Experience both nationally and internationally have shown that conventional education cannot meet the demands of the present day socio-educational milieu, especially for developing countries like Nigeria. In Nigeria, the actual numbers of students admitted annually into conventional university are so low compared to the number of those yearning to have university education. This lack of capacity has necessitated the issue of open and distance learning (ODL) as an innovative and cost effective approach to the educational system. To bridge the gap between participants in the instructional process, ODL offers structured learning in which the instructor and students are separated by time and space, making use of instructional materials such as print materials, audio and video cassette, CD-ROM, television and radio broadcasts as well as multimedia components such as computer and satellite transmission. (Peat and Helland, 2002)
Distance education is not a recent development in Nigeria. As far as the 1920's, distance education was provided by well known correspondence institutions such as the Rapid Result College, Wosley Hall, Bennet College, Pitman Institute and so on, all located in the UK. However, there was a paradigm shift in the conventional education system in Nigeria as a result of the establishment of off-campus outreach centers run by universities, polytechnics and colleges of education (Iyela, 2003). The most prominent was the establishment of the National Open University of Nigeria on the 22nd of July 1983 (though it became fully operational on the 12th of April 2001). As an institution of higher learning, it offers instruction through methods of ICT driven distance education process.
The Concept of Distance Education and Electronic Information Resources
The term "Distance Education" refers to an educational approach in which there is quasi-separation of the learners and the teachers in time and space (Keegan, 1996). In distance education, the instructor and instructional strategy and methods are subsumed into the learning materials popularly referred to as the study materials that have been designed as self directed learning guide for students. The term open learning refers to the philosophical construct that seek to remove barriers and constraints that may prevent learners from accessing and succeeding in quality and lifelong education. ODL as an educational method and a philosophical construct has been identified as the most potent instrument for combating the educational problems assailing a nation like Nigeria. (Ray K and Day Joan, 1998)
Both distance education and E-learning are intertwined; e-learning is an electronic mode of knowledge sharing and transmission which may not necessarily involve physical contact between teacher and student. The concept, computer aided teaching and computer aided learning have given birth to computer aided instruction which represent a combination of both teaching and learning. Access to instruction through the Internet is flexible, ensure broad viability and availability of educational opportunities and can be assessed irrespective of time and space. The globalization of distance education provides many benefits for developing countries for the realization of their educational goals as at when stated. Three main factors have led people to be more interested in distance learning-
- the government's call for regular improvement in workers skill, re-training and the technological development have made it possible to teach more subjects and students at a distance.
- Open and distance education has the tendency to expand access to education at any point in time. Children, youth and adults who were excluded from conventional institution because of age, work, family bottlenecks, geographical distance and quota problems, catchment policy, insecurity and insufficient fund may be able to learn through open and distance learning without any barrier.
- Open and distance education may be used to provide educational opportunity at secondary and tertiary levels for refugees and displaced people and other non migrant nationals. It may be an option for youths and adults who have to work to continue learning so also those who have no access to employment may also benefit from open and distance initiative.
The electronic information resources entails sets of instructional materials such as audio and video cassettes, CD-ROM, television and radio broadcast as well as multimedia components such as computer and satellites. Electronic resources offer today students different opportunities from their predecessors. Brophy (1993) details the advantages of networking for users as being:
That the information needed can be delivered from the most appropriate sources to the users, the user can specify his or her needs dynamically, the information is obtained when it is wanted, so becomes 'just in time' rather than 'just in case', the user only the information needed to arrive at question; and finally, the information is only stored should the user wish. Electronic information resources can therefore provide a number of advantages over traditional print based sources.
Electronic information is often faster than consulting print indexes especially when searching retrospectively and they are more straight forward when wishing to use combination keywords. They open up the possibility of searching multiple files at one time. Electronic resources can be printed, searched and saved to be revisited at a later date. They are updated more often than printed tools. One advantage especially to distance learners and those with limited time to access the library is their availability from outside the library by dial up access. The place of electronic information resources in distance education includes:
* Computer Based Training
* Asynchronous Online Training
* Real Time Interactive Training
* Cellular Network - Based Training
* Computer Based Global Information System
Each of the above will be discussed in turn:
Computer Based Training
Personal computers are very effective media and instrument of traditional/conventional "distance education. Besides transferring course material, personal computers can facilitate the acquisition of knowledge by offering access to databases, by...