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Students express discontent with UNILAG’s online learning

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UNILAG. Photo: ACNNTV


It has come to stay, it will be seamless, learners assured

Controversy has continued to trail online learning introduced by University of Lagos (UNILAG) in the wake of second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from cost of data, the students complained of inability to access the site due to large traffic and network issues which slow down downloading of lecture materials, including videos.

A cross section of the students, who shared their experiences with The Guardian, called for outright cancellation of the virtual learning system until all the teething problems have been resolved.

They described their online learning experience as stressful, as lecturers “just dump” materials in them without explaining or teaching.
FOR instance, a 400–level Law student, Alice Lawson, said the learning management system (LMS), Module App, being used for online learning, was not easily accessible, and slowed down by network issues.

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Besides, she alleged that lecturers just dump materials on them without taking time to teach or explain, making the learning process cumbersome, stressful and tiring, “especially when you don’t understand the course of study”.

Lawson said since last Monday when she started the online learning class, the students have not been taught by any lecturer, who only send materials to the platform for them to download and study on their own, and also do assignments. A 300-LEVEL Insurance student, who pleaded anonymity, said the Module App was not functioning.

According to him, in a class of 300 students, only two or three, in most cases, are able to view materials uploaded for a specific course, and are tasked to share such materials with the school WhatsApp group.

“You know how the university system is, some students want to come on top, so they hoard the lecture materials. Our future should not be decided this way,” he said.

A 300-LEVEL law student, Kelvin, said when the online classes started, most of them were unprepared due to COVID-19 pandemic. He said none of the lecturers did revisions with the students but have been bombarding them with materials of different sizes and videos.

“Another frustrating issue, which is the most prevalent, is that the website keeps crashing. Sometimes we don’t get to mark attendance until midnight when traffic on the site would have reduced,” Kelvin said. He described the online learning system as discouraging, saying nothing could be compared to physical learning.

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ANOTHER law student, Sesan, said he was having trouble accessing the portal, although he noted that some of his colleagues in other departments have access to the portal and have been having lectures everyday.

He decried lack of interaction on the platform. “One thing I can’t cope with is the slides they upload on each topic, which are too voluminous. It would be very hard for us to adapt to this process because we’re not used to it.”

A CREATIVE Art student in 200-level, Bolaji, said the online class was poorly planned by the institution. He wondered why the university did not consider other popular platforms that are easily accessible, like Zoom, Google Classroom, WhatsApp and Instagram, for the special learning method.
“It has really been strenuous, the site keeps crashing. The platform navigation is not okay and lectures have not been going on smoothly. It’s more like an experiment,” he said.

ESTHER, a 400 level Biochemistry student, said she found the online learning system difficult following inability to log in and poor network.

Some medical students, who spoke with The Guardian, expressed frustration at the inability to even register on the platform since last week. They said lecturers were sending voice notes and slides in PDF format to the website, which they could not access.

A POSTGRADUATE student of Actuarial Science, who identified himself as Samson, said the system crashed due to too much traffic and was yet to be fixed.

According to him, students would have to wait till Monday (today) to know whether they would continue learning online or the university authorities would come up with alternative solutions.

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A CONCERNED parent, David Akpomiemie, urged the school to urgently address the challenges. Apart from too much traffic on the site, Akpomiemie said the class should be virtual and interactive, not a situation where lecturers dump notes on the platform for students. He said students should be able to see their lecturers, as if they are in class.

“A situation where they just dump materials on the platform for students to download and read on their own is not good enough. Most students cannot even access them, and since they are just posting slides, it is more like a correspondence class. Online learning is supposed to be virtual and interactive. Just dropping slides is one-way communication, they cannot get feedback from students, whether they understand what they are reading or not.”

Some of the students who logged in at the weekend said they were able to access the platform, but expressed concerns that traffic on Monday (today) may lead to difficulty getting access. They appealed to the university to beef up capacity for the platform to handle influx of students struggling to access the platform.

MEANWHILE, the university has assured that things would get better going forward. Principal Assistant Registrar, Communications, Mrs. Olufadeke Akinleye, noted that the crashing of the website was caused by the students who think all of them should be on the platform at the same time.

On the difficulty in logging in, Akinleye observed that most of the students do not use their institutional e-mails regularly, so they forgot their passwords.

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According to her, what is being experienced are teething problems associated with online learning and new applications. “Going forward, students will experience seamless learning,” she said.

The university management, in a statement, said adequate preparations were made before the online learning kicked off. It said lecturers were trained on the use of LMS and other platforms for virtual classrooms and meetings .

“We observed over 17,000 students and staff connected to the LMS on the first day. The Centre for Information Technology and Systems (CITS) ramped up resources of the server the same day to stabilise the LMS.

“Online learning has come to stay and the university will keep deploying more resources to create rich virtual learning experience for our students.

“We believe that the lives of members of the university community matter and we should do everything possible to keep our lecturers and students safe by migrating online until the pandemic is conquered,” the statement read in part.

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