UI: THE (HARSH) REALITY OF THE VIRTUAL LEARNING


Hello, sir. We can’t hear you oo. Good morning, Sir, please, un-mute yourself; we cannot still hear you. Sir, your network is breaking oo. Ma, will the materials be sent to us because we don’t understand what you are explaining? On the other end, who is that student that is eating in the background? Please, mute yourself. I apologise for the break in transmission, can we continue now? 

After the fourth week of resumption, the University of Ibadan finally unearthed her readiness as the virtual lecture began in almost all the faculties. Even though the University’s Emergency Remote Teaching Committee (UI-ERTC) organised several webinars to update the students on virtual learning, boast of their readiness and also allay fears of failure, is the university’s visions of hitch-free virtual learning accomplished and have the students been able to grasp the basics of their lectures so far?

Just as the Nigerian students have for months cried out to concerned authorities to consider reopening of schools after the rise of  global pandemic that ravaged the world and the long industrial action embarked upon by ASUU, the students of the University of Ibadan had perhaps subtly called on the school authorities to allow them resume physically. Before this period, we understand that the Nigerian educational system symbolises an archaic model of teaching, underfunding, lack of evaluations and performance management policies which make it rank very low among its counterparts who know how valuable education is and the proper investments it needs. 

While we think it is good idea that the university community is going digital, we also find it displeasing that academic activities on the respective virtual conferencing applications have left the students more confused than ever. It is quite painful that the new-normal the university operates will cause the students more harm than good even though virtual learning in educational institutions is a long-overdue initiative that is required of a functional nation in this century.

It is very unfortunate that the reality of the virtual learning reveals that the university authorities have failed in their promise. After several months of planning this out, it is shameful that all what we get is nothing but impending failure. Even though we applaud the University for their bravery in adopting new challenges, we also scorn them for the results we get as this will put the students at risk of sacrificing their academic success while the university continues to make the virtual learning better. 

One week after lectures begun, the undergraduate portal of some students is yet to be updated and the results of the previous session results are not accessible on their student portal. Disappointedly, lectures timetables are yet to be released in many departments, some courses cannot be enrolled by the students on the LMS portal and while some registered courses do not have their materials and learning facilities uploaded. Now, the lecturers fall back to the WhatsApp and Telegram page to send materials and disseminate important information. Finally, the students have resolved that scaling through this semester will be nothing short of their personal efforts. 

For the synchronous session mostly done on Zoom, it is pathetic that the lecturers don’t even know how best to use the platform. This has affected their mode of teaching as most of them just read out the materials through screen sharing rather than laying the foundations to every topic and making learning on Zoom interesting. Also, it is hopeless that poor network connection has jeopardised learning as the students do not hear all what their lecturers are saying or what they are saying leaves them more confused. For the Zoom classes, only our data and time are wasted and much knowledge is not added. For this, the university has failed on its promise of an interactive learning session.

Presently, it seems our fears are finally coming to reality. The university seems ill-equipped to enable a proper virtual learning. This kind of learning is only financially draining on the part of the students and the school management. Lastly, it is forthwith true that the first trial has not been planned effectively and efficiently and that is why it is not yielding favourable results. 

Furthermore, we hope the University now realises that there is still much to be done to ensuring that the virtual learning becomes effective and profitable. The tale should be one that thrives to bridge the setbacks identified with physical classes and the virtual classes. This is the time to assess the success of the virtual learning, put the Plan B into action and also correct the current ills of the virtual learning. We sincerely hope that the students will only maximise learning and achieve the full potentials of the new-normal.  

The students are reading to learn and make extensive research to adjust to the new-normal. We just pray that the school will not frustrate our hope and put the students at a greater disadvantage. We wish that the university management will realise how poor they have performed and there is still room for improvement. Finally, we hope that the old saying, ‘if it must be from UI, it must, out of necessity, be of outstanding quality’ be manifested in the virtual learning. 

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