How Nigeria Can Be Ready For E-Learning
For some number of years, i have been an advocate of E-Learning, infact, i have led a team of young Nigerians to start an online school for Technology and information Technology courses, to cement my believe.
When i wrote an article widely published in the media and titled "Reopening Nigerian Varsities through Virtual Learning, a call for caution", some persons wrongly believed that i should not have pushed the position that we are not ready for E-learning, afterall Rome was not built in a day.
I still strongly believe that we have alot to do if we really need to start E-learning in Nigeria, we are not talking about magic here, we are talking about plans and sequence.
During one of phone conversations with the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, i sought his view on E-learning in Nigeria and his position was clear, Nigeria is not ready for it. I agree with him wholeheartedly. Infact, i am beginning to wonder how we intend to achieve this currently.
We have issue with overcrowding of classes and truthfully, if we had online classes, we would have solved some issue of staying in the class for lectures when same can be delivered virtually.
The issue of facility remains very germane, we need to understand that not every University or Polytechnic student you see uses a 4G or 3G phone, many are affected by the standard of living and poor economic index in the country. As a matter of fact, i have pushed and posited on different platforms and even Television programs that Data is not cheap in Nigeria.
If we will introduce virtual learning, then students need to be online or have access to video-conferencing applications, they need to buy data which they may not be able to afford.
This will mean robbing off some students their right to education. Before they can buy data, they need to have a working phone, which maybe a luxury currently. While i am not saying the government should buy phones for all students, the accessibility and affordability of internet in Nigeria remains a very key issue in E-learning.
Video conferencing platforms for instance have high data consuming rates, same platform a student who collects 5000naira as pocket money monthly will be expected to use in receiving lectures? .
If Nigeria will be ready for E-learning, we must invest in the educational sector toeing this direction.
Lecturers must be trained and retrained to use Technology gadgets. It should be a case of computer labs only used as fancy and locked up while lecturers or students cannot access them.
You cannot operate Virtual learning when even lecturers cannot understand the system. Internet infrastructure should be improved in schools.
I am aware of some Federal Universities that have their own internet system but they still have issues of penetration and affordability, we must start to support schools to provide affordable internet if we are to achieve this.
The issue of changing our thoughts and approaches towards E-learning is also important, it is a social norm that must be worked upon.
The issue of our bad electricity also remains one to be looked into, how do we have schools that barely have stable electricity run Virtual classes? How do we have students who live in areas where they have little or no access to good electricity run E-learning? “E-learning requires behavioural changes and regulatory adjustments to work.
It can’t be established by mere ministerial directive and bureaucratic fiat but through detailed planning, funding, and training for those involved.
None of these has been done in Nigeria,” the Academic Staff Union of Universities, University of Ibadan told the media. I share this sentiment hugely.
For avoidance of doubt, online learning is one we must adapt to, for cases of pandemic like the one we are currently in but it is not something we rush into leaving many poor/average Nigerians disadvantaged. It is one we plan for and execute.
The little budget given to Educational sector cannot and will not fastrack E-learning, we must improve on budgetting into many years and also seek international partnerships, to acheive Technology and Information Communication Technology powered learning.
We must not wait for another 'emergency' before deciding to announce online learning like magic, no it would not work.
Olanrewaju Oyedeji writes from Abuja, Nigeria
He is the Editor of Techmirror magazine.