Students learning with computers
Picture used for illustration. Credit: Stanford

By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU

Yemisi Adeoti, a 200- level student of Mass communication at University of Ilorin is not happy at the way things have turned out in her educational life. She had never imagined that smartphone and data would be an important component of her needs to get quality education, other than using them as library resources to conduct research.
Now that lectures have gone online due to coronavirus pandemic which discourages physical contact, she is agonizing over data funding for her daily online lecture. Welcome to the age of digital education where physical contact is no longer needed in order to impart and receive knowledge.
Most universities and other tertiary schools have been directed to conduct online lectures for now.
Adeoti, who says the new reality has come with added cost in spite of the fact that the monthly stipend her parents send is not enough to live on. She says her only way of helping herself augment offerings from her parents is weaving of hair she had learned prior to entering tertiary education.
” If not for the fact that I can do hair dressing work, I would have starved. You will not believe it that since the online lectures began I have spent over N7,000 on data alone. Remember that there is no electricity guarantee, so often, I would take my phone to a local charger at a fee of N50.”
Her experience sums up the challenge of online lectures for many students. James Agu is in 300- level Economics at the same university as Adeoti. “Much as I can afford to buy enough data my problem is the unstable network. I use Glo, but you wouldn’t believe that in the middle of the lectures come network issues. This is irritating. ”
At Ajayi Crowther University in Oyo, students resumed last week for online lectures. Many of them were seen walking about desultorily as they complained of the shortcomings of digital learning.
Ebute Kolade, was sighted at the school’s cafeteria along with other students heartily exchanging banter as he worked his phone even in the middle of the din. When approached by this Reporter he said he was in virtual lecture. Asked if he was not disturbed by the environment and the din of noises around him, he said he had no choice.
Many of his colleagues complained, saying virtual lecture is not the same thing as physical.
A student who simply identified herself as Rose said there is something earthy and a feel of belonging that allows one to go along with the lecture in normal classroom situation but this thing we call online is not part of our culture. You cannot ask questions and identify with the lectures the way one would have loved to in a classroom situation”, she told BH.
E-learning can be defined as the online delivery of information. It can also be defined as integrating learning with technology.
According to Dr. Afolayan Adeyanju who teaches computer science at Kogi State University, digital learning “is instruction delivered through purely digital technologies such as CD ROM, the internet and private networks.
“E-learning can also be defined as the online delivery of information for the purpose of education, training or knowledge management.
“Governments all over the world play a key role in developing, funding and regulating ICT infrastructure as well as promoting internet connectivity. It can be deduced that ICTs are essential for contemporary educational development of any nation.
“The developing countries have embraced ICT and consequently e-learning so as to keep pace with unimaginable speed in the area of technology. The use of ICTs in Nigeria and African countries generally is increasing and dramatically growing”, he said.
Since e-learning systems allow students to take courses at their own time and pace, it is more convenient than their in-person counterparts. Adeyanju talks about the flexibility of e-learning, stating that students can even refer back to previous lectures without affecting the learning pace of other students.
He says the most common challenges of implementing e-learning in Nigerian universities are management’s attitude, erratic electricity supply in most part of the country and non-inclusion of ICT programs in teacher’s training curricula at the basic levels of education.
On ICT infrastructure, Adeyanju states that poor technical infrastructure is a problem.
“The technical infrastructure in developing countries is not highly developed, which means that phone-lines and Internet connections are unreliable or slow due to narrow bandwidth.
“Limited expertise: There are few technical staff in most Universities to maintain the current system. Lack of, or inadequate trained personnel are a challenge to the use of ICT in higher institutions.
“Internet connectivity is low and the cost of accessing the internet in Nigeria is still on the high side. Hence, some students find it a challenge to afford. However, the government should make Internet connectivity a priority for higher education to be able to leverage on the promises and opportunities ICTs present.
He further stated that “Generally there is still a lack of awareness amongst the population, especially parents, of the effectiveness of e-learning. Many parents still feel that the traditional learning mode is better.
Considering this, most e-learning facilities are functional at most Nigerian universities, but inadequate because of the high population of students in our federal and state universities. But most of the private universities have managed to implement e-learning to an adequate level which is commendable with the Nigerian education management.
Many students believe before e-learning can take hold there must be enough infrastructure and know-how.