UTILIZATION OF LEARNER’S SUPPORT SERVICES BY STUDENTS OF NATIONAL OPEN UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA STUDY CENTRES IN SOUTH EAST OF NIGERIA. (EDUCATION PROJECT TOPICS AND MATERIALS)
Background of the Study
Open University is a means of providing access to quality and equitable educational opportunities for those who wish to improve and upgrade their knowledge. It is a social evolution which has brought real educational transformation that will bring about the desired changes and development at the speed educationists have never imagined before (Okoronkwo, 2010). Its uniqueness lies on its flexibility, easy access, immediate application and the use of combination of media to provide mass education. It uses varieties of digital technologies to liberalize education, turning homes and offices into learning environment as rich as that of schools, colleges and universities (Delvaline, 2005).
The rapid growth of the concepts of open and distance education are possible because of continuing increase in the demand for education, encouraged by the convergence of digital technology. Though they are sometimes used as one but distinct concepts, Open Learning refers to situations where learners use resources in a flexible way to achieve their learning goal. These resources may be print, audio- or computerbased; used at home, at a study centre or in the workplace; with or without the guidance of a tutor or mentor (Commonwealth of Learning, 2003). Distance education on other hand refers to situations where learners are physically separated from the educational provider, communicating in writing, (using letter mail, email, fax, or computer conferencing); verbally (by telephone, audio conferencing, video conferencing); or in
face-to-face tutorial sessions (Okoronkwo, 2010). Hence, open learning allows access to study without academic restrictions. Distance education programmes may follow the same approach of open learning, that enables as much independence and selfdetermination as possible. Therefore open and distance education is a flexible form of adult education, providing help to learners in many kinds of learning environments. It has also become a legitimized mode of education and has globally been embraced as a cost effective model for providing higher education to a large segment of the population (Krishnan, 2012).
In Nigeria, the history of open and distance learning dates back to the earliest and pioneering efforts by institutions such as City Correspondence College Lagos and University of Ibadan Extra-Mural Studies Department. These correspondence colleges were all engaged in correspondence education and registered students for London General Certificate Examination (GCE) Ordinary and Advanced levels. In 1974 the University of Lagos established a Correspondence programme to provide educational access to adult distance learners and today known as Distance Learning Institution (DLI) of University of Lagos. The Federal Government of Nigeria also established the National
Open University (NOU) in 1983 which experience several set back by different Military Governments. In the 1990’s also several universities established satellite campuses and study centres which also suffered a lot of criticisms especially in providing substandard open and distance learning and were shut down by the National University Commission (NUC). The National Teacher Institute (NTI), Kaduna is another phenomenal establishment in the history of Nigerian open and distance learning. It was established to provide quality teachers for Nigerian schools.
The National Open University was initially established on 22nd July 1983 as springboard for open and distance learning in Nigeria. It was suspended by the government on 25th April 1984. The Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with the UNESCO and Commonwealth of Learning (COL) held several conferences that led to formulation of new National Policy on open and distance education. However, its tremendous and unassailable role in tackling the country’s educational problems including access, equity, and education for all became so evident and consequently its resuscitation was begun on the 12th of April 2001. In 2002, the National Open University Act of 1983 was reactivated and this paved way for the resuscitation of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) as we have it today (NOUN, 2014).
It operates from its Administrative Headquarters located in Lagos, with study centres throughout the country. Currently the student enrolment stands at over 120,000. NOUN currently offers over 50 programmes and 750 courses, stair casing through from certificate to diploma and degree level, and maintain a strong commitment to internationalisation. NOUN was established with mission to provide functional, costeffective, flexible learning, which adds life-long value to quality education for all who seek knowledge. The learner support service of the institution is therefore designed to assist in accomplishing this mission.