ORIGIN OF E-LEARNING IN NIGERIA
E-learning is defined by several authors according to their personal understanding and perspectives, but they all seem to agree that e-learning encompasses all forms of electronically supported learning and teaching which are procedural in character and aim to effect the construction of knowledge with reference to individual experience, practice and knowledge of the learner. This definition is supported by Ravi Chandra (2005), who said that E-learning in the broadest sense concerns itself with learning that occurs on-line through the internet, or offline through the use of CD-ROM or other facilities such as radio, television and telephony.
Also known as iLearning or internet learning, it encompasses learning at all levels, both formal and non-formal that uses an information network, the internet, an intranet (LAN) or extranet (WAN), whether wholly or in part, for course delivery, interaction, evaluation and facilitation which Salawudeen (2010) explained, uses network technologies to create, deliver and facilitate learning Any time, and anywhere.
The development of e-learning in Nigeria could be traced back to the development of telecommunication which began in 1886 when e-cable connections was established by the colonial masters between Lagos and the colonial office in London to transmit information and receive feedback. By 1893 all government offices in Lagos were provided with telephone services for easy communication and later, other parts of the country were provided with telephone services (Ajadi et al., 2008). They further stressed that in Nigerian schools, the commonest type of e-learning adopted was in form of lecture notes on CD-ROM which can be played when the learners desire. The challenge of this method is that number of students per computer was unattractive as compared to when lectures are being received in the classrooms.
The Federal Government’s E-Learning Initiative in the Education Sector as part of the Federal Ministry of Education’s commitment to enhance creation and delivery through the application of ICT, and also to meet up with the national, regional and global developmental goals in line with the Roadmap as approved by the Federal Executive Council, constituted an exploratory Committee to look at the possibility of deploying e-learning across the Nigerian education sector through Public-Private Partnership.
The Federal Ministry of Education has produced policy on E-Learning. This has been approved by the National Council on Education but up till now it is yet to be officially launched. It is hoped that the policy will be widely publicized once it is launched since Advocacy strategies will be employed to enhance public participation.
Historical Background of Distance Education in Nigeria
The history of distance education in Nigeria dates back to the correspondence education as a means of preparing candidates for General Certificate in Education, a prerequisites for the London Matriculation Examination. The first indigenous distance learning programme was the English by Radio programme of Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation that followed independence in 1960. The programme was primarily targeted at primary and secondary school levels and covered core courses at both levels with more emphasis placed on the teaching and learning of Science, Mathematics and English. The technology driven distance learning came into existence almost the same time with the first indigenous distance learning with the emergent of Educational Television programmes of the then National Television of Nigeria (NTV). There was also Schools Educational Broadcast of the Radio Nigeria stationed in Lagos and relayed all through the federation. All radio stations were required to hook at specific times of the day during school hours for broadcasting of programmes.
In the last 31 years, University education programmes in the country begin to witness a lot of changes in terms of instructional delivery mode in some of our tertiary institutions. The Correspondence and Open Studies Unit (COSU) of University of Lagos that started in 1974, which later changed to Correspondence and Open Studies Institute (COSI) and now known as Distance Learning Institute was the first attempt made to establish a distance education unit as part of a University in Nigeria. It began initially to offer programmes in science education at first degree level in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) for degree holders that did not possess teaching qualifications.
The National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) started as a distance education institution in1976 (as the first dedicated distance education institution) with the support of UNESCO. It began by training Grade Two Teachers (TC II). In 1990, the Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE) programme was introduced when the expectation was that the minimum teaching certificate in Nigeria was expected to be NCE. The Institute also introduced the PGDE programme in the year 2005. Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) also started its distance education through a training programme known as Teachers-inService Education Programme (TISEP) for Grades Three and Two teachers and later the Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE). Also in November, 1972, the University also established a University of the Air Programme for teachers in secondary schools and teacher training colleges. The Distance Learning Institute of the University of Ibadan which started in1979 as External Degree Programme of the university is another institution which adopted the distance learning mode.
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 centres 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.
Development of e-Learning in Nigerian Schools The development of e-learning in Nigeria could be traced back to the development of telecommunication which began in 1886 when e-cable connections was established by the colonial masters between Lagos and the colonial office in London to transmit information and receive feedback. By 1893, all government offices in Lagos were provided with telephone service for easy communication, feedback and easy access and later all other parts of the country were provided with telephone services.
A lot of changes have been witnessed in the telecommunication industry since 1886. The provision of telecommunication services was initially monopolized by the Nigeria Telecommunication (NITEL) until sometimes in 90’s when the federal government of Nigeria commenced the liberalization policy of telecommunication industry. Four (4) private telephone service providers (Mtel – NITEL, Econet Now Vmobile, MTN and Communication Investment Limited – CIL) were initially licensed to provide General System for Mobile Services. CIL license was later revoked for inability to pay the license fee before the prescribed which was later given to Globacom (Glo) Nigeria.
The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology – TOJET October 2008 ISSN: 1303-6521 volume 7 Issue 4 Article 7 63 With this development, more companies were licensed to provide internet services in Nigeria, and this led to improved access to the internet by Nigerians. The country has less than 11 ISPs in 2000, but by the year 2006, it has risen to above 100 and many got connected to the information super-highway, through broadband VSAT connection see.
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 can not be done. Despite all these and other challenges facing eleanring 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.
Need for Open and Distance Education in Nigeria
The need for Open and Distance Education (ODE) in Nigeria is an important issue for several cogent reasons. Firstly, the vast majority of the population lives below poverty level. They are unable to attend urban based institutions and thus remain deprived of higher education despite their superior merit. Secondly, those who joined workforce without completing their studies or education due to family commitments are unable to combine their work with studies and very few of them who have strong desire for higher studies could not do so because of the limited offer in the traditional institution of higher learning.
Thirdly, the tradition of childhood, early marriage and religious belief in the country deprives the majority of female population from higher education. Besides, there are some other usual factors like physical disabilities, remoteness of localities, exorbitant tuition fees in most privately owned Universities and so on. These are some of the major issues responsible for why millions of Nigerians are deprived of higher education despite their knee interest and eligibilities.
ODE provides avenues for higher education for such a vast under-privileged population. Nigeria is generously endowed with human resources that need to be well equipped with literacy and skills to contribute to economic development, which is badly needed for this country. Thus, it is crystal clear that the way forward is to embrace ODE using both hands and supported by all necessary financial and infrastructural commitments.