Nigerian Law Students’ Perception of Online Teaching: Appraisal of COVID-19-imposed Online Classes

AuthorAfolasade A. Adewumi,Oluyomi Susan Pitan
Published date01 January 2022
Date01 January 2022
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/23220058211061915
Subject MatterArticles
Article
Nigerian Law Students’ Perception
of Online Teaching: Appraisal of
COVID-19-imposed Online Classes
Afolasade A. Adewumi1 and
Oluyomi Susan Pitan2,3
Abstract
The Council of Legal Education, which is the regulatory body for the legal profession in Nigeria, has
made it clear over the years that the training of lawyers cannot be adequately carried out through
correspondence or distance learning, which can be interpreted as online learning or remote learning.
As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, various online teaching and learning methods
were adopted by educational institutions all over the world, to ensure the continuity of the learning
process, truncated by the pandemic. This study, carried out through a multidisciplinary approach, is an
assessment of the perception of students on the level of effectiveness of COVID-19-imposed online
teaching and learning, especially, in comparison with the traditional classroom setting among legal
education students in Nigeria. From the study, it was observed that students perceived the online
learning method to be more effective than the traditional face-to-face method of delivery but were less
focused during the online classes as compared to physical classes. Furthermore, many of the students
opined that online classes should be discontinued after the lockdown. Despite students’ distractions
during online learning, there is a need to recognize that online learning is a panacea for the crisis at
hand (the COVID-19 pandemic), and for as long as it lasts, there may not be a complete return to
the physical classroom setting. The study suggests ways of minimizing the challenges that students
who do not find online learning effective face with its use, while also calling on the Council of Legal
Education to revisit its stance towards the adoption of online learning as a suitable teaching method to
be incorporated into legal education.
Introduction
It is no news that countries all over the world are facing a health challenge because of the spread of
COVID-19 globally. In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the disease as
a pandemic after an assessment of the rapid spread and severity of the deadly virus across the globe.
Asian Journal of Legal Education
9(1) 36–53, 2022
© 2021 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
Reprints and permissions:
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DOI: 10.1177/23220058211061915
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Corresponding author:
Afolasade A. Adewumi, Faculty of Law, Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, University of Ibadan,
Ibadan 200005, Nigeria.
E-mail: sade_abidemi@yahoo.com
1 Faculty of Law, Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.
2 Faculty of Arts and Education, Department of Arts and Social Science Education, Lead City University, Ibadan, Nigeria.
3 College of Law and Management Studies, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, University of KwaZulu-Natal,
Westville Campus, Durban, South Africa.
Adewumi and Pitan 37
Social distancing was introduced as a means of reducing the spread of the pandemic.4 Following the
announcements, there was a global lockdown of almost all the sectors of the economy, including
the education sector, which forced many schools to remain closed temporarily. To protect and respect the
right to education despite the closure of schools, UNESCO has recommended that ‘Online learning
should be used to mitigate the immediate impact of lost normal school time… through the adoption of a
variety of hi-tech, low-tech and no tech solutions to assure the continuity of learning’.5
Legal education refers to the ‘process which equips the future lawyer, judge, administrator, counsellor
and legal scientists to know how legislative, executive, judicial organs of the government are designed
and how they operate’.6 Succinctly, legal education prepares a student to become a legal practitioner
properly positioned to effectively function wherever the services of his profession are needed. Thus,
functionalism in legal education means that students are not just prepared with the ultimate mindset of
becoming lawyers but becoming lawyers and partaking in functional roles in the society.
Adopting a multidisciplinary approach for a contextual analysis, this study utilized the functional
theory of law and the social science quantitative research study to assess the perception of Nigerian Law
students towards the emergency online teaching occasioned by the lockdown. The functional theory of
law, otherwise, known as legal functionalism, is a theory associated with social anthropology in the
twentieth century.7 The theory became prominent as a sociological theory in the 1950s and has become
a theory of law referred to as ‘legal functionalism’.8 This theory is preoccupied with the process through
which individual needs within a societal context are satisfied while also considering the effects of societal
constraints on an individual.9 Its objective is to evaluate a societal action or decision in order to reveal
the connotation of the decisions.10 This gives rise to the fundamental question: will legal education still
be able to fulfil its functional roles in the society, considering the developments that have emerged in the
educational sector as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
To put this in proper perspective, the study evaluates the effect of the lockdown on legal education
and the feasibility of online learning in legal education. The study was conducted among the Nigerian
Law School students and undergraduate law students from private universities who were exposed to
learning through the use of online platforms as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The
federal and state universities were left out because their lecturers embarked on a strike action shortly
before the COVID-19 lockdown, which prevented academic work in these universities during the
lockdown. The quantitative research was adopted because the current situation with legal education is
novel in Nigeria and the researchers also went through legal education without being exposed to any of
4 K. Goniewicz & A. Khorram-Manseh, Maintaining Social Distancing during the COVID-19 Outbreak, 10 SOC. SCI. 14 (2021).
5 Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Dimensions of COVID-19 Response. available at https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/19/
human-rights-dimensions-covid-19-response#_Toc35446583.
6 M. R. Burra & V. N. Madasu, Importance of Internet Facility in Support of Legal Education and Legal Research. 2(5)
ABHINAV J. (2013), cited by I. A. Olubiyi, A. J. Olaniyan & N. Odiaka, The Role of Technology in the Advancement of Legal
Education and Practice in Nigeria. Paper presented at the Nigerian Association of Law Teachers [NALT] conference, Afe
Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria, June 2015, available at https://www.thelearnedfriends.com/the-role-of-technology-in-
the-advancement-of-legal-education-and-practice-in-nigeria/ (accessed 13 June 2021).
7 A. Lesser, Functionalism in Social Anthropology, lecture delivered at the American Anthropological Association, the American
Folk-Lore Society, and Section H of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pittsburg, 27 December 1934,
available at https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1525/aa.1935.37.3.02a00020 (accessed 13 March 2021).
8 M. P. Golding, Realism and Functionalism in the Legal Thought of Felix S. Cohen 66(5) Cornell L. Rev. 1032 (1981).
9 A. Barnard, History and Theory in Anthropology (Cambridge University Press, 2000).
10 G. Sciortino, Functionalism and Social Systems Theory, in The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory (B. Turner ed.,
Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2009) 106.

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