In a bid to keep the academic activities flowing despite the shutdown of every tertiary institution in Nigeria due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Al-Hikmah University in Kwara State has continued the lectures and other Academic Activities via Electronic Learning Systems.
The institution makes use of Zoom, Google classroom, Telegram and WhatsApp Applications to engage students in lectures, tests and assignments amongst other academic activities.
This reporter also gathered that the institution is set to conduct online examinations for all students.
Some students who spoke with CAMPUS REPORTER explained how the university operates through e-learning and the challenges they are facing in coping with the system.
E-Learning: Students Express Mixed Reactions
Abdulqodir Abdullateef, a 300 level student of Chemistry, explained how the university is engaging the students through some apps to deliver lectures to students.
“For my own department, Science Education, we have our online exams in three forms. WhatsApp, Zoom and Google classroom.”
He further explained that some lecturers use WhatsApp by communicating with students through voice notes, screenshots of lecture notes and e-lecture materials, stating that: “Some lecturers prefer explaining everything on voice note and send it via WhatsApp, then we listen to it and drop a question if there is. Because we do use normal hours for each course, 3C is 3hrs and 2C is 2hrs.”
On how the Zoom App is being utilised, he explained that the lecturers usually use Zoom to explain courses that include calculations to explain to students and use of Google classroom to download lecture material and submit assignments.
“On Zoom, if we have any calculation to discuss we will be referred to Zoom because there is a marker board there that lecturers can create so as to carry us along. So far it is in the form of video apps, via Google classroom we receive material there or submit some assignments there.”
He, however, noted that the problem with e-Learning especially Zoom Apps is the funds required for data subscription and the problem of electricity.
“The challenge there is that Zoom app consumes data too much, but my departmental lecturer reasoned with me on the complaint to one of them that normally referred us to Zoom, and he stopped using this app with me, even this Zoom app is powerful to the extent that it consumes much power i.e it weak phone battery. Another challenge is [data] subscription, but it has not affected me from so far this online lecture is a concern.”
He, however, lauded the management for adopting this idea, noting that it has kept him busy during the shutdown.
“The e-learning initiative is a blessing because it keeps me busy at home and makes me feel as if am in a normal class because I do attend all of my lectures promptly since I have my copied timetable before we left school.”
Abdullahi Ibraheem, a 200 level student of Agricultural Science, also commends the management, he noted that the E-learning is the only means to keep the Academic Activities flowing and it will also save the time of students from shutdown delay
“According to my own view now, so far that’s the only means available for the school management to attend to us, I’m okay with it and if now they announce the date for the exam, I’m very sure we will all be prepared. So by the time we resume, it will only be left for us the second semester, which will be swift.”
On the challenges, he pointed out that some students do not have the ability to go online and some people cannot afford the financial charges required to participate due to the current economic realities of the country.
“Some of us are having issues of device, that is, the absence of phones and also with the situation of the country now, the source of income for most people have been affected due to not being able to go to work and some were sacked. Among these people, we can’t say the situation in which the parents of some of us are. This online class of a thing, though it’s a great idea for getting us involved in school activities so that we won’t be sitting at home doing nothing.”
He explained that data subscription is the major challenge students face and noted that the management has suspended the use of certain apps that consume data in order to improve access to these online tools for students.
“The rate at which data is being absorbed is too high and we have the lecture to attend, downloading online lectures, audios, PDFs, watching them online or even video lectures, but for the video lecture, I think we are able to stop that one for now.”
Olamilekan Abdulrasak, a 400 level student of Agricultural Science, also complained about the current status of education, saying it is impossible for students who do not have smartphones to participate,
“The e-learning adopted by Al-Hikmah is not good at all because we are the ones buying data and there some students who do not have browsing phone so, tell me, how will they cope?”
He noted that the data shortage, bad network and inability to assimilate are the major challenges to this method of learning, charging the management to scrap the programme.
Zulkarnain Issa, a 200 level student of Islamic Studies, explained that the management tried its best to make the e-learning convenient, but some students are still unable to catch up due to data expenses required.
“Al-Hikmah tried their possible best to make their students not to lack anything in this online class but unfortunately it didn’t work. The e-learning that we are doing has caused a lot of problems for the students due to the fact that the students can’t avoid any amount again to buy data, [the] same thing [is] applicable to me.”
Abdullahi Maryam, a 400 level student of Education Chemistry, extolled the management for embracing the E-Learning initiative, she described it as an interesting and educative initiative.
“The online classes are going on well and very interesting, It’s been good. The e-learning scheme is really helping us and I’m comfortable with it because we don’t have another option and also the way the lecturers are explaining is self-explanatory,” she said.
Abdullateef Tajudeen, a 200 level student of English, explained that the initiative is in line with what most universities across the world practice during this period
“To me, I think the online classes are okay, that’s what most of the Universities practice during this pandemic that the schools are shut down so as to ensure social distance. Most Universities like National Open Universities are even practising this before the adventure of this pandemic and it has been working for them.”
Management Releases Guidelines for Online Examination
As the management of the university continues the academic activities online, it is also set to conduct the second-semester examination for all students via Zoom and WhatsApp.
This was noted in a guideline signed by the Online Examination Committee and Director of Academic Planning of Al-Hikmah University. According to the guideline, the students will be invigilated through the Zoom app and their examination will be submitted via WhatsApp for assessment.
“A private room (not accessible to any other person) in candidate’s home is to be made available with table and chair for the examination. Examinee’s private room should be locked from behind to prevent any person from intruding,” says the item 3 and 4 of the notice.
As it is stated in the notice, candidates will snap and send their answer sheets to the designated WhatsApp Number provided by the institution after they are through with the exam.
“Candidate is required to snap and post a clear picture of his/her Answer sheet(s) to the designated university’s Whatsapp examination platform immediately after the examination. The Answer script should be SNAPPED using the phone’s CAMERA and then shared to the designated WhatsApp examination platform. All examinees should note that the captured Answer sheet(s) posted to the Whatsapp examination platform will reflect the time it was sent from their phone.”
‘Why We Adopted E-Learning’—Vice-Chancellor
The Vice-Chancellor of Al-Hikmah University, Professor Taofeeq MTO Ibrahim, while speaking with Campus Reporter explained that the Electronic-Learning System is in line with what other universities around the world have resorted to during the pandemic. He also noted that the university is trying to improve on the system for use after the pandemic.
He noted that the method is the alternative developed by the institution to continue the academic activities despite the pandemic.
“Prior to the directive of the minister that schools should be shut down, it’s apparent that we needed some adaptations to the situation and so all of us in Nigeria are witnesses to the effect of COVID 19 and there is still a lot that could happen and schools are particularly are one of the sectors that are directed to be shutdown. We saw the need to respond to the situation in terms of our academic calendar.”
He further noted that the idea is to save the university from bankruptcy due to the persistence of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Al-Hikmah is a private university meaning that we do not have any subvention from the government. Ninety per cent of our funds come from students’ school fees that will make you realize that we need to think of a way around [this situation]. The consequences of COVID-19 is that some people have lost their jobs and more people will still do if the pandemic does not end anytime soon, so we are able to develop a means to continue to teach online.”
He further clarified that it is part of his plan to integrate e-learning into the university’s teaching method, describing it as a global practice during and after coronavirus pandemic
“When I was appointed as the Vice-Chancellor, it was part of my plan to integrate Electronic Learning –use of technology-enhanced learning– to the institution. Ordinarily, and by convention, lecturers and students meet in the classroom students take down the note but in some other climes, especially in the developed world, it doesn’t end there. In [the] developed world, teachers and students don’t meet in class only, after a face-to-face lecture, students [will] still have access to textual material, audio and video material. So it’s part of my plan to integrate this material into the teaching method at Al-Hikmah University, we have developed the necessary personnel and infrastructure that will enable us to achieve this vision. We have established a centre for ICT and Distance Learning. So when COVID-19 became an issue we realised that we need to respond against the background preparations that we have made before now.”
He noted that the institution uses Zoom, Whatsapp, Google classroom and WhatsApp to engage students, noting that the management considers WhatsApp most of the time to reduce the amount of data being exhausted by the students.
“We deploy the use of WhatsApp, Zoom, Telegram and Google Classroom and we are ready to adopt the easiest of them to reach the students and we have also made the delivery possible and easy for lecturers. Lecturers who have prepared the lecture note before the scheduled time will send it to the students some days before then and on the day of the lecture, the lecturer would deliver the lecture via a designated WhatsApp group.
“The lecturer will take the attendance via WhatsApp and do a real-time presentation on [the app] while the students will be given the time to ask questions. You’ll understand from experience that WhatsApp does not [use] too much bandwidth and we use Telegram when the class number is large.”
He explained that students who are unable to participate in the exam will still carry over the course like in a manual examination.
“Ordinarily, if the school is in session, there are many reasons why students might not be able to write examinations even when school is in session. Conventionally, some students may not have money to pay their school fees, some students may be sick, so any reason at all there are those students that it is not that they’re sick, it’s not that they don’t have money to pay, they just decide to abscond. They enjoy themselves wherever they may be.”
He pointed out that the university has found a way out to adjust to the situation, so it is important that the students, as well, learn to adjust to the situation in order to save their time from being elongated.
“When this scenario like this occurs, it means students are choosing not to, or due to one circumstance or the other has made it impossible for them to write an examination. So they’re not able to write examinations. The rules of the school supersede, it will succeed in that case. And the rule that will succeed naturally is that if you’re not able to write an examination, the rule of every university in Nigeria and globally. Once you don’t appear for an examination, it is that you have failed. “F” will be recorded for you in that paper, if F appears then they’ll carry over. Every individual in the world has adjusted to COVID-19 if the adjustment is so demanded. So, if our students are wise they will understand and they will not want to pay another money.”
He, however, clarified that if the school resumes, students who are unable to participate can pay for summer so as to resit the exam rather than carrying it over.
Once school resumes, there’ll be no need for any online examination and everybody will be able to flow along, so at that time now students will have to pay for examination to be conducted for them and if they cannot pay they’ll have to carry over.”
He also explained that if the school reopens before the scheduled time for examinations, the exams will be conducted normally.
“In our regular calendar, the first week of June is the time that examinations normally commence for final year students and the second week of June for the lower levels, 100 level to 300 level, for instance. So our online examination is an alternate plan in case school has not resumed. If school resumes, there will be no need for an online examination.”
On how the university plans to ensure examination integrity in the conduct of the exam, he noted that the management has deployed the necessary surveillance tools to invigilate the conduct of the exam.
“We would have sent a customized answer sheet to the students and the examination will be written by the students in their private rooms and the Zoom [app] will be deployed to be seeing the students by the examiner.”
He concluded by stating that the university is following the footsteps of some developed universities in the E-learning program, noting that there are many reputable public figures in Nigeria who acquired their academic certificates through distance learning.
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