July 15, 2021

The delusion of institutionalising online learning

30m Nigerians affected as COVID-19 raises learning poverty to 63%, others ― World Bank

By Segun Ige

A LEARNING management system is an online learning platform or portal where lecturers upload lecture notes, slides, or videos on certain courses on the one hand, and where students download relevant materials, submit assignments and take whatever assessments, on the other hand. LMS is not actually a modern technique of learning. It’s been an integral part of every successful “management system” where learning is invariably mediated via socio-cyber space.

Schools in Nigeria, in general, have not been digitally institutionalised and equipped to the point of meeting up with the demands of teaching and learning online. And as far as online learning is concerned, we’re extremely lagging behind because the foundation of our educational system wasn’t digital-driven, and we’re entrusted with the decades-to-come responsibility of recalibrating the education sector to the proper place of competence and performance.

The new learning environment the pandemic has created is an indisputable social proof and indispensable fait accompli that students would not continually be physically gathering to learn for a long period of time, and the necessity of putting in place spatial-learning modes, models and platforms comes to the fore. It’s such a servile way of saying physical learning has come to an end.

The deception of lecturers, who claim to be technological “know-hows” and have indeed been systematically bred and reared by the traditional ‘paper-and-pencil’ methodology of teaching and learning, is typically posing a great deal of threat to students who themselves have been endangered by such learning processes.

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The danger it presupposes is, of course, the overwhelming under-performance of students, who surely find it a herculean task coming to classes, let alone attending one Zoom lecture fluctuated by power outage and insufficient data, who are under duress and in a gruelling situation to grasp one thing or two.

Such is the endemic problem students are achingly and perilously going through as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But clearly, the fact that the students would not rarely observe social distancing, and what have you, is a selling point that really they could resume physical learning some way or other. That is not to say that the preventive protocols of the pandemic would not be observed. No! It would and it should! This stance should not be problematically given, notably when one considers the same holds sway in churches and mosques.

To me, I could dare to argue, with the measures and sanctions imposed on schools vis-à-vis religious bodies, how deteriorating we’re devaluating and denigrating the role education plays in national-building and national development. I perceive there couldn’t have been any pandemic greater than that. Education, not religion, is the lifeblood and spring of life of everything and anything we do – adding to or subtracting from the social norms, moral principles, and all-round success of a nation – depending on how we handle it.

What’s the lot of students struggling to learn online, download avalanche of lecture slides and materials which are largely untaught, amid unstable internet access, erratic power supply and exorbitant purchase of data from telecommunications network service providers?

To be sure, the lecturers would admit that, because of how stochastic and sterile the operational system is in adapting to the “new normal,” going virtual is technically a will-o’-the-wisp. In other words, it’s a sheer waste of time, on the one hand, trying the impossible in an excessively monolithic environment and, on the other, the preference for physical learning could be overtly overemphasised. The bottom line is the online learning is not working for them!

Students are seriously going to be on the receiving end, after all. The new measure seems to favour the lecturers who have generally been monochromatically programmed, nay in tabula rasa, in coming for late classes. The students, sometimes or most of the time, would be the ones running after them, reminding them, calling them, wasting their precious airtime and time in holding a diluted, prevaricated, soporific, jejune, ‘story-telling,’ ‘song-singing,’ mumbo-jumbo class.

The narrative would essentially have been rather hooked to the sinker, thanks to the pandemic. Mostly, such is the pervasive scene of higher institutions of learning. Well, these lecturers themselves have been side-cheeked of their salaries, overtime, particularly with the Federal Government’s indefatigable enrolling of the new Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System mode of payment, which really denied certain senior staffers of their rights, regardless of the daggers-drawn altercation of one world-without-end Memorandum of Understanding.

The solution to this is to ensure the labourers get paid and the learners get quality education. And quality education is integrating, not IPPIS, but computer-assisted standards of learning the pandemic has envisioned for us. Period! It’s a good thing that now we’re embracing Zoom, Telegram, and the like, to hold two-or-so hour classes.

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But beyond that, we need to start funding and supporting our social-science and engineering departments; encouraging and sponsoring them to compete with their global peers; and making use of and promoting our domestically-produced technological inventions locally and internationally. That’s what could squarely cement the synergy between the parents, the President, those in loco parentis, and those in statu pupillari.

If we’re going online, then students should not have problems accessing the internet put in place by the managements. Remember, it’s a “management system,” not “student system.” They should not be deeply sorrowful and regretful ever coming to school, namely, the freshers. Some of these students absolutely depend on this that they use it to take tests, submit assignments, and eventually and if possible, take exams. It would be so, so catastrophic for them if they in the end see the outcome. It’s not ideal to use their ‘pocket-money’ on data that’s largely predictably going to shatter their hopes on crucial days. That would be abundantly outrageous.

And if we’re going physical, which is what’s presumably going to work if the former is not, we should strictly adhere to the safety measures put in place in preventing COVID-19. Simple! And as though they’re babes, they’ve been baby-seated in baby-walkers, while the babes themselves are physically learning in school every now and then.

Social distancing and mask-wearing are increasingly becoming acceptable norms in society. Instead of students being socially distanced away from hearing and learning anything because the lecturer’s voice and slides have been severely obstructed and screenly obfuscated, I’d rather suggest such protocols and practices be done physically.

Ige, a freelance journalist, wrote via, [email protected]

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