Ifesinachi, an undergraduate student at the University of Ibadan, is yet to (technically) pay her tuition and technology fees; she no longer has the fees. Mind you, it is not because she squandered them on some bungee jumping adventure; no! She did not give it to the Mr. Romeo in her life. She did try to make the payment; she even successfully made the payment (at least, according to her payment platform). Well! The University of Ibadan website says otherwise!
Ifesinachi is not just some fictional conjecture; she is the pictogram for the percentage of the University of Ibadan students whose payments have not been acknowledged by the school authority (a synonym for school website in this context). She is the average student that spends productive hours on long queues at the Information Technology and Media System Unit office. Ifesinachi is that student that has kept visiting banks out of apprehension of losing her precious school fees to an online money-swallowing snake. Her case is just one of the many issues students face while trying to use the website of the supposed best institution in the country. For the sake of clarity, let’s examine a few of the potholes students encounter while trying to navigate the University of Ibadan website.
The University of Ibadan Website and its Responsiveness Issues
For an average University of Ibadan student, navigating the school website at the early days of last week would have been like trying to travel from Ibadan to Lagos on a bicycle; that is if you are lucky, of course. Normally, you would expect to get an error message or to meet a totally unresponsive page. The only logical conclusion would be that the breakdown was due to the “unusually” large amount of traffic on the website on the days in context. “Unusually” large traffic is quite a paradoxical excuse for a federal institution that claims to be running a fully virtual semester, don’t you think? On days with no large traffic, it would take a few seconds longer than it would take an average website to get anything done on the University of Ibadan website. It is therefore safe to conclude that the school website has issues with response time and accommodating a large number of users. How does a school with a student population of over 30,000 complain of too much traffic on its official website?
The Aesthetics of the First and the Best’s Official Website
One thing that defines a properly done website is the aesthetics of not just the pages, but the general outlook of the website. True, aesthetics is largely subjective to different people. However, in the case of the University of Ibadan website, it appears as though the developers thought it silly to bother about perception and they decided not to add any styling. For instance, the page where returning students are to input their login details or the page that pops up first when trying to pay school fees. Taking a good look at these instances, two things may be the most plausible conclusion; that the University did not consider it necessary to spend money on the website, or the developers did not deliver their best for the first and the best.
UI Support Systems: The Good and the Bad
On the bright side, the University of Ibadan – like every right-thinking institution – has noticed some of these inconsistencies and has made attempts at rectifying them. They have successfully pushed the Information Technology and Media support systems into activity. Within the timeframe of their activity, they have been able to put up some functional systems in place. For instance, the University has a password-recovery site for students that cannot access their student mails; this same website has a feature that caters to cogent things like allocating accommodation to students when the time comes. Also, they have successfully put up an emergency response line on WhatsApp for students that suffer inconsistencies in the attempts to pay their fee.
However, the constant gathering of students at ITeMS reflects that these response systems cannot properly cater to all the inconsistencies created by the deficient tech systems. This also ostentatiously reflects the gross under-preparedness of the University with regards to running a virtual semester. All these beg a lot of questions: why exactly did the school make the students pay technology fees? Are we going to continue to take reactive measures when we face these challenges? Is there a grand plan to solve these problems underway? Let’s remember that that the school management included website maintenance and upgrade when they introduced a technology fee. Let’s also remember that the aforementioned problems are not very recent in the order of things; the students have had to deal with website inconsistencies from the very start. Should we not at least have achieved some level of upgrade on these things? Of course, that is if we expect to fully integrate into a hitch-free online system.
Our Recommendations for the Betterment of the University of Ibadan Website
If we objectively consider the issues at hand, we might want to put into consideration that the school was running a fully traditional system, and that transitioning is not an entirely easy feat. However, we – as an institution – cannot continue to give that excuse for long. Here are some suggestions that the school management should consider if they intend to solve these problems for good:
The ITeMS is the umbrella unit for issues regarding the management of the school website, student registration, and the school subject system. Obviously, the unit is essential to the smooth running of the school’s activities. However, to be properly ddress the issues surrounding such matters, the body needs enough staff members, as this would ease delegation and the division of labor in its administrative framework. It is only logical to conclude that ITeMS is understaffed, considering the number of emergency response lines that are available and the amount of students that frequent the ITeMS building – even during a virtual semester. Relatedly, the team of individuals responsible for the maintenance and upgrade of the University of Ibadan website should undergo training sessions in compliance with the evolution of web technology. Better still, they could use the helping hands of a few professionals in that regard. That would bring us to the next suggestion.
2. Studen Staff Members
The University of Ibadan boasts of a number of tech-savvy students that are professionals in handling the situations on ground (especially with the school website). Employing qualified student developers (say, as paid interns) would be a cost-effective way to tackle the issues regarding the website. These students would work hand-in-hand with the university’s team of developers to solve the issues of responsiveness, aesthetics and most importantly, to see to the website’s smooth integration with payment platforms.
Since the big bang about 13 billion years ago (or the divine creation as each of us may choose to believe), nature has favoured creatures whose phenotypic and genetic construction can be altered to survive as the environment changes. This same principle of selection applies in any field of human endeavor – our sociology, the academia, our cultures, name it! True, the University of Ibadan is quite an old institution and change is not necessarily an easy process. However, nature doesn’t really favour the slow; the University of Ibadan would have to adapt to the already virtual world if it wants to stay atop on the ladder of relevance. Aluta Continua!
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