As universities slowly revert to face-to-face learning, a study carried out by researchers at JKUAT on the University’s online studies revealed that most students fulfilled the directive by the Commission for University Education (CUE) of attending 75% of online lectures as required.
The findings of the study whose aim was to establish if online learning during the new normal was delivering expected results were presented to staff and students of the School of Pharmacy (SOPHAM) during an online session on November 9, 2020.
The study that used the schools’ 147 students as a sample size was carried out by Dr. Godfrey Mayoka, a lecturer at SOPHAM assisted by Veronica Njambi, a final year Bachelor of Pharmacy degree student. It was administered via Google forms in the first week of September 2020, and drew participants from five cohorts at SOPHAM who undertook the May-August 2020 semester online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The students were spread out in urban and rural areas with 70% using electricity and 30% relying on solar energy. Some of those in rural areas had to walk for long distances to charge their laptops, while some had to combine learning with other chores, thereby disrupting their learning time.
The findings further reveal that there was frequent loss of internet connectivity and power outage.
According to the findings, the biggest challenge experienced by the students was that some subjects were difficult to articulate in the digital interaction given that the arduous concepts were not adaptable to online platforms. In this regard, The Chairperson, Pharmacology Department, Dr. Linus Wafula, opined that it was an opportunity for software developers to come up with application programmes that would supplement the lectures.
Speaking during the presentation, Dr. Mayoka stated that it would be important to seek partnerships with internet providers such as Safaricom, which emerged most preferred by the students who spent an average of Kshs 2,000 on internet bundles to access lectures. The subsidy in these costs would aid the students given that 60% used cellular data than WIFI and about 60% of them found it unaffordable.
On a positive note, the study revealed that the online sessions had many benefits to the students. Personal interactions with lecturers, integrity in continuous assessment tests, and extra videos and quizzes, which served as scaffold materials after the online sessions, were some of the benefits highlighted.
The students also commended the lecturers, lauding Dr. Julia Kimondo as one of those with impressive presentation skills.
The students also made some recommendations that included; avoiding the slotting of lectures in the afternoon, as well as ensuring that lecture times and their durations are allotted in proportion to the bulkiness of content.
In his closing remarks, Dr. Alex Muriithi, Dean SOPHAM commended the researchers for the revelation and encouraged students and lecturers to embrace blended learning.
Also, in attendance was the Chairperson of Pharmaceutical Chemistry Department, Dr. Bonface Thuo, who said that most of the challenges related to accessibility cut across, and 3called for further studies on the lecturers’ perceptions.