The world is anxious over the spread of the coronavirus pandemic but for some students of Nigerian tertiary institutions, the fear that they might have an extra session looms.
The students’ apprehension is based on the fact that their schools lack requisite technological infrastructure to conduct distance learning online.
For a service that is now the bread and butter of the internet, most Nigerian students cannot fathom why they do not have access to e-learning.
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria, all schools from the primary to the tertiary level have been shut and students forced to stay at home.
The decision, according to the Federal Ministry of Education, is part of efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.
But without alternative learning options, many students, especially undergraduates, are stuck at home with little or no academic progress.
Some students who spoke to HumAngle expressed a need for alternative learning options during the crisis period.
Many said public tertiary institutions in the country should look into incorporating e-learning facilities in their system after the crisis.
Chidinma Vincent, a second year student of Zoology at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, has been idle since her school was closed as lectures have automatically grounded to a halt.
What is more, unlike with the strikes of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), she is unable to go out to learn a vocation.
She also fears her school might commence examinations immediately and activities resume considering that the academic calendar has been disrupted .
A student at the University of Ibadan, Theophilus Alawonde, also believes e-learning is “a step in the right direction, not only in higher institutions but across all levels of education”.
He added that beyond learning, the introduction of e-learning would empower students to be better equipped to meet the demands of the future of work and to compete with their peers globally.
“I often wonder how we want our nation to stand shoulder to shoulder with other nations when our supposed future leaders are technologically disadvantaged,” he said.
Theophilus, however, said he was spending time taking courses online to improve himself.
“It’s what has been even before the pandemic. We don’t rely fully on what we are taught in class,” the third year student of Arts and Social Science Education explained.
Quadri Sultan, a Mass Communication student at Lagos State University, told HumanAngle that some lecturers at the school had continued to conduct classes using WhatsApp and Telegram, instant messaging applications.
“In my department, apart from WhatsApp, some of our lecturers use Mixlr to record their voice in a kind of live podcast and it is interactive. They also send materials to use and provide emails for submission of assignments,” he added.
How feasible is an e-learning option in Nigeria?
While the development of e-learning facilities by Nigerian universities is desirable, many are skeptical about its feasibility.
Mariam Hamzat, who is studying Pure and Applied Biology at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, worries about the strength of mobile networks and affordable data bundles, which are needed for effective online learning experiences.
She said she had missed online meetings because of the poor browsing networks since the stay-at-home order was given.
Theophilus is similarly unconvinced. “The questions are – are we ready? Does the average Nigerian have access to strong and stable internet connection? Is there power supply? Are our lecturers tech-savvy or would they get us content from Havard and Oxford?” he queried.
Kayode Soremekun, the Vice-Chancellor of Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, said the adoption of online learning might not be feasible in the country presently because of the lack of infrastructure.
The vice-chancellors of Technical University, Ibadan, and the University of Ibadan, Ayobami Salami and Idowu Olayinka, respectively, both blamed the lack of infrastructure as the reason the country had not fully integrated the online learning systems. They called for the need to invest in technology and infrastructure.
This school is doing it; others should follow
The Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, Ogun state, has adopted an e-learning system and has begun its second semester for the 2019/2020 academic session online, HumanAngle learnt.
According to David Fawole, an HND 2 student of Nutrition and Dietetics at the polytechnic, “We were supposed to resume on March 22 but we could not.
“So the school announced that by 30th of the month we would begin lectures for the semester online. The semester has started fully and attendance is compulsory, they say.”
David said he had to borrow his mum’s phone to partake in the program because his had a fault.
He added that the e-learning facility was launched immediately when there was the outbreak of coronavirus in Nigeria but noted that preparation for the process had been on ground prior to this time.
“Last year, the school partnered with Google to give us all a training on digital learning. So I think the school started preparing to put it to use and were propelled by the situation,” he said.
He, however, noted that because of “how the situation hit us and caught [us] unawares, it is not that fully up and running but we’ve got all the course content and some materials and even an assignment just this week.”
Asked how effective the platform is, he said “Sincerely, because we were not prepared for it and we had to receive the information online, it has been too stressful.
“But I would say it would be a good attempt because you know you are on your own, and you have to take it seriously. I sincerely welcome the idea.”