Distance learning, sometimes called e-learning, is a formalized teaching and learning system specifically designed to be carried out remotely by using electronic communication. Because distance learning is less expensive to support and is not constrained by geographic considerations, it offers opportunities in situations where traditional education has difficulty operating. Students with scheduling or distance problems can benefit, as can employees, because distance education can be more flexible in terms of time and can be delivered virtually anywhere.
Popular distance learning technologies include:
- Voice-centered technology, such as CD or MP3 recordings or Webcasts
- Video technology, such as instructional videos, DVDs, and interactive videoconferencing
- Computer-centered technology delivered over the Internet or corporate intranet
DISTANCE LEARNING PRACTICES IN UGANDA
The Republic of Uganda is a developing East African country with a population of 31 million people, 85% of whom live in rural areas (World Bank, 2009). The government of Uganda gives priority to education as evidenced by increased budget allocations and by the introduction of free primary education in 1997. Primary level enrolment has increased from 2.6 million in 1995 to 7.4 million in 2008 (Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2009). Universal secondary education was introduced in order to absorb the increasing number of students who completed primary education. Now, institutions of higher learning are unable to accept all of the secondary school graduates who qualify and who want to enroll. Between 9,000 and 12,000 students qualify for postsecondary education, but only 25% of them are accepted into college or university (Experience Africa, 2009). The enrolments in tertiary institutions have increased 90% during the last 10 years, but the number of tertiary institutions has increased by only 1.8% during the same period (MyUganda, 2010).
In order to meet the needs of those seeking postsecondary education, but who are denied entry, and in order to improve the health of the citizens and the economy of the country, Uganda must provide additional access to higher education. Distance education (DE) could provide this access.
Kyambogo University (KYU) in Uganda has recently established quality assurance practices for its open distance education programme. Despite operating in an environment poor in resources, the Department of Distance Education has developed a ‘culture of care’ that focuses on students’ needs and places them at the centre of the provision of quality materials and student support.
Distance education has long been a method of study in Uganda, beginning in the Colonial period. It gained new popularity in the 1980s, however, when the National Resistance Government liberalized the Ugandan economy and social services, which created more private schools and job opportunities for teachers. As a result many have been encouraged to study teaching through this method of delivery.
KYU was formed in 2001 following the mergers of several institutions. The university’s Department of Distance Education inherited a distance education programme, the Diploma in Education, Primary, External (DEPE), which currently has several thousand students. Although the university does not have a quality assurance system across the board, the Department of Distance Education is in the process of setting up its own system and has effectively led the way for the institution.
DISTANCE LEARNING IN NIGERIA
Distance learning offered in higher education in Nigeria assumed a cut-throat competition in mid 20th and early 21st centuries as a result of felt-needs of the students for continuing education vis a vis internal revenue generation by orthodox Universities who mounted most of the distance learning courses all over Nigeria. The Federal Government and the general public’s outcry against the abuses suffered by students involved in these programmes caused a policy shift of the Federal Government of Nigeria in favour of re-introducing a government organized distance and Open University education system which was designed to provide an approach to distance learning that encourages a more effective teaching and learning activity for all.
Open and Distance Learning (ODL) evolved from correspondence learning; from print materials as mode of contents delivery it has metamorphosed into what we called distance education, online education, e-learning, or online education today.
It is the mode of delivery that has made the physical distance from a university or tertiary institution an insignificant constraint in the access to higher education as instructional materials are now easily converted into cost-effective and portable audio, video and mobile formats.
The herald of the internet also gives credence to this new way of delivering education contents to disperse students in remote geographical areas globally. The National Universities Commission (N.U.C) has stipulated as a matter of policy that student enrolment into the O.D.L mode of tertiary education in Nigeria is set at 350, 000 students by 2015; this is in order to provide an effective answer to several thousands of Nigerians who are continually disenfranchised from educational opportunities based on the present mode and practice of tertiary education in Nigeria.
Open and Distance Learning is a globally recognized and veritable answer to the huge demand for tertiary education in a country such as Nigeria where the statistics show that only a paltry 18 out of every 100 applicants gain admission into the limited number of tertiary institutions in the country.
Open and Distance Learning provides access to and availability of educational contents to motivated students who are of college age and are seeking one qualification or the other in a vast array of professional disciplines that cuts across the Humanities, Social and Management Sciences, Pure and Applied Sciences, and Education in order to further their education cum career.
Online distance learning is also good for working class people looking to improve their knowledge base and develop skills critical to their job and career development without having to seek for leave of absence for study in the university.
There are presently six accredited ODL institutions in Nigeria (with many more universities in the process of adopting the ODL model).