BusinessDay

Nigeria’s e-learning adoption slows as COVID-19 wanes

Nigeria has seen the adoption of e-learning slowing down post-pandemic despite an increase in the number of startups launching platforms to drive digital learning, BusinessDay findings show.

Startups such as Ulesson, Edukoya and Edustripe.com have launched new digital learning products that support schools, but the level of e-learning in the country is still low due to the resistance to change from traditional pedagogical methods.

This might make the investments made by schools in digitalising learning processes and converting lessons into videos go to waste and also limit students from embracing digital learning options.

Zacchaeus Adetona, an academic researcher at Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, disclosed that during the COVID-19 era, e-learning was employed for various aspects of learning, including lectures (87.7 percent), quizzes (37.8 percent), assignments (69.6 percent), practical classes (15.2 percent) and examination (17.4 percent).

But as the pandemic eased, many of those edtech structures were abandoned or barely maintained as in-person lectures were restored, Adetona said, adding that infrastructural gaps remain a major challenge to e-learning in the country.

“Nigeria’s infrastructure is far from being adequate for e-learning. The difficulty in promoting e-learning in Nigeria can be ascribed to the country’s poor digital infrastructure,” he said.

Elizabeth Ohaka, an educationist who owns a private school, said the use of e-learning platforms and multimedia gadgets has declined post-COVID-19.

“I think teaching face-to-face is still the best approach to teaching children. Besides, during the pandemic, there were so many issues that limited the online practice then, such as data and the availability of phones, among others,” she said.

Friday Ehrabor, director of media and strategies at Markelenez Limited, said he was not surprised by the decline in the use of e-learning in many Nigerian schools because the surge in the usage then was triggered by the pandemic.

“It will be on the decline because during COVID, there was no other option other than virtual or e-learning. But now, the classroom option is there. I think a lot of people still prefer physical contact and interaction with their teachers and/or lecturers,” he said.

The pandemic outbreak in 2020 forced the country’s education sector to retool its entire model as primary and secondary schools scrambled to retain students.

This disruption on the learning calendar created opportunities for startups providing digital learning solutions.

According to Peter Ejiofor, chief executive officer at Ethnos Limited, a fintech firm in Nigeria, the adoption of e-learning is still growing in the country’s private tertiary institutions and organisations post COVID-19 but at a slower pace amid several challenges.

“Lagos Business School and some private universities have expanded their learning collaboration through e-learning by adopting platforms for the exchange of programmes,” he said.

Without the necessary technology and internet accessibility, it will hardly be possible to make both the academics and the students comfortable with delivering and consuming learning content digitally.

Richard Adeleke, a researcher, in his 2021 study, finds that Nigeria has only about 111.6 million internet users and that about 46 percent of its estimated population of 206.1 million people still lack access to internet connectivity. In 2022, it dropped to 109.2 million (2.15 percent).

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Egypt has an internet penetration rate of 71.9 percent of its total population; South Africa, 68.2 percent, and Nigeria, 51.0 percent.

This is consequent to a lack of the necessary infrastructure to bridge the digital gap such as electricity and free Wi-Fi.

This gap also includes several other discrepancies, such as internet connection speed, digital facilities, and technological knowledge available.

However, in the face of this, experts believe that adopting a blended learning system, whereby there will be a marriage of in-person and online classes, will boost learning and position Nigerian graduates for competition.

Isaac Patrick, a member of the National Youth Service Corps serving in Kwara State, believes most schools that adopted e-learning then and coached their students from home to ensure the education system continued could no longer sustain the approach due to cost implications.

“This is due to the high cost of e-learning. It consumes data,” he said, adding that the costs include the cost of electronic gadgets for learning, electricity to power the gadgets, maintenance and recruiting competent teachers.