Though many flaunt it as a shining example of the best virtual learning programme in any tertiary institution in Nigeria, the University of Lagos’s programme is a disappointment to many stakeholders. But its performance is covered with a façade of success apparently to justify the hundreds of millions of Naira budgeted by the university authorities and other stakeholders for the provision of facilities and training of personnel.
When the management of has announced the indefinite closure of campus from Thursday, 15th July due to the spread of COVID-19, directing its students to leave the hall of residence and announcing that lectures will be conducted online, it was like back to what was applicable for most of las academic session.
Then the school was closed down also because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but then at the tail end, it was only the 100 and 200 levels undergraduate students that were subjected to full virtual lecture.
But the new closure is subjecting every student to the virtual learning programme, even though some lectures, especially Post Graduate ones still have physical lectures going on.
Investigations by The Educational Tide revealed a disappointing picture especially as it involves the major stakeholder in the students. Likewise, the lecturers are also not having a fair deal, despite their commitments to make the programme succeed.
For the students, it is complaints galore as they are subjected to the second year of virtual lectures and examinations. The major complaints of the students border on the difficulty in accessing the school’s portal and breaks during lectures, the timing for the virtual lectures, overloading of the lectures, and lack of data and resources to effectively participate in the programme.
Bolaji, a 100 level student in the Faculty of Social Science in the institution, attributed his failure and those of some of his classmates to the virtual learning programme of UNILAG. He said many times there were not able to access the school servers for the lectures while it was a bit difficult during the examinations as sometimes they lose access during an examination.
“It was so traumatic for me and many others at the Faculty of Social Science participating in the virtual classes. The psychological trauma was further stretched during the examinations as we keep losing contact with the server. There are some papers we have to take time over. It was just torture for most of us at the Faculty,” he said.
Attempts to talk to the Dean of Social Science failed as she was not in office when TET called and she refused to respond to questions dropped for her.
Shade (not her name), a 300 Level Education student at the school described her experience with the UNILAG virtual learning programme as disturbing. She said she faced lots of problems caused by the school authorities and some caused by her immediate environment.
She explained that the problems from the school include some of the virtual lectures being fixed at the convenience of the lecturers without consideration for the students, difficulty in access the UNILAG server and the virtual lectures sometimes being overloaded with slides which make the lectures sometimes confusing.
“Many times the lectures are given with loads of slides, some of which are irrelevant to the course. And worse still there are disturbances at home when you are interrupted by family members when lectures are going on. It was not a nice experience,” she said.
Faith (name withheld), a Post Graduate student of the Faculty of Social Science, also complained of the timing of the virtual lectures and the inability of the lecturers to control students’ access to the lectures, especially those whose presences are distracting.
“During some of my lectures, especially general courses like Research Methodology, some students, who were receiving lectures in an unconducive environment, or inappropriately dressed also joined. At times they are great distractions to the lectures. I wonder why the lecturers have no control in taking them out of the process,” she said.
However, some students still relish their experience in the first year of the full virtual learning programme of the University of Lagos. But in most cases, this group of students are intrigued by the innovation.
Dave, a senior student of Political Science at the school, said his former interaction with the school virtual learning through the General Studies(GS) courses helped prepared him for the full extension to other courses at the institution,
“I have to leverage on my GS courses experience with the Distance Learning Unit. My lectures were virtually seamless, even though there were some hiccups during examinations. But overall, it was a good experience. I hope the school leverage its partial success and make it better,” he said.
Also. Rita, a 100 Level Engineering student said most times she had no problem accessing the UNILAG portal for her lectures.
“Even though most of my friends and other students complained of difficult access to the portal, mine was easy. Maybe it is a matter of which Internet facilities you have,” she said.
A female student in the Department of History and Strategic Study also has a not so pleasant experience with the virtual learning programme also complained of difficult and fluctuating access to the UNILAG server. But she was full of praises for her lecturers, many of whom she said ‘saved the day for us students.’
“The lecturers made the day, many bent backwards to repeat lectures, gave notes and recommend further reading texts. Also, on our own we have to look for notes of those who did the courses in earlier years before the difficult experiment was started by UNILAG,” she said.
Some attempts to get the opinions of some lecturers of the school were not welcomed. Senior academic staff in the Faculty of Social Science when asked for an assessment of the UNILAG virtual learning programme looked the reporter straight in the face, shook his head and retorted, “it is well, my brother. Good day, and ended the interview.
However, Dr Dele Ashiru, Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), UNILAG Chapter, told The Educational Tide (TET), even though there were some challenges at the beginning of the mass implementation of the virtual learning programme by the UNILAG, members of ASUU made a collective resolution to make it succeed. This includes training, repeating lectures and examinations and ensuring that the students are satisfied.
Ashiru, who said there are some challenges, including infrastructure problems facing the virtual learning programme, is happy that the university is able to leverage the rich experience of its Distance Learning Unit and the cooperation of the academic staff to get the programme off to a good start. He enjoined other stakeholders to also work towards the total success of the programme.
“Our members have keyed into the programme. We are better equipped now to confront virtual learning. We hope our students would also strive to reach the required standard expected of them,” he said.
Dr Adelaja Odukoya, an Associate Professor in the Political Department of the institution is hinging the initial hiccups experienced in the decay in the infrastructure and facilities of tertiary institutions across the country.
Odukoya said UNILAG was lucky in it has a background in partial implementation of virtual learning, which it is now leveraging on to implement its university-wide programme.
“The problem experienced is a manifestation of how Nigerian universities have been struggling with underfunding. Six months after the agreement with the Federal Government, it is yet to release the Revitalisation Funds to the universities. It is time for the government to fund the universities appropriately,” he said.
But some observers of the situation at UNILAG believe that what the institution is offering in terms of facilities and infrastructure for its virtual learning programme is not commensurate with what has been budgeted for its Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities over the past five years.
They are quick to point at the recent overhaul of its ICT facilities by the Federal Government, the grant from the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) grant for its ICT Hub and the millions budgeted for internally to upgrade facilities and infrastructure.
Efforts to get the UNIGAG authorities to comment were rebuffed just at it continue to ignore the complaints from students.
Dr Oladeji of the ICT Unit refused to grant an interview referring our reporter to Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, the Vice-Chancellor of the institution. On her part, Oguama Nonyem, Principal Assistant Registrar, Corporate Affairs Office, UNILAG, ignored the visit to her office and several WhatsApp messages sent to her.
From the arrogant attitude of those in authority at the University of Lagos, it is obvious they don’t care about the efficiency and effectiveness of the institution’s virtual learning programme and the students benefiting fully from the programme.