Amid Challenges, Nigerian Varsities Strive To Leverage Technology For Learning

Amid Challenges, Nigerian Varsities Strive To Leverage Technology For Learning

 When Nigeria discovered cases of COVID-19 in 2020, one of the major sector(s) affected was the education sector.

The virus led to the shutting down of many schools at different levels including tertiary institutions. In March, 2020, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Education directed all tertiary institutions in in the country to shut down as a measure to ensuring that the virus does not spread further.

The Permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education as at then, Sonny Echono, had told reporters that the measure was part of the strategy towards containing the virus.

As a result of the directive, top Universities ranging from Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Ibadan, Bayero University Kano among others shut down.

In this report, Olanrewaju Oyedeji takes a look at how Tertiary Institutions have leveraged technology for learning amid COVID-19 including the challenges and what stakeholders are saying as ways foward.

In University of Lagos, the management of the institution announced Online classes after shutting down campus and ordering students back home.

A varsity like Bayero University Kano, created a special dashboard to constantly update the varsity community on the virus and what they are doing towards curbing the spread, this happened after the institution announced physical classes on 18th, January, 2021.

The Obafemi Awolowo University’s management also announced the commencement of a customized E-learning platform called e-Zone for its center for distance learning in 2020.

The institution noted that the university launched the platform to support face-to-face programme during lockdown.

At the University of Ibadan, the story is the same as the authorities of the institution have  proposed moving teaching and learning online, the development is due to fear of  COVID-19.

While declaring online lectures at Kaduna state University, the Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof Muhammad Tanko, noted that students idling away from home is a major reason why the deployment of e-learning has become necessary.

In a statement, he said;

“Schools have been closed for a while now and our students are idling away at home following the stay-at-home order” Prof Tanko said in April, 2020, stating that online classes will help to bridge the gap.

Lecturers have also deployed social networks in connecting students especially deploying the social media as a tool for holding classes with platforms such as Telegram, Google Meet deployed by some lecturers.

However, despite the intention and deployment of e-learning platforms by Nigerian Universities, there have been concerns by stakeholders on the effectiveness of such deployments. Chief among the concern has been the issue of access, with cost of data and internet penetration as a key talking point.

A top University administrator and former Vice Chancellor in one of Nigeria’s leading Universities who did not want to be mentioned in the press told this reporter that while the deployment of technology to aidlearning is a laudable thing to do, the fact remains that students mostly find it very hard to enjoy e-learning and the issue of accessibility is a major concern.

The Immediate Past President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, had also told this reporter that Nigerian Tertiary institutions are not ready for e-learning given the dearth of facilities and internet accessibility.

Some students who spoke to this reporter lamented that inability to access lectures due to variant of factors keep them and their colleagues off lectures sometimes.

A student of Obafemi Awolowo University who simply identified himself as Faith noted that sometimes lecturers fix classes online and fail to be present themselves, he also noted many students who do not have access to smart phones end up shortchanged.

“In my own instance, we have cases that it then looks like lecturers cannot also operate the platforms used to deliver lectures effectively, sometimes, they fix lectures and fail to show up, when they do too, the operation remains ineffective “he noted

How We Can Ensure Better Deployment of Technology In Tertiary Institutions- Tech-U  VC

 Speaking  with the Vice Chancellor of the Technical University, Ibadan, Professor Ayobami Salami on phone, he advocated on the need for stakeholders mapping, "this will help us to know what we need and also deployment of technologies should be based on identified gaps." he told this reporter.

He also noted that needs vary from one institution to another.

He however commended that fact that many institutions have embedded learning systems into their portal, this to him is a step going forward, he noted that this has helped to deal with challenges posed by COVID-19, explaining that the reality is that things will not remain the same again after COVID-19.

Professor Ayobami also stated the readiness of Technical University to assist tertiary institutions towards ensuring better technological inclusion in their systems. The lead administrator of the first Technical University in Nigeria revealed that ‘soon’, the learning management system of the University will be available for deployment to assist other institutions.

There Is Need To Fund Education Better To Achieve Ideal E-Learning- ASUU President

   The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Professor Victor Osodeke while speaking to this reporter noted that there is a need to fund the education sector to ensure a technology powered education sector. He noted that part of the agitations of the union is to ensure that the universities in Nigeria are at world standard in the area of technology. According to him, the issue of accessibility and infrastructure remain pivotal if the country would achieve better educational system.

Speaking on the efforts towards lectures in Nigeria via technology, Professor Victor noted that what is obtainable currently is not ideal, in his words “Those who say they are carrying out e-learning currently are operating in deceit, only few private universities that charge millions of naira are actually running e-learning in the proper way”. He also wondered how many students can ideally access classes online.

COVID-19 Changed Technology Acceptability In Nigerian Education Sector- Director of ICT, TASUED

Weighing on the issue of technology evolution in Nigerian education sector, the director of ICT at the Tai Solarin university of education,Dr Ademola Adenubi noted that the advent of COVID-19 changed how technology is accepted in Nigerian Universities. He noted that it was hard to preach technology before COVID.

According to him, many persons believed that conducting tests for instance on ICT powered platform would be non-effective except face to face but the virus changed that notion.

“The virus showed us that we need technology in the education sector, it then became an issue of necessity and it was embraced. Doing this showed many persons the ease technology can provide and at such it has been easier to introduce innovations and incorporate technology powered education easily” he told this reporter.

According to him, before COVID-19, the use of ICT in varsities was more geared towards revenue generation and filling gaps in the process of revenue collection, schools were not designed for using technology for learning or lectures.

Dr Ademola however encouraged local solutions that help to meet Nigerian peculiar demands in incorporating Information and Communication Technology; he wondered why a solution that works in the United Kingdom where things are different would be expected to work in another society like Nigeria’s without peculiar modifications.

While expressing optimism about how technology can play a huge role going forward in Nigerian education, he advocated for political will by various governments in really ensuring that local solutions drive the quest for ICT in Nigerian education. He advised that multiple solutions for one problem especially leveraging on Technology can on the long run revert those solutions to becoming manual, calling for a central system in ICT deployment.

There have been continued clamor for stakeholders’ engagement and funding of the education sector in Nigeria as demand for access to education continues to increase daily in the country.