Wikipedia defines distance education as a method of teaching and learning in which the learners are not required to be physically present at a specific location during the term (Wikipedia 2005). Most often, regular mail is used to send written materials, videos, audiotapes and CD-ROMs to the learners and to turn in their exercises. At this point in time, e-mail, the web and video conferencing over broadband network connections are also used. Students are required to come to meetings at specified locations on specific periods for revision and to write exams. A fundamental characteristic of distance education is that it is learner centered. A learner centered educational process is a departure from the conventional teaching and learning method that employs a wide range of tools to effect learning outcomes. These tools are designed for selflearning. They include printed course units, tutor and computer marked assignment and feedback systems, radio and television broadcast, audio and videotapes and electronic mail among others. In a developing country like Nigeria, delivering instruction through the distance mode presents a significant challenge to educators. In a country where the concern of most people is meeting their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter, access to information and communication technologies (ICT) especially the modern ones is very low on priority lists and oftentimes, not considered a priority at all. Distance education is not a new concept in Nigeria. In the 1930's some Nigerians passed different examinations and earned various qualifications from universities all over the world especially British Universities, and other examination bodies through distance education while staying at home. Omolewa, (1981) revealed that correspondence education was the earliest manifestation of distance education in Nigeria and it afforded those who could not travel abroad the opportunity to access various forms of higher education until the establishment of the University College, Ibadan in 1948.
The impacts of information and communication technology (ICT) on all spheres of human endeavors have been tremendous. Most remarkable is education sector which has been transformed by the use of ICT. Where ICT are used for learning, evidences suggests that they are chiefly used to present and disseminate information as tools for presentation rather than the often cited promotion of 21st century skills. Librero (2006) observed that conventional universities and other educational institutions are now using ICT to achieve blended learning environments which blend traditional face-to-face classroom delivery with distance delivery.
ICT use in education especially distance learning is also re-shaping Universities entire organizational structures. Westbrook (2001) observed that the introduction of ICT in education has resulted in changes in four core areas of education such as curriculum, role of teachers and students, organizational structure and, learning environment. Given that a growing number of transactions now take place on-line at a distance, appropriately automated systems for recording these transactions, tracking them, keeping and retrieving students records and so forth must be supported by holistic policies and procedures that take into account all academic related activities. Obviously, ICT has made the culture of learning to shift from the culture of students passively listening in a classroom where attendance matters, to the culture of pro-active reading, encoding and decoding anytime, anywhere. There are wide variations of ICT used in various distance learning institutions around the world. Further specific applications and combinations of these applications are very much shaped by the context of their target user populations.
Quality of distance learning has always been contentious. Those against distance education somehow equate quality of distance education with that of the physical face-to-face traditional education in the classrooms. Distance education providers must strive to use quality and reliable ICT hardware and software with access available every time of the day. Just as important, these systems must be supported by highly skilled individuals, armed with the knowledge and skills they need to ensure hardware and software run smoothly.
To accomplish the human aspect of ICT, institutions need to offer training to various user groups (i.e. students, teachers, administrators, etc.). offering such training helps to ensure the efficient and effective, use of ICT for all stages of the teaching and learning process, from accessing online classrooms, to course registration, to managing digital library materials, to manipulating databases to get the information students need to do their work or complete an assignment and so forth.
The growth of ICT in education has given rise to new concepts and realities that are now becoming mainstream. The concept of socialization in distance education setting for instance is often technology--mediated and for many students, the only mode of socialization available to them. Time and space ceased to matter in terms of social and transactional distance in distance education. Several distance learning institutions have acquired and deployed ICT into their services. An example of these distance learning institutions is National Open University of Nigeria, (NOUN).
National Open University was initially established on the 22nd July 1983 as a spring board for open and distance learning in Nigeria. However, it was suspended on 25th April 1984 by the then military head of state. However, upon recognition of its tremendous roles in tackling the country's educational problems and providing access to education for all, it was resuscitated on 1st October 2002. The National Open University of Nigeria is designed to increase access to formal and non-formal education, to Nigerians, in a manner convenient to their circumstances. It is to also cater for the continuous educational development of professionals such as teachers, Accountants, Bankers, Lawyers, Nurses, Engineers, Politicians, self-employed, businessmen and women.
NOUN dedicates itself to preparing professionals in various disciplines through the distance learning mode and it offers a chance of qualifications from Certificate, Diploma to Degrees and postgraduate degrees. To accomplish this, the university employs a range of delivery methods to take education to the people and make learning an enjoyable activity. These methods include printed instructional materials, audio, video tapes and CD-ROM. It is also include Television and Radio broadcast of educational programmes, electronic transmission of materials in multimedia (voice, data, graphics, and video) through fixed line (telephone or leased lines), terrestrial and VSAT wireless communication systems.
NOUN has study centers in every state of the country and some local government areas to perform critical roles in the delivery of instructions. Study centers are resource places where study materials are collected by students, it also enables students interact with instructors/ facilitators, and for examinations. A number of other learners support facilities including internet browsing, e-mail, library and a range of communication channels are also available at the study centers.
NOUN has deployed appreciable ICT facilities for her staff and student use. However, the influence of information and communication technologies (ICT) on distance learning in a developing country like Nigeria needs critical evaluation. The need to understand the potential effects of ICT on distance learning is essential for all those involved in the development and delivery of distance education. ICT utilization as a viable option to enhance distance learning in Nigeria may not be as feasible as intended due to various obstacles. This work will attempt to address some of these issues and proffer useful and constructive solution to policy makers on distance education. This study is necessary as it will assess the effectiveness of ICT use for distance learning and the benefits of using these ICT as well as create awareness for NOUN students.
Objectives of the Study
The specific objectives of this study are
determine the ICT...