OPEN DISTANCE AND e-LEARNING PROGRAMME IN NIGERIA
The Nigerian National Policy on Education has, over the years, recognized the place of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in achieving lifelong education and affirms that lifelong education shall be the basis of the nation’s education policy. Open and Distance Learning is considered by many scholars as an important alternative to the education of large number of people for many socio-economic reasons one of which is the fact that opportunity for higher education is extremely limited in Nigerian Universities. Again, the working class men and women in the society who may wish to upgrade their knowledge and skills in their professional areas may find it difficult to leave their jobs and go back to school for fear of losing their jobs. Many universities in Nigeria have established outreach campuses to increase access.
According to Holmberg 1981 distance learning is learning supported by “Those teaching methods in which because of the physical separateness of learners and teachers the interactive as well as the pre-active phase of teaching is conducted through print, mechanical or electronic devices”p.11.
Garrison and Shale 1987:13 provided the following three criteria on which to judge the process of distance learning:
- distance implies that the majority of instructional communication between teacher and students occurs non-contiguously
- it must involve two-way communication between (among) teacher and students for the purpose of facilitating and supporting the educational process
- it uses technology to mediate the necessary two-way communication
The objectives of distance learning, as highlighted by Okebukola (2000), are to:
- provide access to educational opportunities in a cost-effective manner for those who otherwise could have been denied access
- provide a second chance for those who left school for one reason or the other, but who having matured further, would want to make a re-entry into the knowledge arena
- provide chance for those who did avail themselves the opportunities to go to school but who are still within the age range to make up for their shortcomings or to become literate and get on with life
- enrich the knowledge base of students in regular school programmes as well as others who cannot afford to attend full-time schooling and
- deliver educational services in a manner that would be more learner-friendly and would motivate learners to realize that learning is a lifelong affair
The Internet and the computer could also be media for distance education. Computer-based and Web-based learning resources may be deployed to drive distance learning activities. Open learning refers to the absence of constraint in the learning process. “The terms virtual education, on-line learning and e-learning are often used to describe the application of ICT to enhance distance education, implement open learning policies, make learning activities more flexible and enable these learning activities to be distributed among many learning venues” (Andrea-Hope, 2005). The gradual changes of distance learning from the traditional type of courses where there was no use of online technology, and the content delivered in writing or orally has long become obsolete. Unfortunately, this is still the order of the day in Nigeria and some developing countries as against online or e-learning where 80–100% of contact is delivered online and typically has no face-to-face contact. This has helped to open up educational opportunities for people at anytime, anywhere and for anyone. This is also helping individuals and nations to develop themselves and their human resources. Distance education is particularly being recommended for solving this problem of access to education because it has potentials for large-scale education and also it primarily supports individualized learning. Indeed, distance learning is a response to a growing demand to democratize and liberalize education, which cannot be achieved by the traditional methods centered on the classroom Vikoo, 2007.
Two limiting factors severely compromise the ability of the Nigerian government to respond adequately to the challenges of education in the global environment. These are funds and infrastructure. The share amount of money needed to provide basic literacy education to the teeming masses of Nigerians is staggering. New requirements for employees are creating a high and ad-hoc demand for new knowledge and skills. Prior learning is often not sufficient to meet these challenges. What is required is continuous learning, the acquisition of specific knowledge, and education and training geared to the needs of the individual (Langabach&Bodendoff, 2000:169).
The issues outlined below foreground the crises of access to education, particularly higher education in Nigeria:
- Less than 20% of over 1.5 million applicants to universities yearly are admitted.
- The University system in Nigeria is increasingly excluding individuals above the age of 23. Such individuals are thus forced to seek education from illegal universities and dubious part-time programmes.
- Less than 8% of those who complete primary education make it to the university
- Under-achievement in science and high dropout rates in basic and post-basic levels, especially in the sciences.
- Poor content and out-dated curricula
- Average cost of tuition in private institutions beyond the means of the over 70% of Nigerians who live below poverty line. Even with huge subsidies in public institutions, the poor are still largely shut out.
- Poor output of basic education products compromise the MDGs and NEEDS goals
- Increase in number of Nigerians seeking places in universities in other countries (such as the huge Nigerian students’ presence in Legon, Ghana)
- Ever changing admissions requirements and entry qualifications as a result of increasing demand further constrain access to education.
The above constraints impose certain fundamental considerations on an ODL policy among which are the need to take into account learner profile, expectations and actual needs, local context and challenges, regulatory environment, technology requirements, cost, parity of esteem of learners, institutional vision and capacity among other factors.
The problems associated with satellite campuses compelled the National Universities Commission (NUC) to advocate the adoption of supported blended delivery model for Nigerian universities. The blended model is a hybrid of the synchronous and asynchronous delivery modes. It takes cognizance of the stage of technological development in Nigeria and recommends that content be delivered using full time online mode, CDs/DVDs/Flash and hardcopies. Presently, there is one unimode university in Nigeria, the National Open University of Nigeria NOUNand sixdual mode universities that operate the blended model.
- Open and distance learning remains the primary mechanism for the information-driven age, a tool that has bridged the gap between developed and developing countriesthe world over. Universities are turning to distance learning programmes to increase access to flexible education and improve on their human resource needs.
- The need to offer access to many people who would have otherwise been denied access to educational opportunities based on where they live and work, poor socioeconomic circumstances, social status, etc.
- The University of Port Harcourt has numerous experienced and skilled academic, technical and administrative staff members who can assist in effective delivery of distance learning programmes.
- There is need to take advantage of the huge investment by the University in Information Technology infrastructure development as a basis for effective running of ODeL programmes.
- There is need to take the opportunity of University of Port Harcourt’s collaboration with national and international institutions (such as the AVU) running ODL programmes.
1.3. Vision Statement
To provide access to globally competitive and locally relevant education through high quality academic, entrepreneurial and life skills development programs