The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020 caused most schools in Nigeria to shut down in order to check the spread of the virus. The sudden shift from classrooms due to the compulsory lockdown prompted many schools to turn to virtual learning as a way out.
Unfortunately, virtual classes have been observed to have had both positive and negative effects on the students. In fact, some students have argued that online learning was the primary cause of their poor grades. A 400 level Industrial Chemistry student of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, in Ogun State, Opeyemi Ibrahim, made her preference clear when she said: “I prefer the physical classes to virtual ones. I don’t pay as much attention during the virtual classes. There are lots of things that can distract you from paying attention. “Asides that, there is the issue of network challenge.
You need a very good network to attend the class. Today, the network may be good and the next day, the signal will be poor. When you don’t have a good network, you’ll not be able to take classes.” He also mentioned electricity as another stumbling block in achieving the best in virtual learning. He said: “We are in Nigeria and of course we all know how unstable our electricity is! Imagine a situation where there’s no light to power your phone or laptop, and you need to attend classes. There’s no way you won’t be missing classes. The funny thing is your lecturer will not understand if you missed classes due to the above reasons.
“Sometimes, there are things the lecturer will say, which are not in the notebook, some explanations he will give, which we will not be able to comprehend because of poor network. These things contribute to poor academic performances at the end of the day. For me as an individual, it has affected me in a negative way.” According to him, virtual learning affected his grades in a terrible way. His words: “When you don’t pay attention due to a bad network or you have a low battery, all these things will affect you. There’s no way you will perform as much as someone that attended physical classes.
The physical class is way better than the virtual class. There’s no way they can make it more suitable than the physical class. I mean, it’s physical and the lecturer is in front of you, you need to pay 100 percent attention and listen very well.”
For a graduate of law, Mr. Oluwasanjo Taiwo, virtual classes are also not his thing. “I don’t like virtual classes. The physical class is better because it makes me able to interact better with the lecturer. The virtual class actually hinders how a student interacts with the lecturer due to the network ,and apart from the network, the lecturer sometimes are not technologically sound themselves so they tend to face some problems on their end.”
Taiwo, who also mentioned how expensive virtual learning has become, added: “In fact, virtual learning is also expensive. Thank God for understanding parents, who are always willing to provide money for data. There were people in my class, who were not able to attend those classes because they were not able to afford the data. Even apart from the data, during the course of the online classes, phones got lost and those without phones missed classes.
I keep thanking God that I was able to pull through.” He also stated: “The virtual learning, however, made me see how I could do things virtually rather than just going to sit in the class. Like most things in life, it has its advantages and disadvantages. I think it helped positively and negatively; it just had to do with interaction. Sometimes during the class, you may not understand what the lecturer is saying and once he leaves the meeting, you can’t call him back to ask questions; which is what most of us do during physical classes.”
Taiwo further stated: “We know it is called university and we were expected to do things differently, but then there are still some things you need to be shown physically, and something you need to be told physically. Like our profession, it is more practical.
If we want to do our moot and mock competition, we can’t achieve that virtually, we have to do that physically. I think I’ll prefer physical classes to online classes irrespective of the fact that free Wi- Fi is provided. I must confess that the virtual classes, unlike some students, didn’t affect my results. Maybe it was due to reading on my part because I recalled that I had my best results when they started the virtual classes. “But then, it had to do with there should be no mistake because I was a final year student, so I had to read more. I missed notes very well on the virtual classes because sometimes the class may be boring so I will sleep off.
We had a Good Samaritan; yes, a girl that dedicated her time towards making sure she didn’t miss anything the lecturer said, and she was so helpful that after every class she was always sending notes she made from the lecture to us in our class group. That was how most of us got our notes.” However, a graduate from the department of English Language Education, Oluwatunmise Odunayo, preferred the virtual classes to physical classes because it saved her stress even though it was quite expensive. She said: “I like the virtual classes more than the physical class because it saves me the stress of dressing up for school and walking under the hot sun. Yes, it was quite expensive, but it actually made me improve my reading skills. I read more because most of the time I wasn’t available for the virtual class so I try to read so as to meet up with the next class and exams.”
Odunayo further explained that it affected her results in a positive way. She said: “The lecturers sent us PDF and files on the platform and at times, during the virtual class some lecturers’ dictated notes. I prefer the virtual classes, especially if it comes with the provision of free Wi-Fi.” But the owner of a school in Arepo, Ogun State, Bridge Lens, Mrs Janet Afolabi believes that rather than look at only the negatives of virtual classes, argues that in times of adversity (which the COVID-19 pandemic was) there was no other option than to turn to online classes.
“The honest truth is what else could we do? Since we did not know how long the lockdown would last the only other option was to turn to online classes to fill the void. Had we not then it would have meant the students might have missed one full academic session and we all know what effect this would have had on both the students and the parents who would have had to bear the cost of paying for an extra academic year for their wards. “So yes, while one cannot compare virtual classes to the real thing, at the end of the day it still served a major purpose,” she said.