I wish to use the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) in Delta State to draw attention to the shameful websites being created by institutions of higher learning in Nigeria. As an alumnus of the PTI, I can vouch for the PTI as being a very prestigious institution of higher learning in Nigeria. While I was there, the school's facilities were relatively well maintained. The PTI is under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and was well funded by the Federal Government to train indigenous manpower for the oil and gas and allied industries. The management of the institute had no time for "African time"; appointments were kept pronto. The admission process was, to a good extent, fair and based on merit. After graduation, alumni did not have to wait for eternity to collect their certificates. Yes, the PTI had quite a few good things that could be said about it.
But now we are in the 21st century and must move on with the times. The old way of doing business and carrying physical files from one office to the other and waiting for months for someone who is on leave to return before certain papers can be signed is no more acceptable. It is no more acceptable that one has to be physically present in an academic institution before any serious inquiries about the institution can be made. It is now taken for granted that any institution of higher learning should have a befitting website that should serve as a virtual office where serious, official business can be carried out. With this said, I turn now to briefly discuss the official website of my alma mater, the Petroleum Training Institute, www.ptinigeria.org.
Graduates of the PTI have been groaning for years under the ridicule that the PTI does not have a befitting, functional website. I even had to make a post recently on that subject on my Facebook page. Then a fellow alumnus drew my attention to www.ptinigeria.org. While I am happy to note that it was a sign of progress that the management of the PTI finally saw the necessity of creating a website for the institute, this website is a mess, a ridicule, and an indictment on whoever created this website for the PTI. The PTI can do much better than this. This website, if ever it was created as a face-saving tool, is a huge embarrassment.
A school's website should not be an almanac that merely lists the number of courses offered in the school. The website should be a virtual office where people can conduct serious, official business in realtime. www.ptinigeria.org is a joke and fails this vital test.
The website does not list functional phone or fax numbers; no email addresses; the "Contact Us" tab merely pops up a laughable email form, whose recipient nobody knows. There is no information on the principal officers of the school and no information on the faculty members. No "About Us" section; no "FAQ" tab; no "Careers" tab; No tab whatsoever on the registrar's office or on any of the administrative offices. No catalog, with detailed description of all disciplines, courses, and the requirements for taking them. No site map.
This website ought to be a central hub from where any information about the school can be obtained. Students and faculty members should be able to use this website as an extension of the classroom for academic work. Students, alumni, and others should be able to interact with any department of the school and send official requests for transcripts, diplomas, catalogs, admission forms, etc on the website. None of these happen on said website. But by far, the most irking omission is the absence of any functional phone or fax numbers and email addresses! This website should have a directory of all phone numbers, fax numbers, and email addresses used by the various departments of the institute. This directory ought not to be a secret known only to VIPs (very important persons).
There is a login section. Login into what? To check what? Who is eligible to have a login account?
Can I look up detailed description of all courses I took at the PTI on this website? Can I request for my transcripts on this website? Can I apply for admission on this website? Can I register for courses on this website? Can I get a detailed description of all fees students pay on this website? Is there a directory on this website that gives the names, department, and official contact information (phone numbers, fax numbers, and emails) of employees of the institution? Can a parent verify from this website that his or her ward is a bona fide student of the PTI? Can I, as a student, look up the library's catalog and checkout books online from this website? Can I obtain information on the business hours of administrative and non-administrative staff here? Can I do a virtual tour of the PTI campus on this website? Does this website have information on the amenities students should expect to enjoy when admitted? Can a student find on this website a student handbook that lists the expectations of the institute's management for students as far as acceptable behavior is concerned? Can a student look on this website and know where to go or who to contact for help on any matter? Woefully, the answer to all of these questions is an embarrassing "No". But these are very basic questions that a website of an academic institution should be proud and eager to answer.
I remember the agony a fellow alumnus of the PTI went through in trying to describe to a course evaluator in Finland the details of a course he took at the PTI. The evaluator requested for the website of the PTI so as to obtain the details of the course in question. You can imagine how embarrassing it was when my friend replied that the PTI does not have a website on which such a thing could be done. The World Education Services in New York merely needed a phone or fax number so as to enable it verify the authenticity of the transcripts of another alumnus of the PTI. This, too, was an impossibility. No functional phone or fax numbers could be found anywhere. This verification had to be done the old way, through mail services, that lasted for eternity. Moreover, had my friend not aggressively pursued the case, the verification request would still have been sitting somewhere on somebody's desk at the PTI. Needless to say, these are the lucky ones. I know of another alumnus of the PTI who has been struggling, without success, for about two years now to have his transcripts sent to a university in the United States!
It is not necessary to make this over-complicated and try to reinvent the wheel. The PTI can look at the websites of other institutions and simply follow their lead. Even the websites of elementary schools here in the US will be good enough! But seriously, there are thousands of websites of North American and European institutions of higher learning to follow. Even the website of the traditional ally of the PTI, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, can serve as a model. Otherwise, the PTI can study the websites of other players in the oil and gas industry (Shell, Chevron, Total, Exxon, Schlumberger, etc.) to model the school's website after. There is just no excuse for the mess that is www.ptinigeria.org. And by the way, I am not by any means an authority in English grammar. This makes it yet more embarrassing that an individual like me could spot typographical or grammatical errors in the contents of the website. It ought to be taken for granted that some serious proofreading takes place before approval for publication is made for the contents of www.ptinigeria.org.