Prospects and Challenges of e-learning in Nigerian University Education Using National Open University of Nigeria
1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
E-learning refers to the use of ICTs i.e. Information and Communication Technology to enhance and support teaching and learning process. E-learning ranges from the way student use email and accessing course work online while following a course on campus to programs offered entirely online. Advances in ICT have revolutionized higher education in many ways like increasing access to post-secondary instruction, improving the availability of educational resources, facilitating meaningful interaction among learners, outmoded educational system and as such better prepare students and the average citizen for the information age, and or accelerate national development efforts (Albirini, 2006).
The term e-learning is not a new phenomenon in promoting education in some parts of world. Presently, some institutions in Nigeria are using it to promote distance education (DE) and life long learning. E-learning according to Sale (2002), is the use of electronic technology to deliver education and training applications, monitor learner’s performance and report learner’s progress. Hedge and Hayward (2004), defined it as an innovative approach for delivering electronically mediated, well-designed, learner-centered and interactive learning environments to anyone, anyplace, anytime by utilizing the internet and digital technologies in concern with instructional design principles. It is all about learning with the use of computers. In this age, learning with the use of computer is simply online ways of acquiring knowledge through the internet or through the offline – CD-ROM; the online involves the use of Internet Explorer/Navigator. It may be in form of Audio, Visual, and or Audio/Visual. The process and applications of e-learning technology include computer-based learning, web-based learning, virtual learning, blended learning, hybrid models, internet learning, networked learning, Tele-learning, computer-assisted learning and online classroom and digital collaboration where contents is delivered via the internet, intranet/extranet, audio and or video tapes, satellite TV and CD-ROM (Arbaugh, 2000; Achuonye, 2004; Ukoha, 2007).
In Nigerian schools, the commonest type of e-learning adopted is in form of lectures note on CD-ROM which can be played as at when the learners desires. The challenge of this method is that the numbers of students per computer in which these facilities are available are un-interactive as compared to when lectures are been received in the classroom. Some institutions adopted the use of intranet facilities; however, this is not well maintained because of incessant power problem and high cost of running generating set. Most students in Nigeria go to the cyber café but because there are people of diverse intension on the net at the same time, and the bandwidth problem, a multimedia interactive cannot be done. Despite all these and other challenges facing e-learning in
Nigeria educational institution, institutions such as University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo
University, University of Benin, University of Abuja, University of Lagos, National Open
University of Nigeria among others has the facilities for e-learning. The number seems very low (compared to other parts of the world and the usefulness of the e-learning in the economy development) because of location of most institutions, bandwidth issue and mostly the challenge of electricity. Though most of the educational institutions (private and public) have started setting up their ICT centres for internet services alone without actually taking into consideration other components of e-learning centre.
The focus of this research work is to find out the challenges and prospects of e-learning in National Open University of Nigeria ( NOUN ) , Akure study centre, therefore it is of paramount necessity to take a look into the foundation / history of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN ) as well as her mode of Operations and her academic activities.
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 centers of many conventional universities all over the country and the need to take advantage of emerging developments in the field of ICTs which have revolutionalized 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.
Keegan (1998) once said of Online-education as being “Characterized by the separation of teachers and learners which distinguishes it from self study and private tutoring, the use of a computer network to present or distribute some educational content, the provision of two-ways communication via a computer network so that students may benefit from communication with each other, teachers, and staff ”, linking it with the description of e-learning which Arbaugh, 2000; Archuonye, 2004 and Ukoha, 2007 said, “ e-learning implies the abilities of people to use information technology and the internet to learn improve their learning skills and strengthen their capabilities in the information society ”.
The emergence and proliferation of new information and communication technologies (ICT), had introduced an unstoppable revolution into education particularly in the areas of teaching and learning. The Internet and the web have further raised the revolutionary tempo especially through the enhancement of e-learning. For most open and distance learning providers, e-learning had added another dimension to the issue of access. While Open and Distance Learning, ODL, itself is hailed by nations as bailing them out of the problem of providing access to education to the masses, elearning is further extending the frontiers by further removing distance from education and helping individuals who can, to access education anywhere, anytime, at their own pace and at any place. ELearning or On-line education offers students excellent opportunities for individual communication with their study materials, study resources, and their tutors. It is the interactive exploits technology and communication systems to improve the learning experience. It has the potential to transform the way we teach and learn across the board (i.e.24 hours / 7 days) throughout the year. It can raise standards, and widen participation in lifelong learning. It is important to bear this in mind that Elearning as learning facilitated online through network technologies involves the utilization of virtual technologies in the practice of teaching, learning and assessment (Lee, Hong and Ling, 2002) and at National Open University of Nigeria, e-learning activities started with the most basic use of audio tapes and progressed to the use of CD-ROM, interactive videos and now, the university has a most standard e-learning laboratory using one of the best Learning Management Systems, LMS.
The National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, sprang from the ashes of the defunct National Open University, which was abruptly closed down by a military government in April 1984, barely one year after its establishment. In the year 2000, after an international workshop cohosted by the Commonwealth of Learning, COL, and the Nigerian Federal Government, the years 2001 – 2010 were declared a decade of open a distance learning in Nigeria. Thereafter, a time-line was drawn for series of activities and implementation strategies. One of such strategies was the resuscitation of the defunct Open University which now had to be re-named National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). Electronic learning which is basically the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to enhance and support learning / teaching and research (Eteng and Ntui, 2009). It was clear in the mind of the planner’s right from the beginning that elearning or on-line learning would play a major role in the teaching and learning delivery system of the university.
The National Policy on Education (FRN, 2004. Pg 17) places emphasis on the provision and utilization of Information and Communication (ICT) when it states that “In recognition of the prominent roles of information and communication technology in advancing knowledge and skills necessary for effective functioning in the modern world, there is urgent need to integrate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into education in Nigeria”. Educational institutions are getting more interested in improving their programme with ICT tools and applications to introduce flexibility in the teaching and learning process.
The following gives step-by-step description of the e-learning activities of the university i.e. National Open University of Nigeria.
The main objective of the NOUN e-learning efforts is to encourage staff and students of the university to adopt an innovatory approach to educational provisions and instructional deliveries and imbibe the culture of using technologies to support such provision and deliveries.
Some of the specific objectives are:
(1) To sensitize staff and students of the university towards the use of e-learning tools.
(2) To develop capacity in e-learning and provide leadership in this aspect of ICT utilization in Nigeria and within the West African sub-region.
(3) To raise general awareness of the academic community of e-learning tools.
(4) To provide systemic and continuous support for staff and students in the use of e-learning.
(5) To initiate a culture of innovation which will lead to experimentation in educational provisions.
(6) To include e-learning in the portfolio of teaching and learning tools at NOUN.
(7) To establish and disseminate good practice in this area of teaching and learning in Nigeria and within the West African sub-region.
(8) To provide, as part of the university’s strategic plan, a sound infrastructure for the development and delivery of e-learning tools and services.
The call for utilization of e-learning in various educational sectors / unit on instructional delivery is to infuse and inject efficiency and effectiveness in Curriculum implementation. However, in developing countries like Nigeria, e-learning is challenged with the problem of material devices such as computer, computer laboratories, internet and email facilities, videophone systems and teleconferencing devices, fax and wireless applications, digital library, digital classrooms, multimedia systems and the problem of multimedia courseware development among others. Other studies indicates that there is dearth of professional trained and skills teachers for elearning, lack of facilities, infrastructures and equipments (Jegede and Owolabi, 2008).
It is against this background that the present study is to be carried out to determine the extent of various challenges facing e-learning as well as to examine its prospects and benefits to the education industry if well utilized.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this study is to investigate and identify the challenges and prospects of elearning in Nigerian university education using National Open University of Nigeria, Akure Study Center as a case study and to recommend possible solution.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND HYPOTHESIS
In trying to find solutions to specific problems arising from e-learning, the following research questions were asked.
1. Are students really acquainted with the required knowledge necessary for the use of e-learning facilities?
2. What is the attitude of students and staff of NOUN to the use of e-learning facilities towards teaching and learning?
3. Does National Open University of Nigeria have enough e-learning facilities and equipments?
4. To what extent is the e-learning facility being used towards the achievement of teaching-learning goals in NOUN?
H01: There are no any significant challenges and prospects of E-learning in Nigerian University education.
H02: There is no significant difference between education via Electronic means and conventional means.
H03: There are no significant impacts of e-learning towards academic performance of students’ achievement in NOUN.
1.5 DELIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This study will focus on almost all selected departments across all faculties/schools in the
National Open University of Nigeria, Akure Study Center, few of these schools are:
i. School of arts and Social sciences; ii. School of Agricultural sciences; iii. School of Education; iv. School of Earth Sciences;
v. School of Law; vi. School of Management Sciences; and vii. School of Science and Technology.
viii. Theology and psychological study ix. Research study center.
x. Counseling and Business study center.
But the faculties and range which will not be able to cover with this research are as follow: i. School of medical Science.
ii. School of applied science iii. Space and Marine school
This is because much of practical work is required and can best be achieved with hands-on learning.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
An attempt to embark on this study might provide a diagnostics basis for solving problems or challenges facing e-learning as well as knowing the prospects of e-learning in Nigerian university education. It might also help to change the altitude of students as well as teachers/lecturers towards e-learning. Also, it will find out the role of Government to the development of e-learning through the provision of e-learning equipments.
In addition, it will make the teachers/lecturers, Students and government to be aware of the challenges and prospects of e-learning in Nigerian university education.
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Prospects: Prospects is from the Latin word prospective which means “a view or outlook”. A prospect is a way of looking ahead and expecting good things, a possibility that something fabulous or great will happen. It is like potential in that it is something that might be but is not yet. There is also the potential for something bad to happen, but prospects usually look good.
Challenges: Challenges refers to a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.
E-Learning: E-learning refers to electronic learning. This means using a computer to deliver part, or all of a course whether it is in a school or a full distance learning course.
Education: Education refers to the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university. The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgement and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.
University Education: This refers to an optional final stage of formal learning that occurs after secondary education. It is otherwise known as higher education, post – secondary education, tertiary education or third-level education.
Distance Education: Distance education refers to a method of studying in which lectures are broadcasted or classes are conducted by correspondence or over the internet, without the students needing to attend a school or college.
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