Faisal Babangida is a 200-level student of Business Administration in Adamawa State University (ADSU), Mubi.
For Babangida and many of his contemporaries, the teaching and learning processes at ADSU have been made less cumbersome and more effective via the application of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and e-learning programmes in the university’s curricula.
Babangida, who is proficient in computer uses and applications, believes that the effective utilisation of ICT or informatics in the country’s universities will appreciably enhance efforts to provide quality education and conduct reliable researches.
“ICT applications have given me the unique opportunity to gather good research materials and have access to valuable literature works by erudite scholars across the world,’’ Babangida says.
“The technology also enables me to share experiences with other students from other parts of the world,” he adds.
However, Babangida’s testimony does not reflect the experiences of most Nigerian students simply due to their lack of access to informatics, e-learning facilities and the persistent use of traditional methods of teaching in their respective institutions.
Analysts, nonetheless, underscore the usefulness of ICT, particularly computers, in storing, analysing and distributing information of all kinds in the 21st Century civilisation.
They add that in e-learning, for example, informatics are used in teaching, learning and research connected or coordinated by a single universal hub.
However, ICT experts maintain that the main purpose of ICT in education entails the use of ICT equipment and tools in the teaching-learning process both as a medium and methodology.
Therefore, the purpose of ICT in education, in general terms, is to familiarise students with the use and workings of computers and related social, ethical issues, they add.
In a nutshell, the experts claim that ICT plays a three-pronged role in education.
The first is ICT as a subject, computer studies, for instance, while the second role is using ICT as a tool to support traditional subjects — computer-based learning, presentation and research.
The third role is using ICT as an administrative tool to support education management information systems (EMIS).
The realisation of the enormous importance of ICT in promoting quality education, perhaps, propelled ADSU, in spite of its relatively smaller size, if compared to several universities across the country, to accord top priority to the development of ICT uses and applications in its academic programmes.
Observers, nonetheless, say that the university’s policy on ICT is not an isolated one, as ICT development remains a cornerstone of the Federal Government’s education reform policy, which seeks to re-invigorate the education sector and stimulate the growth of science and technical education.
The Federal Government had, in the last 10 years, initiated a number of programmes aimed at encouraging ICT-based education in primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education.
In 2007, for instance, the Federal Government entered into a partnership for the development of ICT resource centres in all the federal universities across the country.
The project entails the input of private sector agencies in developing and running the centres for a five-year period, as part of efforts to ensure their sustainability.
One of the resource centres was recently inaugurated at the University of Abuja, while similar projects are almost completed in many universities across the country.
The Federal Government, through the National Universities Commission (NUC), is also implementing the Virtual Library Project, while conducting capacity-building activities, as well as providing technical and logistics support to enable the universities to build their ICT capacities.
The NUC has so far trained more than 2, 000 lecturers in ICT uses and applications in its drive to revamp the country’s university system.
The commission has spent more than N180 million on the Virtual Library Project, as part of its e-learning and ICT development programmes.
The NUC’s Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie, said, during a visit to ADSU, that the commission had initiated various ICT development programmes to reposition Nigerian universities to produce sound graduates and conduct better researches.
He said that one of the achievements of the programmes was the digitization of more than 5, 000 journals published within the university system under the Virtual Library project.
Besides, Okojie said that the NUC, in collaboration with UNESCO, had trained lecturers under the Virtual Institute for Higher Education Pedagogy (VIHEP) and Virtual Institute for Higher Education in Africa (VIHEAF) programmes.
“We trained several teachers online on how to improve their pedagogical skills, modern methods of teaching and learning, entrepreneurship education and ways of writing grants’ proposal”.
“The NUC is playing a leading role in the implementation of the 180-million-U.S.-dollar World Bank’s Science and Technology Education Post-Basic (STEP-B) project,” he said.
Okojie said that the commission was also working on the University Database Portal Standardisation project to enable the universities to benefit maximally from the World Bank project.
The NUC, he added, was also implementing the ICT Solutions project designed to put in place a research and education network in the country.
“We are also cooperating with ‘Linkage with Experts and Academics in the Diaspora Scheme’ (LEADS) to bring Nigerian experts working in overseas countries home to work for a short period in our universities.
“We expect that they will make positive impact on the local staff, students and share experiences on modern methods of teaching and research, while using latest technologies,” he said.
To complement the Federal Government’s efforts in promoting ICT-based education, ADSU has initiated several programmes, including the establishment of a well-equipped e-library, e-learning programmes and the “One-To-One Student Laptop project’’.
On May 18, ADSU commenced the distribution of 2, 000 laptop computers to students, under its laptops’ acquisition scheme for students.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Alkassum Abba, said that the programme was aimed at enhancing e-learning and promoting ICT applications in the university system, adding that the computers were distributed to the students under the first phase of the scheme.
Abba said that the computers, equipped with modern software applications and other accessories, would be sold to students at a subsidised rate of N60, 000 per unit.
He said, with a sense of fulfillment, that ADSU had provided more than 50 per cent of its students’ population with e-learning instruments, stressing that the whole activity was part of strategies aimed at exposing the students to the global knowledge community.
“We placed considerable emphasis on using ICT as a pivot for learning and teaching,’’ he said, adding: “ICT will be systematically mainstreamed into the entire fabric of the university to include core activities such as teaching, learning and institutional administration.’’
Abba said that the university, in partnership with a commercial firm, William World Wide, had trained some officials of the university on computer maintenance.
The vice-chancellor said that ADSU has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the company to send some students to China for training in computer technology.
Besides, Abba said that the university had set up a 5-kilometre-radius-capacity wireless Internet connectivity, while establishing an ICT centre with electronic classrooms to enable students to receive lectures online.
“The overall expectation is that our students will experience phenomenal intellectual exploration, which may act as a catalyst for innovation,” he added.
He urged the students to ensure effective utilisation of the computers and other e-learning facilities provided by the university.
Dr Joshua Atah, a Director in NUC, commended ADSU for its pioneering efforts to promote ICT-based education, saying that the efforts would also enhance ICT-based education across the country.
Atah, nonetheless, called for the participation of the private sector in ICT development in the country’s universities and other academic institutions so as to fast-track their transformation and enable them to produce quality graduates.
“NUC will provide incentives for university lecturers to enable them to put their works and lecture notes online, as this will make teaching and learning more efficient, in line with international standards”.
“We, however, need private investments in ICT development to ensure adequate funding and sustainability of the programme,” Atah said.
Also speaking, Mr Abubakar Usman, the Secretary of the Students’ Union, urged the students to safeguard the computers and ensure effective utilisation of the university’s e-learning facilities to improve on their academic performances.
Usman also advised the students to dedicate themselves to studies and strive to make the university a centre for excellence and a hub of ICT-based education in the country.
Observers urge other universities across the country to take a cue from ADSU’s efforts to promote ICT-based education so as to make Nigerian universities relevant in the ICT-based civilization of the 21st Century.
Sani, writes from News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).