As the world is getting increasingly globalised as occasioned by rapid advancements in technology, so is the need for continuous skills enhancement on the part of the working population. What it takes to cope with the demands of the ever dynamic workplace in today’s tech-driven world has kept changing. Therefore, a worker who refuses to up-skill in line with the changing demands of the workplace will soon become obsolete. This has an implication for workers’ training and re-training towards skills enhancement which has some elements of digital skills acquisition. Meanwhile, cloud-based technology is increasingly being used in the education sector, and it is also considered to hold much promise for workers’ education. Cloud computing systems provide a variety of opportunities for content delivery, as well as providing limitless access to information over the internet. This chapter, therefore, explores the workability of workers’ education through the use of cloud computing systems, particularly in Africa in the face of her obvious challenges relating to a high level of poverty, epileptic power supply and poor internet connectivity, among others.
- workers’ education
- cloud computing
- skills development
- technology in Africa
The world is becoming increasingly globalised as characterised by rapid information and communication technology. It has brought a change not only in the knowledge and skill requirements for most jobs across the world, but also brought about a huge change in the knowledge and skills required to meet up the demands of the twenty-first-century workplace. Therefore, it has become necessary for workers to continue to update their skills through on-the-job and off-the-job training programmes. More so, the knowledge and skills acquired through the regular schooling system are no longer sufficient to cope with the ever-growing demands of the world of work. For instance, even the patterns and trends of employment have changed over time, which is also connected to rapid advancements in technology . It has increased the need to repackage workers’ education in Africa to meet up with what is obtainable in the rest of the world. Newer skills needed to perform better and faster on the job, are emerging daily in the world of work as a result many skills becoming obsolete . For this reason, it has become necessary for workers to continue to upgrade their knowledge and skills for optimum effectiveness on their jobs, and to continue to be relevant to their employers, as well as compete well with their counterparts across the world. Indeed today’s world is a global village, occasioned by increasing globalisation and advancements in technology. Thus, the continent of Africa is faced with the huge task of enhancing the capacity of its workforce towards the development of the continent.
Since technology keeps advancing and also affecting the various job roles and working skills, so it is necessary to come up with specialised workers’ education programmes that meet the regular up-skilling needs of the workforce. Similarly, this kind of education must have some elements of digital skills acquisition , which will make it possible for workers to continue to take advantage of technology for further training and re-training. However, this kind of education can effectively be provided when hinged on the principle of lifelong learning . Therefore, an approach to workers education that maximises the affordances of the latest technologies, and that is based on the principle of lifelong learning is considered effective in this wise.
Interestingly, cloud computing is playing an important role in the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) today. Cloud computing simply refers to a combined system of networks, servers and computers tolls used to complete tasks over the internet . Cloud computing systems have been used in various fields, including education, to deliver online instructions and they are considered capable of being used to deliver a high-quality learning experience, interaction, as well as knowledge and skills sharing within the shortest time possible [5, 6]. Cloud computing holds much promise for workers’ online training because it is a new technology that can store data on cloud servers, which could be accessed anywhere and anytime on the internet using a digital device like a mobile phone. Similarly, cloud computing technology uses low-cost materials and equipment to construct an online platform within a short period of time, and it is very flexible in terms of deployment capacity . All of these, and the fact that cloud computing provides rapid and reliable access to resources via the internet, make it a potential platform for floating online training programmes for different categories of workers in the African continent.
2. Need for workers’ training and retraining in Africa
The heavy presence of technology in today’s world and its consequent effects in the way things are done in various industries and organisations, have brought about a need for continuous training and retraining towards capacity enhancement of the human resource. For instance, see Figure 1, which shows the various things that people use their mobile phones for. It is worthy of note, however, that while globalisation and advancements in ICT have benefitted workers in most developed countries in terms of providing improved knowledge and skills and creating new job opportunities, the opposite has been the case in most developing countries. Several countries in Africa, for instance, have recorded a large number of workers’ redundancy and retrenchment due to their inability to meet up the demands of the rapidly changing job description . Many years back, researchers [7, 8] projected that a time would come when machines would be made to do the jobs primarily meant for humans; while this has not been totally true in most developed countries, it has indeed been the experience of workers in many developing countries. Yet, many more jobs may still be displaced due to a huge shift in the division of labour between humans and machines .
Today’s workplace is a lot different from what it used to be. For instance, the world of work has gradually entered into what was predicted many years back regarding the adoption of technology, and how this can transform tasks, jobs, as well as skills . However, it has also been noted that with the heavy presence of technology in today’s place of work, as adopted by many companies, there also lies the possibility of the emergence of new roles requiring new skills. This has made some notable soft skills such as active listening, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility to be in very high demand in the twenty-first-century workplace. This, therefore, suggests that there is generally higher demand for certain soft skills; just as some other skills are gradually going into extinction. This has serious implications on the knowledge and skills base of most workers, as workers who have access to training and retraining opportunities and maximise such soft skills will have an edge over others . Therefore, any worker who will continue to retain his or her job or get new ones must continue to update his/her skills.
More so, we live in a globalised economy characterised by speedy, innovative and quality service delivery towards optimum customer satisfaction. This has also serious implications on the capacity of human resource. Aside from improvements in knowledge and skills of workers, therefore, there is also an expected transformation in their work attitudes, work habits, work choices and preferences, as well as work styles, among others. While many workers in the developed countries of the world have been able to go through this process of transformation by leveraging on the affordances of ICTs for continuous skills enhancement, many of their counterparts in most developing countries have not, particularly on the African continent. This gap is said to likely continue to increase except African countries, as well as other developing countries invest massively in continuous workers’ education, training and skills enhancement towards higher rates of innovation and productivity .
The times have changed, and there are now a wide range of capabilities needed to cope with the emerging technological advancement, particularly as it affects the workplace. There is thus an urgent need for the labour force in Africa generally to be provided with knowledge, information and skills needed for coping with the ever-changing job roles and demands. It is obvious that Africa like the rest of the world is experiencing immense technological advancements, which is changing every facet of human existence. Therefore, the manner in which people go about their daily lives, as well as work has greatly been altered by the advancements in technology and cannot be overemphasised. This also has implications for increasing demand for new skills and competencies to continuously remain relevant in the ever-changing world.
On the account of the latest technologies, there are now newer ways of doing things and newer ways of solving human problems. We live in the information age where machines are used to do virtually everything, especially in the workplace. Thus, it is no longer sufficient for anyone to rely on working skills acquired many years ago to tackle the job demands of the twenty-first-century . For this reason, providers of workers’ education or training programmes must become more proactive in reviewing the content of workers education programmes, and particularly work towards the provision of specialised workers’ training programmes that prepare workers for the changing work environment. Thus, the educational system in most African countries does not fully address the needs of workers . For this reason, workers in Africa are considered to have special education requirements, especially in the area of work-related skills.
Meanwhile, the recent outbreak of the global pandemic of COVID-19 has given popularity to remote working, where workers are expected to work from home. Increasing advancements in technology, particularly in connectivity and communication technology, has laid the needed foundation for this new phase of work globally. Gone are the days when workers must converge at a specific location before they can perform their assigned tasks or work for an organisation. Nowadays, workers can work not only from home, but they can also work from anywhere . The workplace, is, therefore, becoming increasingly dynamic, which is not likely to stop, with the current pace of advancements in technology. Thus, as technology continues to advance, so will the demands of the workplace, which has implications for the acquisition of new and marketable skills.
Over time, the school system has failed to transmit the skills, attitudes and abilities needed to function optimally in the workplace. This has shifted the attention of those responsible for training programmes to on-the-job training, particularly, effective and less costly approaches compared to institutional education. The kind of training that takes place at an ordinary workplace, making use of the job itself as part of the instruction given in the course of the training programme, as well as a means to acquiring practical work-related skills. This calls for repackaged and specialised training programmes which equip workers in Africa with skills necessary for the demands, as well as the peculiarities of the twenty-first-century workplace.
Interestingly, given the evolving nature of employment patterns, as well as continuous advancements in technology, a ‘rejuvenated and repackaged workers’ education’ was suggested . This suggestion was made with particularly emphasis on the need to remove the various barriers to continuous and lifelong learning, and skills enhancements for different categories of workers in Africa. It is believed that by so doing, workers will be able to effectively and efficiently carry on with whatever new responsibilities or challenges, as well as new job roles in the ever-changing and highly tech-driven twenty-first-century workplace.
3. Workers’ education, the principle of lifelong learning and technology
Having established the fact that technology now drives a typical twenty-first-century workplace, and the implication of this on continuous knowledge and skills improvements on the part of workers, it has equally become imperative to consider what kind of educational programmes will be most needed for workers, particularly in the African context. One fact which cannot be overemphasised is that whatever kind of educational programmes provided for workers in the face of continuous advancement in technology must also be continuous in nature. The reason for this is not farfetched, since such workers’ education is expected to equip workers with the necessary skills for meeting up with the demands of the ever-changing workplace as a result of rapid advancements in technology.
Thus, since workers’ education has to be continuous in nature, it is also necessary that it be hinged on the principle of lifelong learning. By so doing, workers will be provided with opportunities to continue to learn throughout life; updating both knowledge and skills. This will allow individual workers to deal more confidently with socio-technology changes, as well as continue to seek knowledge throughout life independently and passionately . The principle of lifelong learning is known to be important in providing opportunities for the enhancement of knowledge base, skills, as well as other competencies. Designing educational programmes that are based on the principle of lifelong learning, therefore, help to produce individuals who are continually relevant and active, since they are provided with opportunities to learn throughout their lifetime.
Lifelong learning is considered a viable framework for achieving sustainable national development . This is considered so because it is believed that any nation that will truly develop must provide continuous learning opportunities for its citizenry which is crucial for producing self-reliant individuals. Lifelong learning is the learning that takes place throughout life. It is said to be a blend of formal, informal and non-formal education, which focuses on the provision of learning opportunities from birth till death . This means that through lifelong learning, educational opportunities are provided to all categories of people beyond the four walls of a classroom or what is known as the conventional or regular school system. This is why lifelong learning is seen as truly crucial and important for human capital development and enhancement.
For a worker, learning does not terminate after school. As a matter of fact, for most professions, the end of school only marks the beginning of learning for a worker. This is so because most of the time the academic knowledge acquired in schools does not guarantee effectiveness on the job. For this reason, employers of labour always invest a lot to provide training or orientation programmes for new entrants in every organisation. Aside from orientation courses provided for new workers, most organisations also provide refresher training or on-the-job training programmes for their staff from time to time. This is always done in a bid to keep them updated and make them continuously relevant in their field. For this reason, workers’ education itself is a lifelong learning process having elements of both intended and unintended learning. This kind of learning could also be on-the-job or off-the-job. For this reason, it is just perfect that efforts made in the direction of providing specialised training programmes for workers in Africa towards knowledge and skills enhancements must be rooted in the principles of lifelong learning .
Workers in Africa need to be provided with opportunities to learn independently to continue to acquire new knowledge and skills. The nature of most job roles today now places on workers a huge demand for the ability to seek relevant information from a variety of sources, the ability to access new ideas, as well as the ability to engage in self-directed learning. A key fact that cannot be overemphasised is that technology has come to stay, not only in the developed world but in the whole world, Africa inclusive. Interestingly, the major thrust of lifelong learning is in the fact that each individual ought to develop a mindset that is open to new ideas, skills, knowledge, attitude and behaviour . More so, a major reason for continuous learning throughout life is not unconnected with the explosion of globalisation aided by rapid advancement in technology. Thus, lifelong learning may not be easily separated from technology.
Meanwhile, in clear terms, the principle of lifelong learning holds that an individual is capable of adjusting to socio-technological changes, as well as seeking knowledge independently throughout life . Thus, if technology has altered the workplace in no little way, as well as placed a huge demand on workers in terms of job skills requirement, this could be an indication that technology could also be a viable means to the continuous improvement or upgrading of workers’ skills. For instance, organisers of workers’ education programmes could take advantage of the latest technologies towards the continuous enhancement of the knowledge and skills of workers. So that as workers are being exposed to limitless access to continuous training and retraining, their ICT skills are also being developed for continuous capacity enhancement. Thus, workers in Africa will be helped to compete well with their counterparts across the world, especially when they are provided with learning opportunities throughout their lifetime. This way, they will continue to update their knowledge and skills, enhance their career opportunities, as well as cope with new job demands.
Therefore, a viable and cost-effective approach to providing specialised workers’ education that is rooted in the principles of lifelong learning could be through the use of the latest technologies. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are considered capable of improving the quality and efficiency of educational and training programmes across the world . ICTs are generally known to play a very useful role in the expansion of learning opportunities to all . Therefore, whenever consideration is being given to equity, access and quality in the provision of learning and training programmes, the use of ICTs to drive or deliver such educational programmes is considered very useful. For this reason, ICTs have impacted the field of learning and training in no little way. As a matter of fact, there has been a growing trend in the integration of ICTs into teaching and training. There are now several new possibilities offered to providers of learning and training programmes that are powered by emerging technologies in our today’s world. This could come in a range of new possibilities and tools, all geared towards providing hands-on and intensive learning-by-doing training courses for different categories of workers, particularly in Africa. For this reason, ICT is said to be changing the face of education generally in developing countries. ICT is capable of complimenting, enriching and transforming education for the better.
Thus, different ways through which technology can facilitate universal access to various forms of learning were highlighted, which include the fact that technology helps to bridge learning divides; supports the development of workers; enhances quality and relevance of learning and training content; strengthen inclusion; as well as improve the administration of learning and training programmes . Interestingly, much evidence of successful integration of ICT in various forms of learning abound across the world – whether in schools located in high-resource or developed countries; schools located in low-resource or developing countries; or for workers’ education and training . Interestingly, the integration of some emerging technologies such as cloud computing has been noted for its ability to open up new learning and teaching opportunities and support lifelong learning [16, 17].
4. Harnessing the potentials of cloud computing for workers’ training
The fact that workers need continuous up-skilling cannot be overemphasised. Yet, workers are those categories of people who are mostly busy either with their jobs, family commitments, religious or other engagements. Since workers’ continuous education is a necessity, so providers of such programmes must arrange device training programmes for workers who do notgo outside their home or even their homecan not access to such training courses. More so, in today’s world, we live a connected life, and in a highly connected society through the help of the Internet . Therefore, through the use of an Internet-enabled computer, or even a mobile phone, we connect with people from far and near, and this has changed the way we communicate, consume and interact with varying degrees of information. So ICT and the Internet have ‘invaded’ and transformed virtually all aspects of our lives, such that we now live and work in an environment which is highly dominated by technology. Thus, technology and the Internet have really come to stay, and they have become very important parts of our everyday lives. Essentially, it is very expedient to take advantage of the latest technologies for driving the acquisition of life and work skills such that people are not disconnected and backward as the world is progressively advancing in the face of rapidly advancing technology. One of the well-known emerging technologies which could be maximised for workers’ education is, therefore, cloud computing.
Cloud computing is an emerging technology amidst others such as new algorithms, Big Data, and the Internet of Things. It is a set of databases that provide information and services which could be accessed remotely over the Internet. Through the use of cloud computing, is it possible to create, store and retrieve information over the Internet using a digital device . Cloud-based technologies have been extensively used by schools and universities across the world, especially in developed countries. Particularly during the emergence of COVID-19, cloud-based technology was extensively used to support e-learning and the transition from traditional lesson delivery to online or virtual lesson delivery .
Various cloud systems used by different educational institutions to communicate and interact with both learners and educators were reviewed and it was found that cloud-based computing systems are cost-effective, easy to use and very reliable . They also found that through cloud-based computing, systems data is accessible over a large network along with enhanced security and privacy. For this reason, cloud computing is capable of being used to provide the delivery of quality and easily accessible online learning and training content. In addition, cloud computing allows multi-users to connect to a cloud platform, data or content at the same time. This means that when training content are uploaded in the cloud, workers from different locations can access such content at the same time.
Meanwhile, the huge benefits of virtualisation technologies and cloud computing to educational and training programmes have been noted . Such that virtualised, more sustainable and efficient training contents or resources are made available to workers through cloud-based applications which can be accessed anywhere and at any time through the internet. Over time and particularly with the emergence of COVID-19, many schools, universities, as well as other educational institutions have adopted cloud computing to offer e-Learning services to their learners. From its various uses for e-Learning, one major advantage of using cloud computing technology is the fact that it offers an interactive online platform whereby instructors can interact with their learners through technology-enhanced learning. Similarly, cloud computing technologies could be used for building the capacity of workers through an interactive online platform whereby the trainer interacts with trainees via a technology-enhanced training session.
Cloud computing is beneficial for online training because it is time-effective; less expensive compared to most conventional training programmes; accessible to various categories of workers; and also beneficial in terms of quality and performance [19, 20]. Some examples of cloud computing applications that have been used for online learning, which could also be maximised for online training include Google’s Gmail, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom platforms . The greatest challenge to the use of cloud computing for learning has been reluctance on the part of users, as well as slow migration from traditional methods . However, when used for online training, this challenge, as well as others could be surmounted through sufficient pre-training and orientation information for both intending trainers and trainees on how to use and interact with cloud systems. Similarly, as it is always the case with the use of technology for any form of learning activity, sufficient support will be provided, most especially to trainees all through the online training session. Also, given the peculiar African situation, users who neither have access to a digital device nor to internet connectivity would need to be provided with the needed support. For this reason, a discussion around ways to make the use of cloud computing technology for workers’ training is very important.
Today, schools, universities, and other educational institutions are using cloud application systems like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and GoogleMeet to connect learners and instructors together for learning . Similarly, cloud-based applications are being accessed in several forms such as the Email services like Gmail and Yahoo mail; Cloud Storage Platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox; and Functional Cloud Applications like Google Docs, Sky drive and . All these provide different possibilities for innovative uses of cloud computing for the purpose of workers’ education in Africa. The integration of cloud computing systems into e-Learning has brought several opportunities into the field of education, particular e-Learning . This indicates that cloud computing systems, if properly harnessed, could also really transform the provision of workers’ education, particularly in Africa. For instance, with cloud computing, data could be accessed anytime and from anywhere. This means that workers’ education and training would no longer be limited to specific locations. Access will no longer be a problem, as different categories of workers will be able to gain access to training and training content at the comfort of their homes. This is really interesting because workers will become indeed reachable from any part of the world through the instrumentality of the internet, together with the use of other technological devices like the mobile phone. Thus, workers’ education will be kept simple and very rich. It was submitted that knowledge, skills, awareness, data, as well as software applications, could be shared, monitored and accessed through cloud computing systems . This has great potential for providing the needed quality in workers education in Africa. More so, as the case always is with using cloud computing systems for e-Learning, when used for workers’ training, the quality of delivery will be greatly enhanced, and more room will be created for interaction between trainers and trainees.
Furthermore, cloud computing systems are known to provide great computing resources and storage capacity. With cloud computing, there is a high storage capacity, as well as efficient computing resources that could be accessed from a wide range of platforms. This is important for workers education and training, as it will be possible for workers to gain access to information or training content through different means such as the laptop, computer or the mobile phone. All that will be required of different categories of workers will simply be access to the internet from anywhere, and they will be able to take advantage of limitless workers’ education from any part of the world.
The integration of e-Learning through cloud technology is also known to be highly cost-effective . This will also be the case when used for workers’ education. This is based on the fact that workers will not have to invest too much on highly technological devices or tools, as adopting cloud computing systems for workers’ education does not require such . Generally, cloud platforms can easily be accessed from simple digital devices such as mobile phones, tablets and PC which have a good internet connection. This means that the major cost in providing workers’ education through the use of cloud computing systems will be in the area of good internet connection, as most workers are most likely to at least own a mobile phone. Interestingly also, since workers who are being trained using the cloud computing systems would not need to purchase any external storage devices such as memory cards or external hard drives, no additional cost will be incurred in this regard. The reason for this is simply because through the cloud computing system data can be created and stored on the cloud storage system itself. All that workers or trainees need to do is simply access the file or data which will be the training content in this wise at his or her convenience. This will also save a lot of money on the part of the employer or organiser of such a training programme that would have otherwise been used to do several other things. Things like payment for the venue; accommodation for both resource persons and trainees; food and refreshment; honorarium for resource persons; subsistence allowance for trainees; among others. As a matter of fact, all these are not directly linked with the training content, however, they take a huge part of the total amount budgeted for most training programmes. Adopting the cloud computing systems for workers’ training, therefore, will help to save cost and maximise available resources for workers education.
5. Making workers’ education through cloud computing systems workable in Africa
Despite its numerous potentials and advantages, it must be noted that the integration of cloud computing into learning and training has limitations. For example, some of the limitations in the use of cloud computing for workers’ training could be related to lack of digital devices such as mobile phones or personal computers; and poor internet access. Given the peculiarities of most African countries characterised by a high level of poverty, illiteracy, epileptic power supply, and poor internet connectivity, among others, the situation can really be worsened. For this reason, ICT integration into workers’ training can indeed be a ‘muddy’ environment if not carefully and properly planned and implemented, particularly in Africa . This is why the use of cloud computing systems for workers’ training, particularly in the African context must be approached with utmost carefulness so that the purpose for the use of this emerging technology is not defeated along the line. Because as gainful as the use of ICTs generally for learning and training, if we do not find a way to manage the various challenges associated with their uses, particularly within the African context, little or no positive results will be achieved. This is due to the fact that what works easily in many developed countries with respect to ICT use for workers’ education or training may not work so easily in Africa. The reason for this is not farfetched, considering the main challenges faced by most African countries .
It is worthy of note that transitioning from the traditional method of workers’ education delivery into an online system is a major shift. Hence, this needs to be well organised and planned for optimum results. This brings up the discussion of the workability of cloud-based workers’ education, particularly within the African context. As the integration of ICTs into any learning or training programme in Africa is usually professionally and carefully done, bearing in mind the peculiarity of the environment. For instance, the major drive for the utilisation of cloud computing systems in the context of workers’ education in Africa is simply to provide user-friendly media that allow knowledge and skills to be shared and accessed through technological devices such as mobile phones and laptops computers. To achieve success, therefore, in this way, the use of technology must be kept simple, and emphasis laid on the content and how they are delivered, rather than on the technicality of the medium of delivery. As technology itself is not capable of bringing about changes in learning outcomes [25, 26].
Therefore, virtually accessible training content could be delivered to workers within the African context through cloud-based computing systems using software applications, the internet and other web-based platforms. This way workers will be connected to an online-training platform from the comfort of their homes, rooms or even beds, at any time, and they will also be able to interact with other users from anywhere in the world.
The world is getting increasingly globalised occasioned by rapid advancements in technology. This has serious implications for continuous skills improvement for the working population, as what it takes to cope with the demands of the ever-changing world of work which is highly tech-driven, keeps changing. Therefore, a worker who refuses to keep up with the changing demands for newer working skills will soon become obsolete and unable to fit in, properly into the twenty-first-century workplace. There is, therefore, an increasing need for workers’ training and re-training towards working skills enhancements that also have some elements of digital skills acquisition. This has particularly become important, as workers who possess digital skills will have the advantage to continuous skills improvements with further advancements in technology.
Meanwhile, cloud-based technology which is available and accessible to users across the globe, is increasingly being used in the education sector. Similarly, its use for workers’ education holds much promise, particularly in Africa, if well planned and managed. This is so because cloud computing systems provide a variety of opportunities for content delivery, as well as provide limitless access to information over the internet through digital devices such as mobile phone and laptop computers. With the cloud computing systems, therefore, workers can gain access to training content anywhere and anytime, even from the comfort of their homes.
Given its great potential for workers education, the government in various African countries should make necessary policies towards the promotion of cloud computing systems for continuous working skills enhancements. Similarly, the government in various African countries should provide enabling environments for the adoption of cloud computing systems for workers’ education. Particularly, steps must be taken to drastically reduce the various challenges facing the use of technology generally, and particularly the use of cloud computing systems for workers’ education in Africa. For instance, issues related to the epileptic power supply and poor internet connectivity which seriously affects the result of the use of cloud computing systems for workers’ education should be resolved as much as possible.
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