my part because I had participated in several virtual trainings”. Male Trainer 50 years

I was not aware of any online training pre and post COVID, neither did I participate in any, I only saw the directive for virtue teaching, from the management during the global lockdown. The virtual teaching for me was a total shift from the physical face to face to virtual learning”. Female Trainer 49years.

Two of the advantages identified by trainers were that training was free and conducted online, which can be done at any time in the comfort of the office or home. The transition from physical to online classes seems seamless for those who took the course and applied it to their teaching style while for those that participated without application as well as those that did not participate in the training, it was a huge shift that resulted in a little challenge that lasted for few weeks of virtual learning.

Theme 2: Students’ Participation and Performance

Trainers and students were asked about their online experience which include participation and performance. Some trainers said;

Students participation was encouraging; they were very active during the virtual class but their results were not commensurate to their performance. As most of them did not do well in at the end of the semester. Subsequent semester results were better.” Female trainer 49 years.

Students were eager because they were more technological incline so they were actively involved for the first few weeks. Their results were not that bad but would have been better” Male trainer 45years.

Students were not available for online classes, their participation was poor, in a class of about 200 you only find 10-20 online at once. Their results was poor and nothing to write home about“. Male trainer 40 years.

Students’ responses were that;

I attend classes online although there were times when I get carried away while in class and attend to other things. But on the average I attended and participated well. My results were okay, I have notes and voice notes for revision.” Female student 28 years

“I try as much as possible to attend online classes, although it was new but it was fun. Coming online to meet with friends and course mates after weeks of no physical contact. I have to get my phone charged nights before class in order to participate. For my online class made life easier as you can take comfortable position while receiving lectures. My performance was okay in the first semester but was better in subsequent semester when we had a blend of online classes and face to face lectures”. Male student 30 years.

“I joined most classes for attendance purpose, the notes were always available for one to go through. I used the period to acquire skills in fashion. My performance was kind of fair because we had just few weeks for revision before the exams”. Female student 23 years.

Overall students’ participation was averagely good at the onset because of the excitement of the new method but participation dropped when lectures prolonged and different challenges arose in the course of the virtual classes.

Theme 3: Teaching Application

Trainers and students were asked about the application used during COVID for online learning.

Some lecturers said:

I used email and WhatsApp for teaching. The mail was for notes and assignment while the WhatsApp was for communication during online classes”. Female trainer 49 years

I used WhatsApp, Telegram and email for lectures because they are common applications an average student has on their smart phone”. Female trainer 42 years

Initially I started with zoom, one of the students helped with meeting schedules, while google classroom was used for assignment and WhatsApp was used for voice lecture later”. Male trainer 45 years old

” I used Telegram and WhatsApp to send notes to students and also make live audio…” Female trainer 32 years.

Students said they flow with trainers choice but made suggestions about application that was better fit for them. Here are some of their comments;

Although we had a group for class where we share information before the advent of COVID but we ask each lecturer for their preferred platform before lecture started. Most of the classes were on WhatsApp, some used Google classroom, and some used Telegram. Male student 27 years.

“That is the work of the class governor, I just join the class using the provided link for each course. Most of classes were on WhatsApp and only a few telegram”. Female student 25 years

Most of our online classes were on WhatsApp and Telegram. Zoom was used rarely during the lockdown”. Female student 24 years

The use of WhatsApp, Telegram, Email, Google classroom and Zoom were the commonly used application for teaching during the lockdown for virtual learning.

Theme 4: Challenges Associated With Virtual Learning.

Participants identified a number of issues related to the success of the virtual learning. Challenges mentioned include: Network issues, access to data, and power supply among others. The trainers reported that:

When I used zoom meeting for lecture only a few could join the class and on the WhatsApp platform they complain about access to data. Some gave excuse of not having android phone”. Male trainer 48 years.

I had issues with using the voice notes on telegram initially but with time and continuous usage I overcame the challenge”. Male trainer 45 years

… On my part, the analysis part of my course and the phonetic symbols were not easily accessible. “Male trainer 50 years

I had a little challenge using the new teaching methods but I caught up later” Male trainer 45 years

On the part of the students certain concerns were raised:

I could not concentrate during the online learning, there are times I tried to follow classes but discover that a lot of people had made comments that are not relevant to the topic under consideration”. Female student 25 years

” I do not have issues with data because I sell jewelry, my challenge is keeping up with morning classes, at times I am still on my bed when classes start.” Female student 23 year

” I have to arrange for money for data in order to attend lecture online. Even the rate at which data get exulted is alarming”. Male student 27 years

Most participants raised concerns about how they felt during the online learning

The process can be frustrating, can you imagine during one of the online classes a student was seen with a tape rule on her neck in a seam mistress shop. Which shows that she just sign in and went ahead to do something else. At times one will ask questions and nobody will respond until towards the end of the class. Students do not seem to understand most of the things taught online. We had to teach all over again everything taught online when physical classes resumed.” Male trainer 45 years

Another participant explained, that “the virtual classes were counterproductive. The physical classes were avenue to redo everything taught online during COVID” female trainer 42 years

I found out that after the virtual thing the students did not understand a whole lot of what was been taught and they were lagging behind. Online learning was a waste of time for me because when physical classes resumed we had to start all over again. That virtual thing was just a waste”. Male trainer 40 years.

Most students preferred the physical face to face method to virtual classes although readymade notes, videos and voice notes were available at their disposal. The students had their comments:

I really enjoyed the online classes but one cannot compare it to the physical class. You are strictly on your own during classes. At times one will not know how to ask questions about the topic taught and there is no one to further explain”. Female student 23 years

For the sake of the students physical contact is better but for me online was good. I had my time but the students do not know how manage their time well”“. Female trainer 49 years

Although everyone one agreed that virtual learning has come to stay but the preference for physical classes are strong.


The preparedness of trainers through the online learning with common wealth of learning was advantageous to trainers.  Trainers  who  participated  in  the  online  learning  and  applied  the knowledge of blended learning has a seamless transition from the physical classes to blended learning to online learning. While those that participated without application of blended learning had a sudden switch from physical classes to virtual learning.

The transition from physical contact to virtual was a huge step that commensurate the preparedness of the college management which on few proactive trainers keyed into as well as the resilience of other academic staff exposure during post graduate studies resulted in the quick recovery of the institution after COVID and during post COVID.

Although every participant acknowledged that virtual learning has come to stay, their preference for the conventional face to face hinders its total acceptance. This is in line with Marriot, and Selwyn (2004) finding that learners expresses their preference for face-to-face due to its facilitation of social interaction and communication skills acquired from classroom environment.

That student preference for the online session was only in as far as it complemented the traditional face-to-face learning. It is also similar to Osgerby (2013) that shows that learners had positive perceptions of blended learning but preferred face-to-face with its step-by-step instruction. And Beard, Harper and Riley (2004) findings that some learners are successful while in a personal interaction with teachers and peers thus prefer face-to-face in the blend.

The preference for physical contact is also related to Kelley & Gorham, (2009) findings that teacher presence in face-to-face sessions lessens psychological distance between them and the learners and leads to greater learning. This is because there are verbal aspects like giving praise, soliciting for viewpoints, humor, etc. and non-verbal expressions like eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, etc. which make teachers to be closer to learners psychologically.

Student performance was relatively fair although there was a decline when compared with the traditional face to face learning but it pick up gradually when there was a blend of both virtual and physical classes. This result is in line with Kwak, Menezes, & Sherwood, (2013) that found learners performing equally well in blended learning and their performance is unaffected by the delivery method. 

It is also similar to Stacey & Gerbic, (2007) findings that learning experience and performance are known to improve when traditional course delivery is integrated with online learning. The initial active participation of students during virtual learning wore out overtime in the course of the study. The distraction associated with the unfamiliar learning alternative and online learning could be responsible for the excitement experienced by students that later lead their online presence but absenteeism during class.

Challenges encountered by both trainers and students had its impact on the learning process and eventually performance. Performance initially decline as comparison was between physical classes and virtual classes. But when the blended learning was introduced performance moved from fair to better from both trainers and students perception. The issues of lack of smart phone, access to data and shortage power among of students’ reveal the poverty level among undergraduates.

Student not responding or asking questions during online learning and time management were salient point raised during the interview. This result is similar to Chandra and Fisher (2009) that students preferred asking questions to teacher as face to face instead of asking through email. It is also Rovai, (2003) findings that learners’ computer literacy and time management are crucial in distance learning contexts and concluded that such factors are meaningful in online classes.


The global pandemic prompted a lot of innovation in learning and teaching, especially in higher institutions of learning. Yaba College of Technology, as an institution of higher learning, was already prepared for uncertain times due to the blended learning that she had already implemented prior to the global pandemic and lockdown as a result of the pandemic. The epidemic put the durability of all institutions, particularly institutions of higher learning, to the test, and most, if not all, were forced to shift away from traditional methods of learning and teaching that needed physical presence and toward online learning and teaching.

Even though the preparedness was not total as most trainers did not participate in the training and some of those that did the training did not apply it, therefore challenges were encountered that did not make the transition to virtual learning as smooth as it was supposed to be because it had initiated blended learning before the Pandemic, YCT was able to remain resilient in the face of uncertainty. This allowed for a familiar transition towards nontraditional methods of learning and teaching on the part of the trainers and students such as virtual learning and teaching systems.

Trainers should be trained and retrained in the use of blended learning by their respective institutions, virtual learning facilities should be provided to trainers, and continuous innovations in the area of blended learning, virtual learning, and other nontraditional means of learning and teaching should be encouraged in order to prepare for and remain resilient and relevant in the face of any other uncertain time.


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