27 Jun 2014

Online Education and the Nigerian Student

With the introduction of telecommunications to Nigeria and its attendant internet services    as well as the significant drop in cost as a result of competition between the major service providers (MTN, GLO, ETISALAT and co) in the past few years, there has been a surge of internet consumers. According to a study released in 2013 in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the number of Nigerian  internet users between the ages of 13 - 24  grew by 53% between 2012 and 2013. In a country where 50% of the total population are below the age of 31, we can roughly estimate that in a year at least five million young people got to use the internet for the first time. To put this mind boggling numbers in perspective, the entire population of Benin Republic which shares a border with Nigeria is 10 million people; enough people to populate half of a whole country had their first contact with the internet and quite possibly literacy in Nigeria last year.  

A large number of these new internet consumers use the internet exclusively for entertainment and social networking on sites and messengers like 2go and Badoo but
only a few get the chance  to enjoy all the other practical purposes the internet offers, one of which is Online Education or e-Learning.  We will  show you in a few quick steps what Online Education is, why you should use it, how you can use it, and where you can find what you need.

What is Online Education?

Here’s what some professionals think about Online Education.
Online education is a type of distance learning: Taking courses without attending a brick and mortar school or university. Instead, online students and teachers interact over the internet.
Jessamine Price (www.ehow.com)
Online education is defined as the creation and proliferation of the personal computer, the globalization of ideas and other human acts, and the use of technology in exchanging ideas and providing access to more people.
Sabri g. Bebawi (www.sabri.org)
Education via the internet, network, or standalone computer, e-learning is essentially the network-enabled transfer of skills and knowledge.

So, basically online education is  acquiring knowledge, learning of new skills, instructions and tools using the internet and electronic devices. Online education can be formal, semi-formal or informal.

Formal Online Education:
Have you ever seen  adverts like ‘Study in Liverpool University. Get an MBA’ on some websites? Sure, you have. Such degrees or courses you take from an actual ‘brick and mortar’ institution are examples of formal online education. In Formal online education, the user, after completing the course and meeting the necessary requirements by the institution, will in some cases receive a certificate (yes, a real paper certificate) which would be valid internationally.

Most formal online education courses are not free and  you may have to pay for them virtually with credit cards or through financial websites like Paypal. A few important things to know about Formal Online Education; just like a regular university, there is a limited amount of time (albeit less rigid than a regular university course) in which the course you’re offering must be completed. You’ll also have to sit for examinations similar to the ones written at regular universities. Plus online formal education is only a little less expensive when you compare it to regular university education. On the plus side, a formal online education from a prestigious university has as much ‘pedigree’ (fancy word for value) as a ‘brick and mortar’ institution. If you have the money and wouldn’t mind deadlines then this is for you. .

Informal (Self) Online Education:
Informal Online Education is something most users of the internet do consciously or unconsciously. From the earlier definitions, we see that Online Education entails transfer, skills, knowledge, information etc. Therefore, when your colleague mentions something about the Second World War and you are lost and decide to Google It, you just practiced some informal self-education. Reading  an article from Wikipedia or checking how many albums P-Square has sold is a form of informal Online Education. Also, those times when a friend or colleague sends you an email or shares you an article from Okadabooks or 9JEducation, reading those are instances of informal Online Education.

Informal Online Education is one of the truly fascinating by-products of the internet, there’s information on almost anything you might be interested in just a webpage away, and best of all, it’s always there and always free!  

Semi-formal Online Education:
Sure we’ve talked about formal and informal online education but Semi-formal Online Education is  what we really want to talk about in this article. In Semi-formal Online Education, users are usually enrolled to some sort of ‘Online School’ or institution. The courses are usually very well-defined (in terms of curriculum and course work) but sometimes may be open-ended. In Semi-formal Online Education, nothing is fixed. You might or might not get a tutor; course-mates or even a curriculum.

Institutions under this category are usually affiliated with ‘brick and mortar’ schools/institutions and sometimes, they do issue out certificates after the user meets the necessary requirements. Some of these certificates are valid internationally while some are merely certificates of participation/completion or in the case of eDx, Honour Code Certificates.

Some things to consider when choosing Semi-formal education; the courses usually have a time limit usually longer and more flexible than a formal online course, with the exception of a few courses that have no time limits. Semi-formal online courses are usually free and mostly are unsupervised and mostly about practical skills such as photography and jewellery making and of course programming.

Why should I learn online? Regular school is too much already.
You may be wondering why you should learn online when school is already so much. Well, here are three good reasons why:

v  In online learning/education, you choose what you want to learn. You may be a Computer Science undergrad and want to learn something about History and Civilization and not want the pressure of having to pass the course with a sufficiently good grade to improve your GPA or at least keep it level. Online Education gives you the opportunity to learn something about anything and STILL get certified.
As a student of say, Physics (which is my case), you may want to learn something about a specific aspect of Physics (say Astrophysics) which is not available in your own institution; your professors may refer you to books which you do not find in the library and when you find are too bulky to read and understand. Online Education gives you the opportunity to learn about that aspect in a controlled environment and names of reference books relevant to the user’s level are usually given out at the beginning or end of the course.
v  Learning Online is usually very loosely time-sensitive. While a regular course in your university has a fixed start and end date, most online courses do not (This is dependent on the Online Institution, though). You can take a course at your own pace and finish whenever you want.
v  There is no pressure to pass or excel in an online course. These are practical courses where even your tutors (if they exist) do not know you personally, your ‘classmates’ may be in Japan, India, USA, Romania and so on. Nobody really cares whether you pass or fail, and what you should be caring about is how well you grasp the concepts of what you learn online. Forums exist where the course can be discussed and in some cases, a mailing address to the tutor(s).

How can I learn online? What do I need?
Learning online is technically free but since users (usually) pay for their internet, that is the only cost they [the users] may incur. All one needs to learn online is an active internet connection, a device that connects to the internet and a willingness to learn. One can learn on their handheld device, their tablets, their PlayStation Portable (or related devices), their Desktop, their laptop or even their Nokia Asha.
Some courses are video-based (where you watch recorded videos of actual classroom lectures or video conference with your tutor) and may need a lot of data, some may be text-based and may not need so much data, some may even be audio-based (as is the case of most Language courses) some may be YouTube based and data charges will vary according to the carrier.

Where can I learn online?
There are numerous institutions where one can learn online but I will outline just a few:

v  Code Academy – Learn to program in various languages. www.codecademy.com
v  eDx – Learn practical courses from various ‘brick and mortar’ institutions. www.edx.org
v  Alison – Learn practical web-based courses on varying topics. www.alison.com
v  Coursera – Learn practical courses from ‘brick and mortar’ institutions. www.coursera.org
v  9JEducation – Information on opportunities for the West African Student www.9jeducation.org

These are but a few names to mention, an interested user may Google-search the course they want and follow the most high-ranking link or ask a professional for advice.

Until next time,

Hello.

28. April. 2014

Ezim Osai
Lagos

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