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Post COVID-19: Public varsities may struggle to transit online -Experts

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The Coronavirus pandemic has in more ways than one showed how unprepared public universities in Nigeria are to adapt to online learning.

With poor funding, lack of adequate infrastructures, overcrowded classrooms, public citadel of learning in Africa’s largest economy is faced with a race for time to transit to the new normal, called online learning.

Industry professionals in the education sector in view of this have urged governments at all levels to do more for education, especially provision of data, broadband access, good internet network and technology, adding that if these are not adequately invested in, it could hamper the transition to digital space and online lectures, post COVID-19.

Panelists at a recent public lecture organised by the Lagos State University (LASU) acknowledged that with the global health crisis, academic processes have changed, disrupting the old normal and throwing a new normal.

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In their various submissions on the title; “Learning issues in education and COVID-19 Pandemic”, university dons recalled that before the pandemic, academic structure were physical, students coming to the campus daily and receiving lectures.

The public lecture was moderated by Ambrose Akinkuotu, Dean, Faculty of Education while Lanre Fagbonhun, Vice Chancellor was the Chief Host.

Biodun Akinpelu, director, Centre for General Nigeria Studies (CGNS) Lagos State University, Ojo says the future of education was no longer face to face or physical learning, but it has moved to online learning.

Akinpelu while contributing to the topic through his paper” COVID-19 pandemic: Emerging challenges and prospects for tertiary institutions” stated that the pandemic has affected the workplace, contract appointments terminated, international conferences put off, research work hampered, revenue of universities reduced and many other issues thrown up.

“COVID19 has reduced the pattern of human interaction. There is no access or limited access to online lectures by students. Quality assurance cannot adequately monitor the process. The one size fits all platforms are not adequate. There is inalienable demand for digital space. Adaptation is key in migration to the online platform. There is planning to go online”, he lamented.

The director, CGNS admonished that other platforms of learning should be explored because of issues of data, network and access to broadband. He added that LASU Radio, online television and other electronic platforms and technology based gadgets could be looked into.

For education not to suffer from Covid19, Akinpelu called on the government to include the education sector in its financial stimulus package.

“Online learning should not be omnibus, where everyone joins, we must be cautious. Electricity is important for online activities. Data is key, telecom operators must bring the price of data down. With all these we will stay afloat and make an impact,” Akinpelu said.

“The pandemic has brought about a disorder, which has changed the pattern of interaction, ” says Simeon Dosunmu, a panelist.

He noted that the Federal Government has a role to play by providing free data for all, adding that the burden of data should be taken off the scholars and their families.

“Free data to all students and all institutions of learning. Provision of electricity and curriculum review. Also, provision of interactive tools for students,” Dosunmu said.

Speaking on the topic, “New perspectives in education arising from COVID-19 pandemic”, Dosunmu opines that to ensure that the transition to the new normal works seamlessly, there need to be strategic planning, capacity building, training and re- training of staff.

He advised lecturers to go the extra mile by even organising remedial classes post COVID-19.

Also, on ground rules for safety when school reopens, all the protocols must be strictly adhered to, washing of hands, wearing of face mask, social distancing, use of hand sanitizers and handling of stigmatization.

“The library must be well ventilated. There should be full use of technology. There should be capacity building for Management and teaching staff”.

“Assessment is key, improvement of hygiene and sanitary practices are important. Post COVID-19 era will be a revolution for a new world”, Dosunmu said

On his part, Mubashiru Mohammed, a panelist reiterated the fact that the education sector has been badly hit with the COVID-19 pandemic, observing that the new way of doing things now, including learning is Zoom software application, but it is data consuming for both host and the students.

Mohammed while treating the topic; ‘Managing an online class’, said to conduct lectures for students, online, successfully, resources persons must adhere to these strategies: tell the students the objectives, go straight to the point, visualise, use charts, pictures, and avoid unnecessary items. Flexibility is key; do not be rigid in teaching. The class should be interactive”.

Also, he asked the resource persons to give the students assignments adding that online teaching has become a new normal now and after post COVID-19.

He averred that large classes should be taken online ,while smaller classes should be face to face, insisting that Data is Life’, while urging public universities to embrace educational software for teaching.

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