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Attitude of Nigerian Students to Online Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Ojevwe Blessing Asoro, Oluwaseyitanfunmi Osunade / December 2020

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The emergence of internet technology has brought profound growth in the e-learning culture of tertiary institutions in many countries. Unfortunately, most Nigerian schools are yet to fully embrace and implement this. Electronic learning can be defined as an alternate learning process that is done over the internet; no physical classroom, students, or lecturers. It allows for online communication between teachers and learners. Haghshenas defined e-learning as the management of learning materials via electronic means such as satellite, CD-ROM, etc. [1]. The importance of this alternate learning system in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized, especially in face of this COVID-19 pandemic. E-learning outfits make it easier for teachers, institutions, and students to strategize, provide, and monitor the knowledge and instruction method [2]. It can also be inferred from Docebo that e-learning has the possibility to produce positive advancement over the years in Africa [3]. Online learning has proven to defy all long-distance/location barriers in the learning process: There will be no need for students to leave their respective homes. Modern learning technologies mean schools no longer need to have expensive infrastructures, students crowding the lecture rooms, etc. as witnessed in the traditional face-face learning method [4].

When the World Health Organization (WHO) came to the resolute conclusion of stopping the spread of this viral pandemic, they suggested a series of safety measures such as handwashing with soap and running water for 20 seconds, wearing of face masks, social distancing, and sit-at-home/lockdown orders across the nations [5] According to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, national school closure has been executed on more than half of the world's student populace, in a bid to stop the spread of the pandemic [6]. Despite sit-at-home/lockdown ordinances, learning should be a continuous process. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has made some countries, including some states in Nigeria such as Borno, Kaduna, Lagos, Oyo, and Ogun, to consider a web-based learning approach. E-learning is no more to be thought of as in future tense; it is here already, and thankfully, as an answer to teaching problems. Although, a few Nigerian schools, the University o Ibadan's Distance Learning Centre, National Open University of Nigeria, and some private universities, in addition to the traditional face-to-face way of learning currently offer e-learning at most levels of post-secondary education. Jegede, in an interview withThe Guardian newspaper, has said that the government must give an enormous guarantee and strong strategy toward distance learning in order for education to meet a worldwide standard [7].

Technological growth has brought about major changes in how things are done in all sectors, including learning and schooling methods. The transition of this growth has been somewhat smooth due to easy access to technological devices (internet access, mobile devices, etc.) for lecturers and students. According to Mamattah, the majority of students see online learning as groundbreaking for education; others on the other hand have major concerns about the discrepancy associated with its credibility [4]. The Nigeria University Commission (NUC) has vehemently pushed back against online degrees, and in most places of employment, certificates from such programs are frowned upon. As stated by Jones and Blankenship, the traditional face-to-face method of learning is able to provide immediate feedback on students' performance unlike web-based learning [8].

As part of the COVID-19 safety measures, learning activities in Nigerian tertiary institutes were placed on a compulsory lockdown. Some institutions were still involved in teaching students, some examining the students, and others awaiting results approval. While students never expected the pandemic to last this long, tertiary institutions have however been locked for months in Nigeria. This had prompted students to seek alternate sources of learning, especially e-learning, amongst other activities. Thus, this study aims to determine the e-learning attitude of tertiary students during the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

As a result of the COVID-19 halt in school activities, many researchers have taken it upon themselves to carry out findings especially on the effect the closure is having on learners and teachers. Most of these findings are focused on either student’s perception of the learning process, courses that can be taught online or grades of students, etc. In all, these findings have either been forecasted for during and after of COVID-19, be it long or short term bases [9]. Pandemics, wars, or natural disasters are not the only cause of change in the educational system as the world globally is evolving, thus focused on learning methods should be based on a safer environment [10]. This research takes its root based on these findings and also focused on the student’s e-learning perspective, its feasibility, learning pattern, and assessments of Nigerian students during this COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been argued a total closure of educational institutes is not the way forward as it provides no permanent solution to the current situation [11]. It has also been noted much less upsetting control measures should be employed in the fight against this pandemic. Viner et al. carried out a rapid systematic review by examining different electronic databases to detect the value of school lockdown and other social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic  [12]. They noted there is no available information that suggests the school closure helps to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. Olcott et al. showed in their study that the interruption of education indicates the significance of the need to make available alternate learning and teaching methods [13]. Amin et al. carried out a study on exploration of the critical challenges and factors that determines how often the e-learning system is used during the COVID-19 era [2]. It was argued that for e-learning systems to be put to good use, its challenges have to be implicit. Azevedo et al. had this same perception, as can be inferred from their presentation of a set of global simulation results for the potential impacts of COVID-19 long and short-term school closures on schooling and learning outcomes [9]. It was discovered COVID-19 will decrease the decades of international standard of teaching and learning while some learners due to financial constraints will stop schooling altogether. Daniel did a survey on viewpoints/controversies associated with education and COVID-19 in a bid to provide direction for teachers and heads of schools during the global crisis[14]. The study provided insights on how to handle learning curves (new ways of learning, addressing both parental and student concerns) post COVID-19 era. In conclusion, it was noted that schools will only be able to get remunerations based on the plans they have made available in the era of a pandemic.

From research, it has been discovered that both learners and teachers have a certain perception of the use of technological devices as a means of learning. With the various encounters and challenges from technological advancement in places of learning, Kalyanasundaram and Madhavi noted that it has become a necessity for society to comprehend the ways learners view e-learning [15]. This perception might stem from the fact that they have had no interaction with these technological devices due to the lack of accessibility/availability [2]. The importance, difficulties, and views of e-learning on distance education in Nigeria were discussed in Ajadi et al., it was concluded the existence of tertiary education in the 21st century will be based on the deployment and implementation of the different technological tools [16]. There is also a study from Ngampornchai and Adams on the readiness for online learning of Northeastern Thailand students [17]. The Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) model was used to explore students’ level of familiarity with technological education. It was concluded that despite the fact that most students have a general knowledge of mobile devices, through active social media usage, they have little knowledge of e-learning technological tools [17]. Rapanta et al. wrote an article on online university teaching during and after the COVID-19 crises, which focused on helping university teachers with little or no virtual learning and teaching experience [18]. A 2017 Jones and Blankenship survey describes the perception and preference of students learning; focus was based on enrollment of courses and concerns with the type of online courses offered [7]. It was concluded the scheme of work should include interactive sessions between lecturers and students, assignment sessions with precise instructions on how to carry them out, each topic should come with clear objectives. Pham et al. examined the connections between e-learning attributes: services, qualities, satisfaction, and trustworthiness of students with a focus on developing countries like Vietnam [19]. Analyses were based on a total number of 1,232 students using exploratory/confirmatory factor and structural equation models of SPSS 25/SmartPLS 3.0. The conclusion was that e-learning service qualities have a direct effect on the belief of students learning online. In a 2020 survey, Keller and Cernerud evaluated e-learner’s views using multiple regression analysis [20]. Students’ knowledge of computer know-how, their attitude to new technology learning styles, and the pros and cons of e-learning were evaluated. It was agreed that the method and style of applying e-learning systems in schools were crucial. Almarabeh evaluated student’s perception of e-learning with respect to the technological recognition model [21]. The results show learners are not just qualified but are willing to recognize the e-learning system. In Kalyanasundaram Madhavi’s study to determine learners' view on value-added courses like Forex management, operations research, and genetics that are offered online, it was concluded that students with an interest in online learning are also confident with e-learning [14]. Yang and Durrington made use of a web-delivered review to know students’ views on the quality of online courses and how they arrived at these views [22]. For this study, the hierarchical multiple regression, factor, and reliability analysis were used to analyze data of 176 e-learning students. Results from this work indicate group discussion, criticism from lecturers, the scheme of course work, and support from fellow students were the deciding features that led to the student's conclusion of online learning. El-Seoud et al. state the use of e-learning interactive tools helps to sustain and motivate students' learning process [23].


This study used the survey method to determine the perception of tertiary students to e-learning during the COVID-19 lockdown period in Nigeria. Students of tertiary institutions were the target population for the study. Participants were selected randomly using e-mail lists, WhatsApp, and Telegram messages to invite participation. A self-administered questionnaire was provided using Google Forms. Data was collected between the periods of June 3­–28, 2020. There were 170 respondents with usable data. The data analysis was done with simple statistical analysis such as frequency and percentages.

Results and Discussions

The results of the data analysis are presented and discussed below.

Figure 1. Gender distribution.

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Figure 1 shows that 56 percent of the respondents were female, while 44 percent were male.

Figure 2. Types of tertiary institutions attended.

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Figure 2 helps to show the type of institute that students are attending. 85 percent of the respondents are attending universities, while 8 percent and 7 percent are currently attending polytechnics and Colleges of Education, respectively.

Figure 3. Distribution of participants across Nigeria.

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Figure 3 shows Lagos State had a participation total of 54 with the highest number of respondents, while some states such as Gombe and Imo had only one participant each. Fourteen states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) did not have any representation.

Figure 4. Ownership of ICT devices.

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Figure 4 gives a depiction of the different types of devices that are owned by the participants. It can be observed that 50 percent of the participants own laptops, 43 percent own phones while the other 5 percent and 2 percent own desktops-all-in-one and tablets respectively.

Figure 5. Students' use of e-learning platforms.

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As seen in Figure 5, the number of students who had been participating in e-learning before the COVID-19 lockdown was 55 percent, while 45 percent of students said they had not been doing e-learning before the lockdown. From the 170 respondents, 69 percent of students said they have experienced e-learning, while 31 percent of students said they have no experience with e-learning, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 6. Participants take away from e-learning.

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The participants were asked if they had gained knowledge from online courses. 84 percent were of the opinion that they have benefited from online courses, while 16 percent were not in support of this, as seen in Figure 6.

Figure 7. Participants' opinion about paying for e-learning.

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Figure 7 gives a distribution of students’ opinions on whether they will pay for e-learning courses. The majority of students (70 percent) are willing to pay for e-learning courses, while 30 percent do not want to pay for e-learning.

Figure 8. Ease and simplicity of e-learning.

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From Figure 8, it can be observed that the majority of the respondents (75 percent) accepted that e-learning is easy and simple, while only (25 percent) were not in support of this view.

Figure 9. Suitability of e-learning.

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Figure 9 shows a cross-section of respondents’ opinion on e-learning being suitable for all types of courses i.e. theory and practical. 46 percent of respondents accepted that e-learning is suitable for all course types, while 54 percent of the respondents kicked against its suitability for all courses.

Figure 10. Time requirement for e-learning.

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Figure 10 shows the distribution of students’ opinions on time and commitment as requirements to e-learning. A larger percentage of students, 95 percent are in support of the view that e-learning requires time and commitment, while 5 percent of the participants did not agree.

Figure 11. E-learning allows for better interaction between students and teachers.

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It was noted in Figure 11 that the respondents have an equal view on whether e-learning allows for better interaction between students and teachers. 50 percent of the participants are of the notion that e-learning allows for better interaction, while the other 50 percent were against the notion.

Figure 12. E-Learning is interesting.

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Figure 12 shows the opinion of all respondents on e-learning being more interesting than normal classroom lectures. 41 percent of the participants accepted that e-learning is more interesting than classroom teaching, while 59 percent rejected this view.

Figure 13. Ease of doing e-learning.

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Figure 13 shows the respondents' experience with e-learning. Reflecting on their personal experience, 82 percent of participants are in support of the notion that e-learning made it easy for them to learn at their own pace, while 18 percent objected to this notion.

Figure 14. Introduction of e-learning to Nigerian tertiary institutions.

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As depicted in Figure 14, 78 percent of participants accepted the introduction of e-learning in Nigerian schools, while 22 percent of the participants differed in their opinion.

Figure 15. Purpose of certificates from e-learning.

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Figure 15 shows 80 percent of the participants agreed to the acceptability of e-learning certificates for employment purposes, 11 percent disagreed, while 9 percent were indecisive.

There were more female respondents than male respondents. This may be due to the fact that women are more active on social media than most men. The number of respondents attending university is more than the other type of tertiary institutions. The researchers work and study in a university, so the contacts who were invited to complete the survey are mostly university students. A large number of the respondents are based in Lagos, indicating that students form a large part of the population in Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos is an attractive town to reside in because of access to digital infrastructure. Each respondent had at least one digital device for connectivity. The smartphone has enabled respondents to connect to resources using services reserved for the computer system. Almost every respondent has a smartphone or computer. Online learning had been in existence before the COVID-19 pandemic, thus more than half of the respondents had done an online course pre-COVID-19 era. The number of those taking courses online has however increased during the COVID-19 period. This may be due to boredom.

The participants agreed to pay for online courses. This implies that the knowledge gained is useful and worthy of remuneration. The online course was seen as easy and simple by 76 percent of the participants. 46 percent of the participants accepted that teaching both theoretical and practical courses is suitable for online teaching, while 57 percent objected to this view. Teaching theoretical and practical courses online would depend on the content creation method available. The success of online learning would also depend on the available technology, time to interact with the learning content, and commitment to continue with the process in the absence of external or physical supervision.

Participants believe online learning does not increase interaction time between learners and instructors. This perception may be coming from online courses that do not make use of online forums or chat boxes, which encourages interaction between learners-learners and learners-instructors.

Participants objected to the notion that online learning is more interesting than normal classroom lectures. This implies that participants value physical interaction and count physical interaction as part of the learning experience.

Learning at one's own pace is a benefit of online learning, as observed by 82 percent of the participants. This eliminates distractions and also reduces pressure to learn a quantity of material by a certain date/time. The learner can choose the speed of learning and the duration as opposed to classroom-based learning.

Most of the participants would like some value such as employment to be associated with certificates issued for online courses. Some online learning providers already issue certificates for a fee to participants. The value of a certificate is determined by the recruiting agency. Nigerian organizations are yet to employ individuals based solely on certificates from online courses. Nigerian educational regulatory bodies have not accredited online service providers; hence the law does not recognize them.

It is widely agreed upon by participants that online learning should be introduced in Nigerian tertiary institutions. Most universities in Nigeria are already moving large classes online, especially general courses and 100-level courses. Already, the introduction of distance learning programs by many educational institutions, such as the University of Ibadan, is promoting the concept of online learning.


Students of tertiary institutions in Nigeria had been engaged in e-learning before the COVID-19 pandemic, not as a means of supporting classroom teaching but for self-development. This study determined that Nigerian students have devices capable of doing e-learning. The beneficial features of e-learning are the ability for students to learn at their own pace, obtain certificates of completion, and the simplicity of the learning materials. E-learning propels students to spend time online and requires a commitment of time and resources to complete the course. There is a general willingness of students to pay for e-learning courses. The students support the introduction of e-learning platforms to the teaching methods adopted by their tertiary institutions. The students recommended the acceptability of the e-learning course certificates for employment because of the time and resource investments made. The choice of which e-learning platform students prefer can be investigated along with the effectiveness of alternative learning systems such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Zoom, and Instagram during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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About the Authors

Ojevwe Blessing Asoro is a female research assistant to Dr. Oluwaseyitanfunmi Osunade at the Data Communication, Security and Information Systems Laboratory, Department of Computer Science, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria. She earned her Bachelor of Science and master’s degree in computer information systems, at Achievers University, Owo and computer science at the University of Ibadan, respectively. Ojevwe Blessing Asoro has an interest in research areas like cryptography and human-computer interaction.

Dr. Oluwaseyitanfunmi Osunade is an associate professor at the University of Ibadan, Computer Science Department. He is the director at Data Communication, Security and Information Systems Laboratory, Department of Computer Science, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria. His research area of specialization includes communication systems and computer networks.

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