Across the globe, institutions of higher education, business, and the military use distance education for education and training, likewise in Nigeria, thousands of students have enrolled in courses by colleges and universities around the country. Federal government institutions deliver a wide range of online and distance education programs. Examples of institution that offer online and distance education programs in Nigeria are the National Open University of Nigeria, University Of Lagos, and University Of Ibadan and the University of Ado-Ekiti.
The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), was established in July, 1983, by an Act of the National Assembly as the first distance learning tertiary institution in Nigeria when it became crystal clear to the then Federal Government that the ever growing demand for education by her people cannot be met by the traditional means of face-to-face classroom instructional delivery. The institution was closed down few weeks after its establishment and the Act that established the University was suspended in 1984 by the then Federal Military Government that overthrew the civilian government. Many years after the closure, the compelling reasons that informed the earlier establishment of the university as well as the need to fill the gap created by the Federal Government clamped down on mushroom outreach study centres of many conventional universities all over the country and the need to take advantage of emerging developments in the field of ICTs which have revolutionized the techniques and methods of instructional deliveries in the distance learning mode necessitated the reactivation of the suspended NOUN Act of 1983 in 2002. This paved the way for the resuscitation of the NOUN (Ajadi, Salawu and Adeoye, 2008). The National Open University of Nigeria has her learners across country and has study centres across the country.
The University of Ibadan Distance Learning Centre (DLC) which has been in existence since 1988. 28 years ago though, the University of Ibadan happens to be Nigeria's first university, established in 1948. The University of Ado-Ekiti started her own distance learning programme in the late 1990s. The University of Ibadan distance learning programme is housed within the university campus having all her programmes within the campus. University of Ado-Ekiti has her distance learners almost everywhere in south western Nigeria and holds study centres at any available space across the country.
These institutions offer complete degree programmes from a distance .People that earn degrees from these institutions through distance education are referred to as distance leaners. Considering the peculiarity of mode of learning, they would need a lot of information from application for admission to registration till the end of their program; as such their needs should be met.
The objective of this paper is to find out the needs of distance learners in Nigeria. For this reason this paper will explain the concept of distance learning, concept of distance learners, information needs of distance learners, sources of information for distance learners and challenges they may encounter in seeking for these information.
Concept of distance learning and distance learners
Distance learning has been defined in so many forms, (Merill) 2003 defined distance learning as "Any formal instructional approach in which the majority of the instruction occurs at a distance". (Kibirge 2000) added that Distance learning is a formalised learning received by students whose location is out/ far from the learning environment. Distance education is a method of education in which the learner is physically separate from the teacher. It may be used on its own, or in conjunction with other forms of education, including face-to-face interaction. In distance education, learners are physically separated from the institution that sponsors the instruction. Initially, distance learning institutions were created for workers that need to upgrade their educational qualifications for increased knowledge. There are also some distances learners who are drop out or have the inability to cope or even terminated their studies earlier in life and now want to continue, they thereby enrol in distance education programme. Distance education centres are usually universities, polytechnic or colleges of education.
Distance learning is of high benefit to students because they could learn from thousands of miles away and they could still work full time. National Extension Commision (2016) also shared in the same view that "distance learning is a method of learning that doesn't require you to attend classes, stick to timetables and meet deadlines. It's a flexible type of learning, using a combination of...