COVID-19: Pharmacy is teachable online –Don

In this report by ABDULSALAM MAHMUD, a senior lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Dr Ezekiel Akinkunmi, reveals how he imparted knowledge to his pharmacy students during lockdown. 

Background

Over 90 out of the 168 Pharmacy students in 300 and 400 levels at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, in Osun state, registered for the virtual lectures for a particular course.

A lecturer at the school, in April last year, had informed the class representatives of the third and fourth-year students that he was planning to organise their lectures online.

This was after the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country. A directive by the Federal Ministry of Education then had asked universities to fashion out ways of commencing virtual learning.   

Teaching pharmacy online

Thus, it was the first time online teaching would be used for some set of  students in the pharmacy faculty of a Nigerian university.

Prior to this, there were discussions on the possibility and efficiency of the ‘remote’ classes. The students had expressed diverse concerns over the new lecture-delivery format.     But by the time the online classes began, according to Dr Akinkunmi, over 80 (representing 63.0%)          out of the 127 students, who eventually attended the classes, said they assimilated the lecture contents delivered virtually well.

Akinkunmi said, “I sent the Zoom invites to the classes through their representatives on April 25, 2020. A reminder was sent in the morning of the day of the first lecture.

“The programme started with two lectures, both held on April 27, 2020. Third year students had lectures on Pharmaceutical Microbiology I (PHA 302), while the fourth year students had lectures on Pharmaceutical Microbiology III        (PHA 402).

“Each lecture lasted for one hour. There were options for video and audio interactions on the platform. During the course of the lectures, students were able to get their questions answered and assignments given.”

Cheaper online platforms available

He said after the exercise was evaluated by the students, who filled questionnaires on Google forms about the sessions, it was discovered that there are other platforms, which could be used for virtual teaching. He said such platforms are cheaper alternatives, and produce clearer broadcast, not necessarily with video.

“Yet, most of the Pharmacy students, about 54.5% of them prefer  face-to-face instead of virtual lectures. Almost 79.6% of the students did not want the virtual learning to      continue during the lockdown or when their school finally resumes,” the don said.

Akinkunmi, an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Science, made these known in a paper he presented in a journal titled, “Experience of online   lecture delivery in a Nigerian university.”

The paper was published in the Educational Journal of the Federation of International Pharmacists (FIP).

Challenges of virtual learning surmountable

According to the paper, 61.1 percent of the students believe that all the challenges identified with virtual learning can be overcome.

On the challenges he faced while delivering the lecture, he noted, “There were disruptions in network and also the inability to link up. However, most disruptions were corrected when students changed their locations. The other option was that students can change their network provider.

“Again, the students, themselves, made lots of noise during classes, but I just mute them. Then, some phones become hot due to the lengthy period used for the lectures. But we advised them not to use such phones for more than one hour during lectures.”

Practical pharmacy programme

A cross-section of lecturers at the Pharmacy Faculty, maintain that there is absolutely nothing stopping lectures from being delivered online, except that practical exposure constitutes a substantial part of the Bachelor of Pharmacy programme. “And there is no alternative to being physically on ground,” they said.

Assess quality of online lectures

Dr Akinkunmi also believes that universities will need to carefully assess the quality of lectures received online by students, since there is a higher chance of distraction, specific to each student’s immediate environment.

“If nothing at all, this is something the faculty should definitely begin to explore as a mode of teaching. Besides, the approach is quite innovative and the knowledge gained from this experience will be useful,” he added.

OAU Pharmacy students in the lab

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