virtual semester in the University of Ibadan

Of Blackouts and A Virtual Semester in the University of Ibadan

It’s the third week in March, and the fourth week since the University of Ibadan announced its resumption of academic activities. As we postulated, academic activities have started in earnest, since the day the University invited all its students to the banquet hall.

Word has been going round that the University of Ibadan will operate via the synchronous and asynchronous modes. These two terms are still confusing to many; we know just how that is. The lectures you’ve had on Zoom, Telegram and WhatsApp are your synchronous lectures. These are the real-time lectures; the live lectures. The ones you will have on the yet-to-be-perfected Moodle and the University of Ibadan Learning Management System are your asynchronous lectures.

The happenings of the past few weeks are a testament to the fact that Rome was indeed not built in a day, neither was it built in four weeks. Our aim to transition as a university from an almost fully traditional teaching-learning process to a fully virtual one within weeks is one that’s getting the Information Technology and Media System neck-deep in work — with little to show for their efforts. The Learning Management System is still not ready, and some courses are not on the platform yet. This begs the question of whether or not the semester will be extended by a few weeks to make up for the wasted weeks.

The erratic power supply that has rocked Agbowo, the University of Ibadan, and some other student-populated areas has reignited concerns about the possibility of having a seamless virtual semester. Students are raising concerns as to what will be their fate during tests, quizzes and classes. Shall each student get three powerbanks, two phones and perhaps a generator? If there had been five lectures within the past few days for Akorede’s class, Akorede, an Agbowoite, would have missed at least, three of them. The reason? An embryonic blackout. How then is Akorede expected to meet up with the 75% minimum requirement for class attendance? Should Akorede have assignments to submit within that period, how is he expected to do so? Perhaps, he should visit shops nearby to charge? What then shall we say of Akorede’s safety and the safety of his gadgets?

The proclivity of synchronous lectures being unstable and unproductive is high. This is Nigeria, and should you take a look at how we’re living now, you’d see unstable internet connection, blurry words, “your line is breaking ma”, babies’ background babbles, and monotonic, sleep-inducing Telegram voicenotes. There are cases of shocking Zoom meeting links sent few minutes to a newly fixed class. Telegram group invite links zooming in and out of inboxes and group pages — all these; an ill-prepared-for learning medium donning the cloak of haphazard organisation.

The virtual semester poses so many problems for students at the University of Ibadan, problems that many have flogged in the past. These problems range from little to no guarantee for students’ safety, to the large web of confusion dangling above us all — the teachers and the to-be-taught alike. In a scenario of multi-faceted problems like this, what shall the learners turn to?

The best solution is for us to eat the not-so-proud pie as an institution (some call it humble pie), and agree that transitioning to a full e-learning mode is a process that requires long and consistent efforts, which we are sadly still largely unprepared for. The best bet is to partially return to our lecture theatres on the University of Ibadan, while continuing to test-run and use various aspects of our to-be e-learning mode. While we operate physical lectures and tests for the time being, our Media Systems Unit will be tasked with the job of developing a Learning Management System that allows for the peculiarities to the University of Ibadan. The Unit will also have ample time to run pre-product launch researches and testing. Will the university adopt this solution? Most likely not! And that’s why we have some other recommendations for the University, the lecturers, and the students alike:

Dear Student, Resist the Urge to Spam Lecture Groups

Dear student, we know the year 2020 was a year of online courses and free webinars; a year where facilitators frequently asked you to engage them during sessions. However, that time is gone, and your virtual lectures are way different from those masterclasses; no one needs you to send “yes, ma”, “following”, “thank you, ma” every time. You are only spamming the lecture group and making it difficult for people to follow the lecturer’s flow of lecturing. Picture the pre-pandemic era when you used to attend (or stab) physical classes; did you punctuate your lecturers’ every sentence with “following, ma”? Why then are you disturbing us online? Did about 50 people in your class struggle to answer one question at a time? Why then are you disturbing us? Follow the lectures quietly, answer questions if need be, ask questions if you have any, mark your presence in class, and leave. A case of 800 messages, with less than 20 of them being the lecturer’s messages is not encouraging at all. Thanks in anticipation of changes.

The University of Ibadan Students Need Window Periods for Tests and Assignments

One issue that has been quizzing many a student’s mind is how the university will run tests and other contributors to the Continuous Assessment. Shall a day be fixed for test of each course? What if circumstances beyond a student’s control makes them miss the test? How will they write a follow-up test? These questions are on their knees, pleading for answers, and in our empathetic nature, we came up with a viable solution: a window period for each test, assignment or quiz.

What do we mean by a window period? A situation where each test, assignment or quiz will last for some days, to allow for unforeseen situations. LIN 141 test should have a window period of five days, between which each student is expected to take the test. Any student that doesn’t take the test on any of the days within those five days should then be responsible for missing the test. Assignments should also have a window period, and due to arrival of factors beyond students’ control, the University should discourage impromptu quizzes. These are suggestions born out of consideration for the peculiarities of the average student’s conditions.

75% Attendance is Virtually Impossible, Please Reconsider

One of the requirements that the University of Ibadan rolled out for the virtual semester is a grading formula for the statutory 75% attendance for each course. We understand the University’s reasons for maintaining this requirement; the need to have all students attend classes and participate in assignment submission. However, it all still boils down to circumstances beyond students’ control. In cases of power outages, or blackouts, how are students expected to join classes? In cases of poor and unstable internet connection, of constant automatic logouts by the Zoom app, how are students expected to meet up with the 75% minimum requirement? Our suggestion is that the University totally scrap the attendance, or reduce it to 50% or lower. After all, no student would be willing to toy with the fiery nature of virtual lectures, if they had a choice.

This virtual semester in the University of Ibadan will be many things for the students, lecturers and the school management alike: a trying and tiring semester, a boiling point, scalds and scalding lessons, you name them. It will be especially trying for freshmen. These perceived and likely-to-occur difficulties are reasons why the University should take our suggestions into consideration.


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