Learning through mobile phones is a revolutionary new type of edtech that enables people to learn remotely. M-learning is particularly useful in countries where literacy rates are low, and where school children struggle to complete their education – whether due to poor school facilities, the prevalence of child labour or poor transport infrastructure making it hard for children physically to reach the classroom. Through their mobile phones, learners can engage with all kinds of courses, such as adult education courses, exam revision, diplomas, language qualifications and MOOC.
Thus, m-learning has great potential for improving a population’s access to education in any region of the world. In West Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa in particular, mobile learning and edtech offers some very exciting possibilities. Read more about these possibilities in details on the African edtech blog.
But what about the specific case of Nigeria? Knowing whether or not these types of technology will have a positive impact on a given country will depend on many factors, including the population’s mobile phone use rates, existing educational facilities, the economic situation of the country and the quality of telecommunications infrastructure. So, let’s look more closely at each of these factors for Nigeria.
The Current Situation of m-learning
Nigeria has a well-established and wide ranging mobile and satellite phone network, especially when compared to other countries in the region of Sub-Sahara Africa. With its telecommunications industry having recently been deregulated, Nigeria offers both many new opportunities and many new challenges for mobile and e-learning. Mobile phone penetration rates in the country are currently at 30%, which of course will limit the numbers of communities that can access online courses and other e-learning materials through their mobile phones. However, these penetration rates are forecasted to improve over the coming years, with the number of mobile phone users in Nigeria predicted to exceed 23 million by 2019. Those people who do have smartphones are generally au fait with a wide range of smartphone based technology, including apps.
In terms of the affordability of mobile based e-learning technology, this will differ for different sections of society. Nigeria has one of highest economic growth rates in the world (averaging at 7.4%) and yet it has poverty rates that are very high. Around a third of the Nigerian population is defined as living in poverty, with over 100 million people currently attempting to get by on less than $1 every day. Elites tend to be concentrated in urban areas, and it is in urban areas that the best mobile phone coverage, and highest rates of mobile phone use, are concentrated. As such, new solutions for e-learning will need to be found for the impoverished populations of Nigeria (i.e. those people who arguably stand to gain the most from the introduction of m-learning initiatives) and especially those who live in areas with poor mobile phone penetration rates.
In terms of its education system, Nigeria has what is known as a 6-3-3-4 system which means that students spend 6 years at primary school, 3 years each at junior and senior secondary school, and 4 years at university. Nigeria’s education is well established and it has some of Africa’s best universities including the University of Lagos, the University of Nigeria and the University of Benin.
Nigerian e-learning providers
There is a rising amount of local and regional companies which provide products and materials for online courses and exam preparations, the classical fields of m-learning. This African providers guide illustrates a list of edtech startups in several countries.
A relatively new service, Kotivu is based in Lagos, Nigeria. It launched in May 2016 and aims to provide an innovative, interactive and cost-effective educational experience. Courses are available online; there is currently no app-based service. Students include private individuals, business people, public organisations, universities and government agencies throughout Nigeria and West Africa.
Under its founder Stephen Ojji, Kotivu describes itself as a social impact educational software firm with three business areas: Kotivu Assess, Kotivu Recruit and Kotivu Learn. Its principal goal is client satisfaction through serving client requirements and interests and to become a loyal business partner by providing excellent workplace training programmes at affordable prices.
Courses are designed to provide a good professional grounding via the user-friendly Kotivu portal. Topics include commerce and purchasing, marketing, project management, human resources and personal assistant training. Other subjects include quality control, safety at work, financial management, innovation and leadership. Payments are made by credit card in Nigerian Naira.
Kotivu Learn facilitates learning in the student’s own space and at his or her own pace, also eliminating the need for one-way monologues from a lecturer to multiple students. The candidate is an active participant in the elearning process. Additionally, the company aims to develop strategic relationships and build its business through distance education elearning content that can be redesigned and resold.
Located in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria, Tutor.ng was founded in 2014. The web-based service is available in English and was designed to make education accessible for Nigerians and to promote the sharing of knowledge across borders.
Tutor.ng also enables individual tutors to create courses and engage learners remotely, connecting them all over the world. Tutors may themselves be advanced learners, test preparation companies or university affiliates.
A wide range of course topics includes business and entrepreneurship and information technology in addition to languages, history, science and mathematics. The platform also offers examination preparation, tuition in basic academic skills such as reading and spelling as well as non-academic skills including make-up tutorials, cooking, creative arts or health and lifestyle. Some of these courses also exist as online courses, although not all; Tutor.ng also offers physical courses.
Also located in Lagos, Nigeria, Prepclass was created by Obanor Chukwuwezam in 2013 with the aim of addressing the issues caused by the generally poor performance of Nigerian students in examinations, especially those sat at national level. The platform provides content relevant to local examinations and is available as an app in English. Targeted at Nigerian students, prices and payment plans depend on various factors and are agreed individually between tutors and students.
A Crunchbase article highlighted how Prepclass offers quick test taking strategies, targeted examination practice, full length tests, topic-specific tests and a computer based training (CBT) experience similar to that of UTME (Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination) and post-UTME qualifications in Nigerian universities.
By simulating a testing experience using questions from previous examinations for which the student is studying, this academic solutions provider gives students a unique opportunity to test themselves and receive analytical feedback on their performance. Students can see the amount of time they spent on a test, the topics at which they are proficient and, in contrast, where they need to spend more time and gain further practice. The platform also provides an individual learning programme with detailed answers to each question so that students know exactly what is expected for a particular answer, as well as any learning points that they may have missed.
The Prepclass website is clearly very well built and looks set to be a strong e-learning market contender. In Nigeria, tuition is very common – there are more than 5,000 tutors in Lagos alone. Approved, experienced tutors enjoy high earning prospects with this system while registered students are promised a quality, customised in-home tutoring or online test preparation service.
Overview of the Future of m-learning
MOOC, online courses and other edtech to be accessed through mobile phones has great potential in Nigeria. One way that it can be used is to complement the existing education system. Nigeria’s well established universities, for example, could implement online learning opportunities for remote learners. However, in terms of increasing literacy and education rates among Nigeria’s poorest populations, there are several challenges to overcome. The first is the low prevalence of smartphone use among many Nigerians, a third of whom are (as we have seen) living in poverty. The second is the low rate of mobile phone penetration in the country. Economic solutions are needed alongside educational ones in order to meet these people’s needs. However, statistical forecasts suggest that mobile phone use in Nigeria is going to continue to increase over the next few years, thus providing more and more opportunities for mobile based learning to be implemented in this country.