The interview of the Month: Bakary Diallo, Ph.D, Rector of the African Virtual University
- We hear a lot about skills gaps in regard to university graduates and the labour market. What would you say are the main contributing factors that lead to this disparity?
There are two. The first is the gap between university programmes and needs of the labour market. Universities that are not currently doing so should review their programmes by adopting innovative practices such as micro-credentials or badges, students’ analytics, ePortfolios, and skills needed for the 21st century. They should do this in collaboration with employers. The second factor is related to what is being termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the new skills sets that come with it. This is quite a new phenomenon, and it will take some time for universities to be able set up programmes and train graduates with the right skills.
- From your point of view, which academic fields, businesses or industries suffer the most because of this, especially in Kenya?
In Africa, almost all academic fields, businesses and industries are affected. However, I would say the most acutely influenced one is information technology because of the emergence of artificial intelligence.
- What is an ePortfolio, and how is it different from a CV or a graduate certificate?
I used ePortofolios in my classes back in 2004 when I was a lecturer at the Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa in Canada. At that time, it was an electronic folder with students’ artefacts. The ePortofolio was then assessed as part of the learners’ formal evaluation. The concept has evolved since then; now it also serves as a tool that allows students and graduates to share their talents and skills, especially with employers.
- How, in your opinion, does having an ePortfolio benefit a student and graduate?
An ePortolio can benefit students and graduates in many ways. It can help them acquire additional skills in planning, organizing, and communicating, as well as in information technology. It also provides the ability to share their talents quickly and effectively.
- Who stands to benefit from receiving access to an ePortfolio, i.e. how will this be useful to employers?
As an employer, I want to know more about a candidate, beyond the formal interview process and letters from referees. An ePortofilio can be an added advantage: it can actually allow me to have a sense of candidates’ abilities and how they would fit in a position. As mentioned above, an ePortofolio can also serve as an formal or informal evaluation tool for lecturers.
- What do you think are the most crucial steps that still need to be negotiated for a successful implementation of EPICA’s strategy, such as overcoming technological requirements, increasing the visibility of the initiative, improving funding etc.?
It will certainly be important to have a user-friendly interface that allows easy management of the ePortfolio. Increasing visibility will be key, but perhaps it will also require coming up with an adoption strategy. This means convincing institutions, students and graduates about the advantages of the EPICA ePortoflio.