Distance education is a kind of arrangement in which the learners are removes in space and time from the teacher. It is a field of education that focuses on teaching methods and technology with the aim of delivering teaching, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional setting such as a classroom.
In Nigeria, the emergence of distance education dates back to external examinations organized by Universities of London, Cambridge and Oxford, which provided opportunities for Nigerians wishing to acquire western education.
Education has become paramount in Nigeria over the years and as a result everybody in every nook and cranny of the country wants to have a taste of it even if they do not make it to the higher institution level. For those who want the higher education, a large percentage of the population do not have all that it takes to make this dream a reality.
By all that it takes; I am not referring to monetary cost alone but also availability. Those who fall in this category settle for distance learning as it affords them the luxury of gaining higher education from anywhere in the country and also go on with their day to day activities without any form of obstruction and intrusion. In one sentence, distance education is a means of striking balance between the world of work and the world of education.
PROBLEMS OF DISTANCE EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
1. Separation from teachers: Those who engage in distance learning are separated from their teachers; as a result of this, they don’t have access to the teachers in situations where clarification is to be made on a particular subject or topic. Also in this situation, teachers are unable to monitor students one on one as in the case of non-distance learning.
2. Access to facilities: As good as the idea of distance learning sounds; it will be a failure without the right facilities. In Nigeria, the problem of electricity makes it highly difficult for students. It isn’t just enough to have a personal PC and internet access ( not all Nigerians can even afford these and even those who can are still met with the problem of power supply) constant power supply must also be available and this is not the case in Nigeria. This problem is at its peak in rural areas hence for those engaging in distance learning from rural areas, it is very challenging.
Financial Cost: Distance education is Nigeria is quite expensive and in most cases even more expensive than the cost of a higher institution. Most people can’t afford the fee and for those who can afford it, keeping up with the trend throughout the duration is challenging. This results in cases of drop-outs at the end of the day.
Not only is the fee expensive, the cost of purchasing a laptop is not what everybody out there interested in distance learning can afford. And for those who can afford the laptop, cost of internet connection is another barrier they must face and overcome.
3. Societal belief: In a country like Nigeria, it is believed that those who are graduates of a distance learning institute do not have equal qualifications as those who went through the normal means. The result of this is damage on student’s self-esteem as society does not see them as proper graduates.
4. Shortage of qualified e-teachers: Distance learning requires not just ordinary teachers but teachers who are qualified and capable in the field of e-learning. This is one challenge facing distance education in Nigeria.
5. Lack of computer knowledge: Since distance education makes use of the e-learning system, it is therefore paramount that students have a basic and solid knowledge of the computer. Lack of knowledge or inadequate knowledge poses a great challenge to computer illiterates as this is needed to proceed in the various fields.
6. Discourages socialization: Unlike the traditional college settings, where you get to relate and mingle with colleagues; distance learning does not really give room for such as most of the students learn from the comfort of their rooms.
PROSPECTS OF DISTANCE EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
1. Access to quality education: Distance learning helps to create an avenue for quality education to be received and also to people who otherwise would not have such privilege at their disposal.
2. Workplace advantage: Several employers would want a situation whereby their employees can upgrade themselves intellectually and educationally without hindering such employee’s performance at the work place. With the help of distance learning, this has become a possibility. As an employee, you can be highly effective in your work place and still have the opportunity to further your education. All that is needed is enrollment into a distance learning institute.
3. Equal access to learning for all: Distance education provides learning experience for all, including young and old, those who are disabled, exceptionally gifted and those who are away from their usual place of learning.
4. Flexibility: Distance education meets the needs of the students wherever and however they need to learn.
5. Raising fulfilled citizens: Distance learning creates an avenue for the society to have people who can continually update their skills and knowledge and at the same time be useful to themselves and the society at large.
6. Affordability: Unlike traditional colleges where you have to pay for accommodation and traveling expenses, distance learning offers the opportunity to learn from the comfort of your home and you get your course materials sent to you therefore you do not have to pay extra costs for books.
7. Earn as you learn: Because of the nature of distance learning, you do not have to leave your job to go to school; unlike the normal college where you have to quit everything to give it your total attention. Distance learning offers the opportunity to raise enough money for your livelihood while furthering your education.
8. Study at your own pace: Distance learning enables you to study when you want and how you want it; either in the morning before you begin your daily activities or at night when you are back from work.
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