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STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING THE INTEGRATION OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY IN DISTANCE EDUCATION PROGRAMMES OF THE NATIONAL TEACHERS’ INSTITUTE
AKWA IBOM AND CROSS RIVER STATES,NIGERIA AS CASE STUDY
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Background of the Study
The immeasurable contribution of education in the development process has left a burning desire in every government to increase access to education for all her citizens. The need to increase access to education also generated an unprecedented demand for education especially in the developing countries. With the high demand, the conventional system of education was faced with unparallel short supply of educational programmes. This situation has necessitated the need for other mode of education of which Distance Education (DE) is one of them.
Distance Education (DE) is a mode of study whereby students are not in continuous physical contact with their tutors. It is defined as the application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the educational process to bridge the geographical distance between the teachers and the learners (Creed, 2001). The concept acquired universal acceptance around 1982 when the International Council for Correspondence Education (ICCE), a UNESCO affiliated organization, changed its name to the International Council for Distance Education (ICDE) (Nwizu, 2001) citing Bhola (1989).
Distance Education training result from the technological separation of teacher and learner which frees the students from the necessity of travelling to a fixed place at a fixed time, to meet a fixed person, in order to be trained (Mudasiru, 2006). It requires technology of some kind to mediate between instructor and students because the two are separated by time and distance. Hence, it is an educational strategy which uses a barrage of information and communication technologies in making knowledge and information available to a widely diversified clientele. Therefore, DE can be described as a planned teaching and learning experience that uses a wide spectrum of technologies to reach learners at a distance, and is designed to encourage learner interaction. It has as merit, helping learners overcome barriers of location, time and learning pace. The National Policy on Education in 2004 stipulated that the major objective of distance education is to broaden access to higher education for those who cannot for one reason or the other attend the conventional system of education. For a successful implementation of DE programmes, ICT has to be employed.
Information and Communication Technologies have been defined by many authors in various ways, and emphasis is placed on the fact that they are forms of technologies used to create, store and communicate information. Uruah (2004) defined ICT as technology that is used to propagate information rapidly to all parts of the world given the availability of appropriate infrastructures. Information and Communication Technology in this study refers to all those techniques which employ electronic rather than mechanical means for storing, processing and communicating information. These ICTs include among others radio, television, telephones, video and audio cassettes, computer, e-mail, internet, virtual library, teleconferencing, World Wide Web (www).
Authors have shown that ICT generally hold out the opportunity to revolutionize teaching methods and expand access to quality education system, particularly distance education. Schaware (2005) listed some strengths of ICT to include: distance and climate insensitiveness, high speed delivery, wide reach and instant delivery of information. The author further added that through its dynamic, interactive and absorbing contents, ICT enhances teaching and learning, and equally provides real opportunities for individualized instructions. According to Schaware, these qualities of ICT make it vital in distance learning as it enhances interactive discussion, immediate feedback, exchange of ideas, and research information. These promote effective interaction and communication between teachers and students and among students, thereby bridging the gap of distance and time which is the major problem of DE. By bridging this gap, the feelings of isolation that precedes drop-out from DE programmes is being reduced, this is because in DE, the gap of distance and time if not bridged by interactive communication media leads to feelings of isolation and subsequent drop-out from the programme. In line with this, Yusuf (2005) added that the success of DE programmes depends to a large extent on the extent of integration and effective usage of ICT for instruction. With ICT, educational programmes can be delivered anywhere in the world and can help individuals learn throughout their lifetime. The impact of ICT can be felt in the quality and quantity of teaching, learning, and research in traditional and distance education.
It is worth mentioning that distance education is not a recent concept in Nigeria. A number of tertiary institutions in Nigeria run DE programmes. The Department of Adult Education at the University of Ibadan first proposed the need for distance learning in 1960 (Nwizu, 2008). Available records also show that the University of Lagos, University of Abuja, Abia State University, Uturu, National Open University of Nigeria, among others run distance education programmes to provide tertiary education to thousands of Nigerians who cannot for one reason or the other go for conventional system of education.
In the same vein, the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) was established in 1976 by the Federal Government of Nigeria as a single-mode distance education dedicated to training of teachers. It aims at providing and upgrading the quality of the nation’s teaching force and broadening educational access to serving teachers. The vision of NTI is to enhance the professional skills of serving teachers for high quality education delivery at primary and secondary levels which is aimed at uplifting the standard of the educational system in the country. The mandate of NTI as defined by its establishment Act no 7 of 1978, is to provide courses of instruction leading to the development, upgrading and certification of teachers using distance learning (NTI, 2000).
The NTI has its headquarters in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria and operates through a network of 37 coordinating offices, and about 600 study centres spread across different States of the country. The institute offers the following educational programmes and awards the following corresponding certificates: The Teachers’ Grade II Certificate programme (TCII, which is almost moribund);The Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE);The Pivotal Teacher Training Programme (PTTP) ; Advanced Diploma in Education (ADE); and Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE). Efforts have reached advanced stage to commence degree programme using distance learning approach (Yaya, 2009).
The NTI in Cross River State was established in 1987 with the first three centres at Calabar, Ugep and Obukpani. Presently, it has seven centres across different towns of the State. It offers courses related to teaching in arts, science and education. Similarly, the NTI in Akwa Ibom State was established in 1996 with the first two centres at Uyo and Ikot Ekpene. Other four centres were established subsequently. Presently, it has six centres spread across different towns of the State and also offers courses related to teaching in arts, education and science. Each State is coordinated by a State coordinator. Records show that there is increasing rate of drop-out from NTI DE programmes in both states. In 2012, the total number of graduates from both states was 1,052 as against 2,021 students admitted. In 2013, the total number of graduates was 807 as against 2,106 admitted students from both states. And in 2014, the total number of graduates from both states was 691 as against 2,003 students admitted (Statistic Unit NTI Kaduna South- South Zone, 2014).
In spite of efforts at making DE an alternative to the conventional system of education, the attainments of its objectives seem to be farfetched. Moreover, DE programmes in Nigeria are still emphasising the use of print media for instructional delivery. Information Communication Technology facilities are lowly integrated and used in spite of their inherent advantages in distance learning. Similarly, United Nations (2005) supports the fact that many of the poor countries have very low ICT integration rates, in particular those with a large rural population and relatively high priced basic ICT infrastructure. Ebirim (2006) noted that the print media are limited in a number of ways: it creates problems of difficult feedback and inadequate interaction, and do not encourage individualised learning; it is also found wanting in the area of providing reinforcement and questioning. Regrettably, the print media predominates in the instructional delivery materials of DE programmes in Nigeria, and in communication between the instructors and the students. This is because ICT facilities which enhance interactive communication such as internet, e-mail, virtual library, teleconferencing, computer and World Wide Web have not been effectively integrated into their DE programmes; hence its utilization remains hampered (Yusuf, 2005).
Distance education programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States are not exempted from this low ICT integration. Information Communication Technology is not effectively integrated and extensively used as a means of generating and disseminating information by DE participants in NTI Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, in spite of its inherent advantages in distance learning. In view of this, Mohammed (2012) admitted that the weaknesses inherent in the scheme of NTI include among others, poor ICT integration. As a result of this low ICT integration, the distance learning programmes of NTI, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States is weak in instructional delivery. NTI Akwa Ibom and Cross River States use the print media predominantly for instructional delivery at which instance, self-instructional linear programmed texts are given to students and sometimes face to face meetings with tutors at study centres. These print media do not enhance individualised learning, and they lack interactivity and immediate feedback. In fact, they are even inadequate and also not supplied early. In addition to the print media, is radio which is sometimes used, but has limited coverage. Also, audio and video cassettes have not extended minor experimentations, hence are rarely or occasionally used. The ICTs of computer and its accessories which are interactive in nature are not at all used, the ones that are occasionally used are not interactive in nature, thus, their usage denies immediate feedback and effective interaction between instructors and students and among students needed to bridge the gap of distance and time which is the major problem in DE programmes.
The inability of these media to bridge this gap of distance and time result in the feelings of isolation in the students, and also affects their learning outcome. This kills their motivation and subsequently contributes to dropping out from the programme; even those who manage to complete the programmes are rated ineffective compared to their counterpart teachers produced from other educational agencies. Etuk and Etudor (2010) observed and attributed the feelings of isolation caused by inadequate interactive media to one of the problems that cause a significant number of the students to drop out of the programme before completion.
In support of this observation, Oketunji (2008) noted that one of the challenges of NTI distance learning programme in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States is very low ICT integration and usage. Oketunji posited that one of the problems that could result in the poor ICT integration arises from the poor state of infrastructural facilities such as electricity and communication system. These inadequate facilities, the author stated, may be due to insufficient funding of NTI DE institutions. The author further noted that these may have caused the integration of necessary on-line resources into the DE programmes difficult. Also, the author indicated that the poor media utilization and subsequent poor learning outcome among other problems have contributed to the high rate of drop-out and subsequent low rating of NTI Akwa Ibom and Cross River States’ product to be less effective in the knowledge of subject matter than teachers produced through other educational agencies.
Efforts to improve the ICT integration have been made to an extent but not successful, hence their usage is hampered. This is in confirmation of Mohammed (2012:99) statement that “the delivery of NTI programmes relies predominantly on print materials; the institute does have a desire to use audio, video and computer-based materials, but this has currently not extended beyond some minor experimentation with audio and video”. The DE programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States have low ICT integration, hence there is need to improve its ICT integration.
Integration is the application of facilities in the process of producing results. Hornby (2010) defined integration as the act or process of combining two or more things so that they work together to achieve a specific objective. Integration is the act of combining or incorporating into a whole; the application of facilities to produce results (Ugwoke, 2014). Integration, in the context of this study is the act of combining, incorporating or the application of Information and Communication Technology to improve the organization’s mode of instructional delivery. The NTI DE programmes of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States need to improve their ICT integration; hence exploring the strategies for improving ICT integration becomes vital.
Strategy is a method or plans chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem. Hornby (2010) defined strategy as a plan of action desired to achieve long term or over all aim; the skill of planning how to achieve something. In this context, strategies can be seen as the ways, methods, or plans of actions that can be used to improve the integration of ICT in DE programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States to enhance their mode of instructional delivery in order to produce better results.
These strategies could be economic, political and educational in nature. The economic strategies for improving ICT in the DE programme of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States seemingly would illicit financial and material support from both the government and non-governmental organisations, which could enhance the purchase, installation, and maintenance of ICT facilities for its effective integration. Some of these economic strategies could be the government increasing fund allocation to NTI institutions for the purchase, installation and maintenance of ICT facilities; NGOs and philanthropists donating ICT facilities to NTI institutions; donor bodies giving special grants to NTI institutions for installation of ICT; provision of budgetary allocation for education by the government to cover ICT for NTI institutions; and working out modalities for accessible internet network by ICT certified companies for efficient delivery of services (Creed, 2001).
Political strategies on the other hand would foster governments and other political stakeholders’ initiatives through formulation of policies and laws that could make ICT facilities affordable and accessible to DE beneficiaries at a subsidized rate. Osuji (2007) suggested that these political strategies could be: formulation of policies by the government to reduce cost of newer technologies such as computers, increase subsidies on procurement of ICT by the government, enacting policies that will ensure the availability of certain number of ICT on ground before establishing NTI DE centres, provision of basic infrastructures such as electricity and stability of power supply at NTI centres by the government, and increasing credit facilities on purchase of ICT through policies. Educationally, these strategies hopefully would propel the actualization of standard DE programmes by exposing better DE practices. Okpoko (2002) listed some of the educational strategies to include the introduction of compulsory ICT courses in their curriculum; proper training and retraining of NTI instructors and students through periodic seminars, workshops, symposia and others on the development of ICT skills acquisition programmes by NTI institutions. The institutions could cooperate and liaise with renowned private computer training centres for these training programmes. It is hoped that these strategies will improve the integration of ICT in NTI DE programmes, by so doing, their instructional delivery mode and learning outcome will be enhanced, and this in turn will improve the quality and effectiveness of their programmes. Hence, their drop-out rate will be reduced.
Distance learning however, is as effective as traditional instructions when appropriate methods and technologies are used, when there is sufficient student-student interaction, and there is timely teacher-to-student feedback. Successful distance learning cannot be assured without the use of effective communication and technological tools (Yusuf, 2005). Availability and utilization of ICT is prevailing determinant of the success or failure of DE programme practices anywhere in the world, this is because ICT enhances student-student interaction and timely teacher-to-student feedback thereby bridging the gap of distance and time which is the major problem in DE programmes.
Unfortunately, DE programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States have low ICT integration hence its usage is hampered. Their instructional delivery mode is mainly through print media and this print media is even inadequate and lately supplied, and also lacks interactivity, reinforcement and questioning. The absence of interactivity in this media used still leaves the feelings of isolation since the gap of distance has not been bridged, thereby affecting the learning outcome, these subsequently leads to drop-out of the programmes before completion.
Therefore, it is believe that ICT which establishes contiguous communication be effectively integrated into DE programmes of NTI Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. This will seem to facilitate and improve the quality of their mode of programme delivery, enhance contiguous communication and effective interaction, and equally improve their learning outcome, thus the feelings of isolation that precedes drop-out from the programmes will be reduced. Based on the forgoing background information, the researcher deems it fit to investigate the strategies for improving the integration of ICT in the distance education programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
Statement of the Problem
The success of DE programmes depends to a large extent on the effective integration and usage of ICT facilities for instruction. The quality of teaching using ICT to gain access to information is known in virtually all countries to be the key predictor of quality DE learning. Information Communication Technology enhances contiguous communication between instructors and students and among students, and gives room for timely teacher-to-student feedback, thereby bridging the gap of distance and time which is the major problem in DE.
Despite the keenness by NTI to improve the quality of pre-service training given to trainee teachers and professional development for practising teachers, it is confronted with enormous problems that have impeded its proper implementation. Seemingly, poor ICT integration and usage is one of these problems. ICT has great potentials in enhancing distance education; regrettably these benefits seem not to be maximally attained in NTI distance education programmes of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States due to poor integration of ICT in their programmes. Radio which has limited coverage is sometimes used, while audio and video cassettes usage has not extended beyond minor experimentations. These ICT sometimes used are not interactive in nature. The new ICT of computer and its accessories which are interactive in nature are not at all used. Efforts to improve the ICT integration have been made to an extent, but not successful. Seemingly, challenges affecting its effective integration are poor state of infrastructural facilities which may be due to insufficient funding.
As a result of this low ICT integration, lectures are offered to learners mainly through print materials which are even insufficient and inadequate. The print media are limited in a number of ways: it lacks reinforcement and questioning; denies individualised learning ability; has problems of difficult feedback, inadequate communication and interaction between instructors and students and among students. Hence, the interactivity needed to bridge the gap between the tutor and students which is the major problem in DE programmes is absent in these media. The absence of interactivity in these media used still leaves the feelings of isolation since the gap of distance has not been bridged, thus, their learning outcome and motivation is affected, these subsequently contributes to drop-out of the programmes before completion. All these have affected the effectiveness and quality of their distance learning programmes hence, their products are lowly rated. In view of all these, the researcher was pricked to find out the strategies for improving the integration of ICT in the distance education programme of the National Teachers’ Institute of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this study was to find out the strategies for improving the integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the distance education programme of National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. Specifically, the objectives of the study were:
- To ascertain the extent to which educational strategies can be used to improve the integration of ICT in distance education programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States;
- To find out the extent to which economic strategies can be used to improve the integration of ICT in DE programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States;
- To determine the extent to which political strategies can be used to improve the integration of ICT in DE programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States; and
- To ascertain the extent to which challenges militate against effective integration of ICT in DE programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
Significance of the Study
The findings of this study will be of theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the findings of this study will help to verify, sustain, and improve the theory of didactic conversation which posits that interaction is a predicating factor for the success of distance education courses. Therefore, DE materials should create didactic conversation between students and their instructors and among students, because prompt responses generally increase students’ motivation and performance. It further posits that opportunities for this interactive conversation in DE courses come from the use of suitable two-way communication media such as ICT facilities. Thus, the findings from this study will be anchored on the theory of didactic conversation as it will provide a base for the need to improve ICT integration in NTI DE programmes.
Practically, the findings from this study will be of immense benefit to the students and instructors of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, NTI of other States, institutions that offer distance education programme, the State and federal ministries of education, government and policy makers.
The findings of this study will motivate the instructors to acquire the knowledge and skills of ICT that will enable them to get the right content and learning materials to the learners as well as become updated. It will also motivate the learners to acquire the knowledge and skills that will enable them to use ICT to seek knowledge in and out of school and to make use of the knowledge acquired for their individual and societal improvement.
NTI of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States will benefit from the findings of this study. ICT when effectively integrated and extensively used as a means of generating and disseminating information will enhance their mode of delivery and improve the quality of their programme since undoubtedly, ICT are potentially a useful tool for managing DE educational institution. The result of this study will also be beneficial to NTI of other States. Their mode of delivery and operation will be enhanced when they adopt the strategies, the quality of their programmes will be improved hence; their objective of improving and upgrading the quality of the nation’s teaching force will be achieved.
The findings of this study will render an invaluable help to Nigerian tertiary institutions that are involved in distance education programmes in their bid to utilize the strategies of integrating ICT in their programmes for greater effectiveness having known the great potentials of ICT in managing DE educational institutions.
To the State and Federal Ministries of Education, as well as policy makers responsible for drafting and implementing policies on DE programmes, the findings of this study will be beneficial to the above-mentioned as it will enable them to know the shortcomings of DE programmes and the areas of improvement, it will also provide them with useful information with which to make policies for integration of ICT in their programmes. It will also enable them assess the level of success or failure in DE policy goals as it relates to its implementation. This is so because non-implementation voids policy objective.
The result of this study will also be of colossal benefit to the State and federal governments, it will prompt them to increase fund allocation to DE programmes for the purchase, installation and maintenance of ICT facilities. Policy makers will also be motivated through the findings of this study to develop policies that will reduce cost of newer technologies, tax and subsidies so as to make these technologies accessible and affordable to DE students and instructors.
Lastly, the study will further contribute to the volume of literature and empirical studies available in the field of distance education, this way, other researchers and students will find the study useful for the development of various aspects of their work.
The following research questions were formulated to guide the study. They are as follows:
- What is the extent to which educational strategies can be used to improve the integration of ICT in distance education programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States?
- What is the extent to which economic strategies can be used to improve the integration of ICT in distance education programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States?
- What is the extent to which political strategies can be used to improve the integration of ICT in distance education programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States?
- What is the extent to which challenges militate against the effective integration of ICT in the distance education programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States?
The following null hypotheses were formulated for the study and were tested at .05 level of significance. They are as follows:
HO1 There will be no significant difference between the mean responses of the instructors and students on the educational strategies for improving the integration of ICT in distance education programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
HO2 There will be no significant difference between the mean raesponses of the instructors and students on the economic strategies for improving the integration of ICT in distance education programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
HO3 There will be no significant difference between the mean responses of the instructors and students on the political strategies for improving the integration of ICT in distance education programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
HO4 There will be no significant difference between the mean responses of the instructors and students on the challenges militating against the effective integration of ICT in distance education programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
Scope of the Study
The study covered the strategies for improving the integration of ICT in DE programmes of NTI in Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. It covered the students and instructors in six study centres of NTI distance learning programmes of Akwa Ibom state and the seven study centres of NTI distance learning programmes in Cross River State. Also, the scope of the study focused on the extent to which educational, economic, and political strategies could be used to improve the integration of ICT