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BY PROFESSOR FRANCIS O. EGBOKHARE University of Ibadan Ibadan - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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THE CONCEPT OF DISTANCE LEARNING AND ITS CHALLENGES . BY PROFESSOR FRANCIS O. EGBOKHARE University of Ibadan Ibadan. Introduction The modern crises are, in fact, man made and differ from many of their predecessors in that they can be dealt with.

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University of Ibadan




  • The modern crises are, in fact, man made and differ from many of their predecessors in that they can be dealt with.
  • (Mesarovic, Mihaljo and Pesterl, E: Mankind Turning Point: The second Report of the Club of Rome).
  • The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The parts are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.
  • (John Schaar)
  • “We can be knowledgeable with other people’s knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other people’s wisdom” (Michel de Montaigne 1533—1592)
  • “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” (Marcel Proust)

The term distance learning has been used to mean various things in the Nigerian parlance. This is more so that any practice where people have to gather together periodically for the purpose of acquiring higher education is regarded as distance learning. The closure of satellite campuses and study centers by the National Universities Commission has led to the use of the term as a modern terminology for essentially the same practice. This is a case of old wine in new wine skin. Apart from Tertiary Institutions which use the term often as alternative to part time studies, it has become common practice for tutorial centers for all kinds of certificate courses to refer to themselves as distance learning centers. After all no one has a monopoly of the term.



Economic strength which is founded in political and military might is fast decaying. In the 21st century, economic power will be derived from skills and innovation. Nations that don’t invest in skills will weaken…in the knowledge economy, what you know is more important than where you live. (Louis V. Gerstner JR.).

What is new is how much more important knowledge is today as a source of economic advantage and military strength. But tools that are crucial to improving productivity become more and more complex with each new generation, and therefore they require more and more knowledge and training to get the most out of them. So over time, artisans became professionals and practical thinking became more scientific. (Wladawsky-Berger cf. Thomas L Friedman: The Exhausting Race for Ideas)


It is now well known that we are in the age of human capital. Human capital means education, training, and skills that give people greater command over knowledge so that they are more productive. How well individuals and economies succeed is now determined mainly by how successful they are in investing and commanding the stock of knowledge. Education, skills and training account for 75% of the wealth of modern economies leaving only 25% to the stock of physical capital. (Andy Rosenfield)

The above underscores the fact that that information has become the driver of growth in economies and development in general. The internet functions in this age as the engine in the industrial age. Information technology is the electricity of the information age and the internet is the equivalent of the electric engine. The basis of productivity and competitiveness has shifted from the production of natural resources and trade in commodities to the production of knowledge.


2. What is Distance Learning?

The United States Distance Learning Association defines it as “the acquisition of knowledge and skills through mediated information and instruction, encompassing all technologies and other forms of learning at a distance.” “It is instruction that occurs when the instructor and the student are separated in time and space or both”.(Western cooperative for Educational Telecommunications). Moore 1966 defines it as planned learning that normally occurs from a different place as teaching and as a result, requires special techniques, special methods of communication by electronic and other technology, as well as special organizational and administrative arrangements”.

Some examples are correspondence education, using the television and radio as educational media. The Internet and the computer could also be media for distance education. Computer based learning resources and web based learning resources may be deployed to drive distance learning activities. These media may be used exclusively or in combination, in what has come to be known as blended learning.


3. Why Distance Learning?

  • a. Democratization of Access
  • Its outreach capacity meaning the relative ease with which a given distance learning program can meet the needs of a wider audience that would not be the case in situations of face to face teaching.
  • Provides opportunity for those who for financial reasons, distance, or personal circumstances cannot attend conventional Universities on a full time basis to get educated.
  • It is flexible, in terms of its adaptability to different personal or social conditions (people can study at their pace, location, time)
  • It is more cost effective and easy to scale than facilities based education
  • b. Provides opportunities for lifelong and continous education
  • c. The Imperatives of globalization and a knowledge economy makes continuous learning and skills update a reality of the work place
  • d. The rise of the internet as a means of delivering tuition has further expanded the opportunities for Distance Education
  • e. The commoditization of Education and the growth of the Education Market has led to increase opportunities for investment in education via distance and e learning.

ii. Some global and Local Examples of the Crisis of Access

  • In (a) above we drew attention to the crisis of access as a justification for distance learning. Below we will try to expatiate on that a little bit.
  • Developing countries as exporters of students
  • 1. There is undersupply of University places in developing countries; hence these countries have become exporters of students and importers of foreign education products.
  • Increasingly, developing countries are encouraging foreign Universities to come to them.
  • A competition for foreign students by foreign Universities; 75% of graduate students of the London School of Economics are foreign.
  • There is a problem of equity in education. Only the elite attend foreign (and perhaps facilities based institutions) Universities
  • Adult students get scant attention from conventional Universities designed to teach people aged 18 – 22; this is unwise in the new economy where workers need continuous updating of skills.

Local Context

Table 1: Showing no of Universities per population



  • Less than 20% of over 1 million applicants to Universities yearly are admitted.
  • Less than 8% of those who complete primary education make it to the University
  • Under achievement in Science and high drop out rates in basic and post basic levels, especially in the Sciences.
  • Poor content and outdated curricula
  • In the last ten years, over 48 Universities have been created to meet the growing problem of access.
  • Average cost of tuition in private institutions beyond the means of the over 70% of Nigerian who live below poverty line. Even with huge subsidies in public institutions, the poor are still largely shut out.
  • Poor output of basic education products compromise the MDGs and NEEDS goals
  • Increase in number of Nigerians seeking places in Universities in other countries (e.g. huge Nigerian presence in Legon)
  • Examinations malpractices as a result of fierce competition for few spaces
  • Ever changing admissions requirements and entry qualifications to further constrain access as a result of increasing demand.
  • No incentive for improved quality of education and service delivery due to absence of a market situation. Demand far outstrips supply.
  • Consequently, there is exploitation of students and poor learning environment.

It is clear from the above that the problem of access to higher education in Nigeria has created numerous other problems bothering on quality and credibility of degrees. Professor O A Bamiro, Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan puts the issue in perspective thus:

To quickly grasp the problem of access to HE in the country let me share with you the result of the admissions exercise conducted at the University of Ibadan for the 2005/2006 session. The University adopted a system that combined three elements: JAMB’s UME scores; performance in SSCE/WASC/NECO; and performance in the Oral Interview. The combined performance in UME and SSCE/WASC/NECO formed the basis of invitation to the Oral Interview. This has come to be known in the university system as the UI Model. The summary of the results of the post UME screening exercise using the UI Model is as follows:


First Choice Candidates

  • Total no. of First Choice candidates with JAMB scores above 200: 22,000
  • Total no. invited for interview after due processing of JAMB/SSCE/WASC/NECO results: 1,375
  • Total no. interviewed: 1,256
  • Total no. recommended for JAMB admission: 1,065
  • Rate of Attrition: 15.2%
  • Second Choice Candidates combined with left over of First Choice Candidates
  • Total no. of Second Choice candidates with JAMB scores above 200: 18,000
  • Total no. invited for interview after due processing of JAMB/SSCE/WASC/NECO results: 782
  • Total no. interviewed: 620
  • Total no. recommended for JAMB admission: 512
  • Rate of Attrition: 17.4%

Supplementary Admissions

  • Total no. invited for interview after due processing of JAMB/SSCE/WASC/NECO results: 1,564
  • Total no. interviewed: 1,310
  • Total no. recommended for JAMB admission: 1,129
  • Rate of Attrition: 13.8%

iii. The Challenge:The Dilemma of the Iron Triangle

(Increasing Access while improving quality)



“Suppose, in response to the increasing demand for higher education, the access is increased by admitting more students; as the numbers grow, the recruitment, training and payment of lecturers cannot keep pace, particularly in most developing countries of Africa that are already facing the brain drain syndrome. Class sizes increase and, as to be expected, quality of learning goes down. If quality is to be improved through provision of more books and learning materials in support of lectures, the cost of teaching will go up, leading either to fewer students or higher fees. Thus, any attempt to improve one side of the triangle leads to undesirable changes in the other two sides”. (Bamiro O A 2007)


iv. The Imperative: Breaking the Iron Triangle

“Most have assumed that higher education is locked in an iron triangle defined by the vectors of access, quality and cost as presented earlier. The iron triangle emphasizes the limitations of the traditional f2f (face-to-face) lecture method in conventional universities and explains why countries are finding the expansion of higher education expensive. It is no longer easy to build another Ibadan or ABU. In other words the present system is not easily scalable. May be we should look in other directions to scale up.

Available evidence in literature points to the fact that information and communication technology (ICT) can be deployed to operate on the three sides of the iron triangle to achieve mutually positive changes. ICTs do not only enable increased access, they may also improve the quality of education to the extent that they make it easier to access vast amounts of information, facilitate presentation of materials using multimedia and collaboration with others to improve classroom experience and ultimately lead to improved cognitive skills.


ICT-induced expansion of access at reduced cost is being achieved through distance education, open content initiative for learning by students and the collaborative content initiative for teaching by lecturers and learning by students. The creation of the UK Open University (UKOU) in 1969 ushered in the concept of distance learning which was later enhanced by the deployment of ICTs. The UKOU was established on the basis of conviction by Walter Perry, the founding vice-chancellor. He began with a cohort of 25,000 students. He had the conviction that by using modern communications media and providing personal academic support to students, the effectiveness of university teaching could be transformed and access to higher education dramatically broadened. Today, with 200,000 students, the UKOU operates well below the costs of other universities and holds fifth place in national rankings of teaching quality, just above Oxford. In 2005 it came first in a national survey of student satisfaction conducted on behalf of the UK government”(Daniel and Kanwar, 2006) (Bamiro O A 2007: The Challenges of Higher Education in Nigeria).


Distance Learning leads to

  • Massification of skills and knowledge
  • “If China were to achieve the college participation rate of the US…it would need to build perhaps 18,000 average US sized colleges…But the level of investment required to address the problem solely through the construction of facilities based universities…is unfinanaceable and would take a tremendous amount of time. Distance delivery can be effected immediately without a massive commitment of physical capital that is both immobile and irreversible.”(Rosenfield 2000).

Table 3: Very Large Distance Systems

Source: Institutional Statistics 1995



  • Engaging and interactive learning
  • Learner driven
  • Technology driven (role of internet)
  • Distance learning via the internet presents massive opportunity. It is active and engaging—learning that mandates doing instead of watching. Andy Rosenfield 2000).
  • Flexible
  • Less susceptible to individual teacher
  • Standardize content (open learning materials)
  • Less expensive

Who is Distance Learning meant for?

  • Those who already have a degree and seek continued lifelong learning to maintain their edge
  • Those who have lost their jobs and wish to retrain in order to acquire new skills
  • Those who simply want to enjoy learning
  • Those who are employed and cannot afford to quit their jobs
  • Those who find the learning environment in conventional universities unsuitable for their special needs
  • Those who want to study at their own pace
  • Those who want to explore
  • Those who have failed to make it through JAMB because of the difficulties of access
  • Those who need to acquire a quick skill
  • Those who wish to pursue private business while still studying.
  • Those who are retired and want to acquire new skills for personal reasons, community service.
  • Those who cannot afford private Universities or who cannot afford to keep themselves in hostels for extended periods in public Universities.
  • Those in the diaspora who cannot afford the cost of tuition
  • Military personnel who move around often.
  • Challenges of Distance Learning Administration and Delivery in the University of Ibadan
context of odl in nigeria
  • The context of ODL in Nigeria is defined by the following among many other factors.
  • Poor enrolment capacity due to inappropriate model of ODL, inadequate infrastructure and poor technology outlay.
  • Poor understanding of the concept and practice of ODL
  • Poorly trained staff and inadequate technical capacity and skills in eLearning technology, online tutoring, ODL management and delivery.
  • Poor quality output of the basic education level of people who constitute the new majority of distance learners.
context of odl contd
  • Paucity of good quality content
  • Poor internet penetration and low computer literacy skills of learners.
  • Rigid and outmoded regulatory environment.
  • Lack of collaboration, partnership and synergy between institutions and private sector organisations involved in ODL.
  • Unsustainable low enrolment levels.
  • Inability to conduct continuous assessment at a distance.
  • Poor business model.
context of odl contd29
  • Lack of institutional support of centres engaged in ODL in dual mode Universities
  • High cost of access, bandwidth, computers and accessories.
  • Lack of classroom space.
  • High level of poverty of distance learners.
  • Impersonation at examinations.
  • Delay in marking and processing of results.
  • Inconsistent scheduling and academic instability.
  • Each of the points above creates multiplicity of problems which compromise the quality of the learning environment.
  • A few challenges may arise from the above. These relate to:
  • How to scale up enrolment to a sustainable level in an orderly manner and manage ensuing numbers without compromising quality.
  • How to create access to content that is engaging, interactive and qualitative.
  • How to provide access in a flexible, cost effective and culturally appropriate manner.
  • How to improve computer literacy of applicants and prepare them to engage the distance learning environment.
challenges contd
  • How to provide support to students on and offline in order to provide them with a productive and fulfilling learning experience.
  • How to ensure that capable and adequately trained tutors and mentors, course developers engage learners.
  • How to provide up-to-date and qualitative content for use by learners.
  • How to minimise the need to physically displace learners.
  • How to ensure equity in access and delivery of programmes.
  • How to ensure that learners are treated with dignity.
  • How to meet the criteria for accreditation of programmes.
critical issues student support and logistics
  • Provision of space
  • Provision of access to computers and internet facilities
  • Sourcing of mentors and tutors for interactive sessions
  • Computer literacy training
  • Registration counselling
  • Pre-application induction and orientation.
  • Integrating students with local library facilities.
  • Providing students opportunities for life skills development and training for the work place.
the business model
  • Outsourcing
  • Parnerships
  • Content sharing
  • Information centers
  • Joint infrastructure
  • Collaborration not competition
business model contd
Business Model contd.
  • Costing of programs
  • Choice of programs
  • Location of centers
  • Fixed and variable costs
  • Remuneration rates
  • Portal services
  • etc
bridges and dreams
Bridges and Dreams
  • ICT; Eye See T; ☺ ≈ ╦;
  • I-can Team; Info-city
  • W, double you, U U
  • Dot com(e) and the dots connect
  • Bullish Billy’s barking by the GATE
  • Yahoo! bow wow! woof woof!
  • I–Bea Mers, Apples and Dell(ies) in the NET
  • I can see; ☺ ≈
  • Sizzling HOT MAILS
  • Billions of MICRO SOFT ideas
  • Like beaded codes on the NET SCAPE
  • Surf through the nodded web
  • We are the web

I am dreaming

  • Dreams are not for the nights only
  • Facts GOOGLED in from cyberspace
  • Fiction, myths and tales doodle in virtual real
  • The present browses the future
  • The past surfs the time net
  • Reality no more is so real
  • Fiction not now so fictitious
  • Time has warped
  • The quantum has leaped
  • Yes, this is the bridge!

I am dreaming

  • Dreams are not for the nights only
  • Facts GOOGLED in from cyberspace
  • Fiction, myths and tales doodle in virtual real
  • The present browses the future
  • The past surfs the time net
  • Reality no more is so real
  • Fiction not now so fictitious
  • Time has warped
  • The quantum has leaped
  • Yes, this is the bridge!

Now there’s a bridge to every place

  • A GATE WAY to every mind
  • This is the bridge we need
  • To traverse through DESTINE(d) nations
  • A probe into our E-MERGING nations
  • AH MAZE IN(g)!
  • We have a solution to an ancient puzzle
  • No more tongues to confuse
  • No colours to interprete
  • No time to delay
  • No distance to traverse

We are free at last-

  • If we will
  • From DISgrace of gridlock
  • disCHARGE(d) of a weird wiredless world
  • Free from limitations of COMMUNE-ication
  • We’ve stopped the backslide to SHUT DOWN
  • re-BOOTING from a psychedelic
  • We’re up from underDEVELOPMENT
  • What can you see?
  • Wheredo you stand?
  • We have the bridge we need
  • The bridge across the dark
  • If we dream we’ll browse
  • If we dare
  • We’ll surf this bridge of our dream.