Education is a fundamental component of human development. The process of education is lifelong and pervades all aspect of social life, helping the individual to reduce the ambiguity of his environment and to improve some structure in the unstructured event world (Imo, 2000). Education could be informal, formal or non-formal. Distance education (DE) as a form of non formal education is used to cover various forms of study at all levels where students are not in close contact with their teachers. Consequently, Creed (2001) sees distance education as an educational process in which a significant proportion of the teaching is conducted by someone far removed in space and/ or time from the learners. DE is the type of education that takes place outside the conventional school system; it is imparted without necessarily having personal interaction with students or learners (Adebayo, 2007).
The nature of DE involves focus on open access to education and training provision, freeing learners from constraints of time and place, offering flexible learning opportunities to individuals and groups in the process (UNESCO: 2002). In the present era of technology, Mudasiru (2006) sees distance education as a student centered form of education which deals with the use of print and electronic technologies to present individualized lessons to learners at a distance. Consequently, distance education suggests an educational approach designed to reach students in their homes, offices, shops, business premises etc. It provides learning resources for them to qualify without attending formal classes in any institution. Distance education therefore is a viable means of supporting attainment of academic, social and economic development in human endeavors.
The term distance education (DE) acquired universal acceptance in the 1980s when the International Council for Correspondence Educations (ICCE), a UNESCO affiliated organization changed its name to the International Council for Distance Education (ICDE) (Ebirim, 2006). According to the International Encyclopedia on education, distance education dates from the mid 1800 when universities (in United Kingdom) first conducted correspondence courses by mailing printed materials and assignments to students’ houses/homes. The concept gained wider acceptance with the founding of the Open University of United Kingdom (now British Open University) in 1863. The university was set up to provide courses for students who could not attend classes at traditional universities. The university has served as a model for hundreds of other open universities around the world that offer distance learning programmes. Keegan (1989) classified DE institutions in to five. The first two are the public and private schools and the distance teaching universities. These two were termed autonomous while the other three; the independent study divisions of conventional schools, the consultation school and the integrated school, are tied to the structure of conventional universities or higher institutions. Keegan further stated that the autonomous DE systems are distinct in their use of media and support services for learning and that the independent study divisions of conventional higher institutions are identified with a variety of delivery modes. These could include correspondence study, sandwich programmes, part time teachers training programmes (PTTP), Open University, weekend programmes, adult literacy education programme, and National Teacher Institute (NTI) distance education among others.
Distance learning is not a recent concept in Nigeria. Akinpelu (1982) indicated that the Department of Adult Education at the University of Ibadan first proposed the need for distance learning in 1960. The programme was titled Pilot correspondence programme in the science subjects to experiment in the field of science education at pre-university level and thereafter to expand gradually to certain other vital areas necessitating in-service training. In 1972 the University of Lagos established its Correspondence and Open Studies Unit (COSU). This unit was to take care of Distance Learning (DL) programmes. The unit was renamed Correspondence and Open Studies Institute in 1997 (Nwizu: 2001).
The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) was first established in July 1983. It was closed a few months later in 1984 because of various defects and reasons which the Federal Government felt should be corrected. These reasons where however not explained in the source (NOUN 2007). In 2001 the University was resuscitated. The National Open University operate through a combination of classical first and second generation (correspondence and face-to-face contact) to a third generation level of operation (web-based modules, textual materials, audio and video tapes as well as CD-ROMs). The university currently has 18 study centres and plan to have at least one study centre in each of the 774 local government areas of Nigeria. It runs programmes in education, arts and humanities, business and human resources management and science as well as technology (Mac-Ikemerijima, 2005).
Prior to the establishment of National Open University, the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) was the first institution specifically established by the government to provide distance education course designed to upgrade under qualified and unqualified teachers to obtain Teachers Grade Two Certificate. NTI also introduced the Nigerian certificate in education by distance learning in 1990 (Commonwealth of learning, 2001). Also in 1978 the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu in alliance with the Anambra State Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), established the IMT UNIAIR programme. An initial pilot programme was organized in history, government and economics for Advanced Level WAEC. Due to the success recorded, programmes for Nigerian National Diploma (NND) and Higher National Diploma were added (Oliji: 1999). University of Abuja in 1990 established its Centre for Distance Learning and Continuing Education (CDLCE) to provide educational opportunities to many Nigerians who cannot go through the conventional education system. In 1998 Abia State University, Uturu established her Institute for Distance education Abia (IDEA), with the general aim of providing university education to as many Nigerians as possible irrespective of sex, age and constraints of time due to full time employment. In view of the above general reason, the following objectives were stated to further justify the establishment of the institute. To provide university education to:
Those who for one reason or the other could not get regular education. Those Nigerian workers especially those at the high echelon of their establishments who could not benefit from regular university education. Others who wish to acquire new skills/qualification so as to enable them to change from their present job to a more rewarding employment. Source: IDEA (p. IV)
The institute was equally established to organize seminars/workshops to enable those in other sectors of education to know where to concentrate research and development (IDEA Programme of studies, nd). The following programmes areas are covered by the university through distance education (DE). Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) in government and Public Administration, Accountancy, Management, Marketing, economics, banking & finance, library and information science and Bachelor of Arts BA in History and International relation, English language and Literature, Mass Communication (IDEA programme of studies, nd). All these programmes are offered to learners through the first and second generation mode which is print materials and face-to-face contact on weekend basis, no ICT facility is employed in the teaching. Since the programmes are meant to cater for different spectrum of people mentioned above, it would have been an ideal thing to integrate ICT into the DE programmes of Abia State University, Uturu to facilitate and improve on the quality of delivery mode of instruction. Meanwhile the University has some functional ICT facilities like the University website, computer, telephone, radio but none of these facilities is used for distance education programme even for registration of DE students.
Distance education programmes are dependent on good communication for successful learning to take place and effective communication promote needed interaction between the teacher and student as well as student and student in teaching learning situation. This is because interaction is essential to student’s learning and to the overall success of distance education programmes. Recent studies by distance educators have confirmed that interaction in distance education and learning environment results to increased academic achievement (Neibuhr and Neibuhr 1999). Consequently the new information order has placed a lot of responsibilities on the shoulders of both the learners and their instructors and this has fostered new directions in the teaching and learning process hence the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) which has become a core part of both individual and institutional mission in learning.
Many authorities have defined information and communication technologies in their own ways and emphasis is placed on the fact that they are forms of technologies used to create, store and communicate information. These ICTs include: the radio, the video, computer, audio cassette, television, telephone, e-mail, internet, virtual library, teleconferencing, world wide web, (www). Iroka and Uzoagba (2010) defined information and communication technology as the electronic means of capturing, processing, storing and disseminating information. Uruah (2004) sees ICT as technology that is used to propagate information rapidly to any part of the world given the availability of appropriate infrastructure. Schaware (2005) in his own contribution noted that ICT is technology that can lead to significant development such as making more people acquire knowledge through the use of ICT. Also (World Bank (2002) argued that information and communication technologies (ICT) generally hold out the opportunity to revolutionize pedagogical methods and expanding access to quality education system. ICT enable learners learn how to think independently about what they learn and so develop the spirit of confidence and independent study.
ICT enables instructors, learners, libraries and schools to communicate with one another and share information to enhance understanding, have access and view documents in richly formulated texts and pictures, connect friends, colleagues, scholars and resource persons in almost all parts of the world. This is because ICT has the potential of making individual learners acquire the skills that can enable them seek knowledge in and out of school and effectively make use of such knowledge.
Etuk (2007) emphasized that ICT has changed how people live, work, play and learn in developed countries. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is applicable in all round endeavors of education generally and distance education (DE) in particular. In the developed countries according to Etuk, students acquire knowledge through satellite transmission broadcast, audio and video conferencing, and teleconferencing or may participate in the conferences on the World Wide Web (www) and other computer networks. E-learning which is the current mode adopted in DE is an instructional content learning experience delivered through electronic technology as well as other ICT devices like the internet, computer, e-mail, virtual library, ComputerAssisted Instruction (CAI), the mobile phone. These are used in many industrialized countries to individualize instruction for greater achievement by distance learners. Since these ICT facilities are used to facilitate teaching/learning process in distance education it is therefore, imperative to integrate ICT in distance education programmes of Abia State University, Uturu for the goals and objectives of the university DE to be achieved. The need for integration of ICT facilities in Abia State University distance education programme has become more necessary because other contemporary institutions offering similar programmes have move on the 3rd generation level of distance education operation, modules and internet facilitated programme delivery. Most of these institutions have website through which the programmes are administered. The university of Lagos distance learning institute can be reached at its website (URL) http://dli.unilag.edu.ng. The following links are available to visitors on this website,
About distance Learning institute (DLI), portal, login (for students registration), information, school schedules and online programme events. University of Abuja Centre for Distance Learning and Continuing Education (CDLCE) could be reached through Uniform Resource Locator (URL) http://www.uniabuja.edu.ng/. In the same vein, University of Ibadan Distance Learning Centre and National Open University of Nigeria could be reached through their respective URL http://dlc.ui.edu.ng/ and http://www.nou.edu.ng/noun/index.htm-. The Institute for Distance Education Abia (IDEA), a distance education unit of Abia State University Uturu has neither functional website nor URL through which it can be reached. Therefore it is imperative to explore ways of integrating ICT facilities in distance education programme of Abia State University Uturu.
ICTs have great potentials in enhancing education generally and distance education (DE) in particular and as well bridge the gap of distance between the teachers and the learners and help in no small measures in programme delivery. Abia State University, Uturu established her Institute for Distance Education (IDEA) in 1988. The Institute was established to provide university education through distance learning to as many Nigerians as possible irrespective of sex, age and constraints of time due to full time employment. From the programme brochure lectures are offered to learners through the first and second generation mode of distance learning, which is print materials and face-to-face contact on weekend basis. However, it is believed that if modern ICT facilities are incorporated into the programme it would lift the mode of delivery from print and face-to-face contact to a third generation level of operation, the virtual reality. Regrettably, Abia State University unlike most distance education institutions in Nigeria, knowing the great potentials of ICT, seem not to be able to integrate ICT facilities in their programme and visible efforts have not been made in integrating these ICT facilities. Some other sister institution involved in the similar programmes have gone ahead of the institution in integrating ICT facilities in to their programmes especially the internet. Some of the benefits of integrating ICT in DE programme include; bridging the gap of time and distance which is a big problem in DE, getting the right types of content and learning materials to the individual and to this end be used for the production of study materials for the learners. Furthermore, ICT enhances the management and administration of DE. These benefits seem not to be maximally attained due to non integration of ICT facilities in DE programme of the University. Hence the DE programme are done with great difficulty in relationship between the students and their teacher, dissemination of learning content materials as well as production of learning materials. Based on the above, there is the need to investigate the means of integrating ICT facilities in distance education programme to provide easy and convenient means of teaching and learning as well as enhance independent learning and build learners knowledge in research skills.
The problem of this study therefore, is to explore the ways of integrating ICT facilities in DE programme of Abia state university, Uturu.
The general purpose of the study was to explore ways of integrating Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in DE programmes of Abia state university Uturu.
Specifically the study addressed the following objectives
- To find out the ICT facilities available for distance education (DE) programme of Abia state university.
- To ascertain the extent of integration of these ICT facilities in DE programme of Abia State University Uturu.
- To determine the challenges militating against the integration of ICT facilities in DE programme of Abia state university.
- To suggest strategies for effective integration of ICT facilities in DE programme of Abia state university.
The findings of this study will be of great benefit to: Abia State University Uturu, Distance learners, and the instructors, institutions that offer DE programme, policy makers, workers, and different spectrum of people who want to engage in distance education programme.
The findings of the study will help improve the quality of DE programme of Abia State University by enhancing their mode of delivery from print and face-to-face contact to third generation level of operation which is e- learning.
The findings of the study will enable the instructors know how to get the right content and learning materials to the learners. Consequently, the learners will be motivated through the findings of the study to acquire the necessary ICT skills that will enable them seek knowledge in and out of school and make use of the knowledge acquired.
To the institutions that offer distance education programme, the findings will make them know the great potentials of ICT and equally encourage the integration of ICT in their institutions.
To workers and different spectrum of people who want to engage in distance education programme, the findings will expose them to the potentials of ICT and therefore motivate them to acquire the skills for them to have access to global networks and pools of knowledge.
The findings will motivate the policy makers in such a way that they would ensure that ICT education be integrated into the Nigerian system of education generally and particularly distance education programme.
Lastly, this study will add to the existing literature in the field of distance education.
The following research questions will be formulated to guide the study:
- What are the ICT facilities available for DE programme in Abia state university Uturu?
- What is the extent of integration of these ICT facilities in DE programme of Abia State University Uturu?
- What are the challenges militating against effective integration of ICT facilities in DE programme of Abia state university?
- What are the strategies for enhancing the effective integration of ICT in DE programme of Abia state university?
The following null hypotheses are formulated to guide the study and will be tested at 0.05 level of significance.
Ho1: There will be no significant difference in the mean response of instructors and learners on the extent of ICT integration in distance education programme of Abia State University, Uturu.
HO2: There will be no significant difference in the mean responses of Learners and administrators on the challenges militating against effective integration of ICT in DE programme of Abia state university.
The study was intended to cover the four centres of DE programme of Abia state university Uturu. The centres are located in Aba, Umuahia, Uturu and Uzoaku. The content and scope of the study involves an examination of ICT facilities used for DE programme, the extent to which the ICT facilities are integrated in the programme, the challenges militating against the integration of ICT in DE programme and the strategies for enhancing the integration of ICT in DE programme of Abia State University Uturu.