With the emergence of global knowledge-based economy and the popularity of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) education, universities and educational systems around the world including those in developing economies like Nigeria are under increasing pressure to use the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to transform the curriculum and teaching-learning process, provide students and learners with the flexibility and friendly methods to function effectively in this dynamic, information-rich, and continuously changing environment.
The purpose of the ODL of the Centre for Distance Learning and Continuing Education of the University of Abuja is reflected in the revised guidelines of the National Universities Commission on open and distance learning in Nigerian universities, which is to create and widen access to education and to utilizing distance education techniques and associated communications technologies to meet the particular requirements of the learners.
The University had demonstrated its commitment to partnership with other tertiary institutions and international educational bodies like Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and to promote open and distance learning. The aim of distance education is to increase access to education to a large number of citizens interested in furthering their education with a view to improving themselves educationally and professionally.
Unlike the formal system, distance education is designed to democratize and liberalize education to facilitate the pursuit of knowledge without sacrificing one’s career. Thus, it enables studies to be combined with work by those that are interested in improving themselves in order to advance in their profession and careers. Indeed, one of the objectives of the system is to make life-long education the hallmark of Nigeria’s educational policy. This is to provide access to relevant education and training through more diverse but interconnected learning pathways, particularly through ODL (National University Commission NUC, 2010.)
The ODL offers flexible learning with interactive content that engages students preparing for their career but have difficulty attending conventional classroom training because they are:
- geographically dispersed with limited time and/or resources to travel;
- busy with work or family commitments which do not allow them to attend courses on specific dates with a fixed schedule;
- located in conflict and post-conflict areas and restricted in their mobility because of security reasons;
- limited from participating in classroom sessions because of cultural or religious beliefs; and
- facing difficulties with real-time communication (e.g. very shy learners).
ODL students rely heavily on an Asynchronous study environment in which contents are delivered through a self-paced course. In a self-paced study, learners have access to a set of interactive and self-contained materials available anytime, anywhere at the click of a mouse, through E-learning’s application-specific and hands-on virtual labs.