THE USE OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY (ICT) IN DISTANCE EDUCATION: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF KWAME NKRUMAH UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AND UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION, WINNEBA-KUMASI.

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ABSTRACT

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have become a central pillar for the world, as the world is now tagged as ‘digital’ and ‘global village’. The usefulness of ICTs transcends to all sectors including education. Distance education per se, rests heavily on ICTs. ICTs have the potential to foster interaction and communication between instructors and students as well as the outside world. The main objectives of the study are: To ascertain ICTs usage among distance learners at KNUST and UEW-K; and to investigate the factors influencing the use of ICTs in distance education at KNUST and UEW-K.

The study adopted the survey research methodology with a sample size of 210. This was done using a census approach, which ensures that all members were enrolled. The students were selected from Business Administration programme, specifically, Accounting and Human Resources Management from both KNUST and UEW-K. Data collection was done using questionnaires which were administered to the students. The responses were analyzed and results were presented in the form of graphs and tables. It was based on these data collected that valid conclusions and recommendations were drawn.

The key findings of the study in relation to the usage of ICT facilities and services. The study identified that the number of times of ICT usage varied among students from the two universities. Students in KNUST used ICT more frequently than students in UEW-K. Again, in KNUST, ICT usage was tilted more to learning in courses, whilst in UEW-K, students used ICT mainly for their research. The study also unraveled specific factors that were socio-cultural, technological, political

and economic in nature to have influential role on the use of ICTs. These factors include cultural influence in the use of ICT, the quality of facilities and services, political ideology on ICT, high cost of ICT facilities and services.

It is recommended that, there should be planning and tracking of ICT facilities and services in order to serve as the basis for upgrading the available ICT infrastructures and facilities. This should be coupled with periodic needs assessment as well as training for students in to cope with technological transformation. For further research, work on a comparative study of public and private universities which will provide findings for policy options should be considered.

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

            Background of the Study

Educational digitization through technological advancement has long been predicted, on the premise of emergence globalization which has affected the educational sector (Joint, 2008). New approaches and concepts for learning have risen through digital technology, making the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) fundamental in contemporary education (Dhanarajan and Abeywardena, 2013). The undeniable advancements in technology in the world have led to multiple convergences of content, computing, telecommunication and broadcasting. Mswanyama (2004) mentions that these advancements have led to information Communication Technologies. Kagugu (2011) posits that the role of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) is enormous. These roles cut across social, political, economic, developmental, educational and environmental sectors. Manjulika et al., (2010) put across that, ICTs have the potential in fostering the interaction and communication between learners and tutors and also among learners themselves. It is argued by Trucano (2005) that information communication technologies in its diverse practices and types have to a great deal facilitated the acquisition of literacy skills.

Over the years, the rise in the pace of technology in this modern era has attracted the attention of educational researchers especially concerning the impacts Information and Communication Technology have on distance education delivery and knowledge acquisition. Education all over the world undoubtedly, has been identified as an important means for promoting economic and social development from the individual, institutional and the national levels. The growth of the global

economy and the information-based society has pressurized education systems around the world to use technology to teach students the knowledge and skills they need (UNESCO, 2002).

Higgins et al., (2012) have attested to the significant role Information and Communication Technology can play in education, notably, distance education. Technology is a powerful contributor to learning if it is used to deepen students’ engagement in meaningful and intellectually authentic curriculum. Technology is a tool. It should be selected as best option when it is weighed as best tool for students to learn (Costley, 2014). Studies conducted by Kirschner and Karpinski (2010) and Junco and Cotton (2012) have unravelled significant positive relationship between ICT and students’ academic performance and achievements.

Amidst the diverse roles of ICT on education and its performance, it is of no doubt that digital technology has affected distance education massively. According to the California Distance Learning Project (2004), distance education entails a delivery system which connects learners with educational resources and provides educational access to learners not enrolled in educational institutions and can augment the learning opportunities of current students. Thus, in distance education, there is separation of instructor and learning in most of the instructional processes and involves the use of educational media such as digital tools like computer and internet resources to carry out course content. As emphasized in the Californian Distance Learning Project (2004), distance education is dependent on digital instruments and processes such as interactive tele-courses, teleconferencing, web conferencing, internet chats, emailing, lit serves, audiocassette courses, videotaped courses, correspondence courses and online courses.

ICT in distance education can be used for preparing and presenting lectures and again a witness to the fact that Ghana as a developing country recognizes the importance of ICT in development (Ooskerlaken, 2009). However, Morris et al., (2005) consider that online distance learning is all about self- discipline and self-direction, as students have to do much on their own by working out to complete their assignments. Gupta (2017) revealed that, the existence of distance education has not only decreased the early fear of students but has rather given way for various dimensions in education. He also attested to the fact that the use of ICT tools has various roles performed at higher educational levels. According to Manjulika et al (2010), Information and Communication Technology has the potential to enhance and facilitate the communication and interactions between instructors and learners as well as among the learners themselves within the distance education setting. ICT’s have been explained to be assists in the provision of literacy skills. Trucano (2005) posits that, information and communication technologies in different types have been used and have proven to be of a major contributor to the acquisition of literacy skills.

In this study, the researcher emphasized on Information and Communication Technologies and their use in distance education. Inputs from distance education students, and experts in digital technology and educationalists in the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi and University of Education, Kumasi campus were solicited to inform the outcomes of the use of ICT on contemporary distance education.

                  Distance Education in Ghana

Awidi (2013) puts forward that, distance education has been in existence from the nineteenth century. The entire concept of distance teaching and learning is based on the opposite course of the status-quo in the campus-based university. Mensah and Owusu-Mensah (2012), emphasize that distance education is not new in the Ghanaian educational system. Distance education rather took a down turn during the period of the 2000’s after it was very vibrant three decades before. It was previously referred to as correspondence education which provided the opportunity for a lot of workers and other professionals to upgrade themselves. The economic condition after independence was quite difficult and this cut off some workers from upgrading themselves.

Mensah and Owusu-Mensah (2012), further attested that the educational authorities in the country upon the earlier challenges faced in the Modular Teacher Training Programme (MTTP), still felt the need to re-establish distance education especially at the tertiary level. Another need that necessitated the reestablishment of distance education was the fact that the universities were not able to enroll even half of the qualified applicants. Efforts that were made by the Ministry of Education to get distance education vibrant were through conducting a survey and as a recommendation, the universities agreed to start the distance programmes. The universities that agreed included the University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the University College of Education of Winneba.

      Distance Education at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)

The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology has since 2005 offered Distance Learning programmes and was established as the Faculty of Distance Learning under the then Faculty of Science. This was to help build both on-going and new programmes of study from all faculties of the University in the distance learning mode. The Faculty of Distance Learning was separated from the College of Science in 2007 and is now an independent or autonomous institute called the Institute of Distance Learning. The Institute of Distance Learning came into being to support the University’s Strategic Plan thus PLAN 2K14 which aimed at enrolling fifty thousand (50, 000) students by the year 2015. The institute was estimated to cater for about 40-50% of the total populace of the projected 50, 000 students. One of the numerous aims of the Institute is to provide greater access to different categories of people who desire to have university education but are unable to gain access through the regular mode. The Institute provides face-to-face sessions at thirteen (13) learning centres.

In addition, the Institute presently runs a total of seventeen (17) undergraduate and twenty (20) postgraduate programmes to which seven (7) new programmes have been added. The vision of the Institute of Distance Learning, KNUST is “increasing access to relevant and flexible tertiary and continuing education and training anytime, anywhere through the Distance Learning Mode using multimedia” (KNUST, 2017).

                  Distance Education at University of Education, Winneba (UEW)

In the year 2002, after the then University College of Education, Winneba had become a full- fledged university thus University of Education, Winneba, the institution introduced a three year-diploma programme in Basic Education (DBE) by distance. It is the sole mandate of the Centre for Distance

Education’s (CDE) under the Institute for Distance and e-learning (IDel) of the University of Education, Winneba, in producing highly qualified teachers for pre-tertiary institutions in Ghana through the Distance Learning delivery system. The centre serves professional and non-professional teachers by providing distance education programmes at the Diploma, Post Diploma degree, Postgraduate Diploma and Masters’ degree levels. The centre has currently thirty-seven (37) learning centres across the country. Students get to meet colleagues and also make use of the reference facilities as they attend tutorials at the learning centres during weekends. As distance students there is the availability of the Moodle Learning Management System to enable interactive teaching and learning (IEDE, 2017).

            Statement of Problem

The rising spate of the utilization of ICT in this contemporary world underscores the relevance of ICT, particularly in relation to tertiary education (Unwin, 2005; Robinson, 2008). ICT has thus, become a ‘sine qua non’ in modern day education and development efforts in general (Leach et al., 2006). Despite the enormous contributions of ICT in the transformation of higher education in the global south to meet the manpower needs of such countries, their counterparts in the global north, especially in Africa have only made a ‘snail’ progress in concretizing ICT and distance education. With critical emphasis on Ghana, Dzisah (2006) identified that ICT is not extensively used principally in relation to distance education, and as such studies on ICT and distance education have been disjointed. For instance, a study conducted by Stuart (2003), focused on only distance education courses whilst that of Rajesh (2003) paid attention to only ICT and its potentials in advancing technological education in developing countries including Ghana. The findings of Rajesh’s study revealed that countries, including Ghana, have paid minimal attention to ICT, thus education has

lagged behind in terms of technology. Ghana has become an information-poor country, making the impact of ICT on distance education adequately sparse (Ankrah, 2014). In order to inform policy options and actions, sound empirical and scientific studies are needed to fill the existing gap which aligns with the connection between ICT and distance education in Ghana (Kagugu, 2011; Beebe, 2004). This underscores the need to advance scientific and though-provoking research efforts to fill the current information gap by looking at the use of ICT within the context of distance education at higher learning institutions in Ghana through comparative lens.

            Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study was to examine the use of ICT in distance education in Ghana and also identify the challenges hindering the use of the technology as well as making recommendations on improving its application in the field of distance education.

            Objectives

The objectives of the study were as follows:

  1. To determine ICT facilities and services available for distance education at the KNUST    and UEW-K;
  2. To ascertain ICTs usage among distance learners at KNUST and UEW-K;
  • To find out the usefulness of ICTs for distance learners at KNUST and UEW-K;
  • To investigate the factors influencing the use of ICTs in distance education at KNUST and UEW-K;
  • To determine the challenges faced in the accessibility and utilization of ICTs for distance education and;
  • To propose measures based on the findings of the study to improve the effective application of ICTs on distance education.

            Scope of the Study

The study was limited to two public universities located in the Kumasi Metropolis in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. They are the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the University of Education (Kumasi). The study focused on level 300 students of both institutions. The two universities were selected on the basis that, both are representative part of the group of the public universities which offer distance education programmes in Ghana, and have similar characteristics of all other universities in Ghana.

            Theoretical Framework

The study adopted the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM).

Figure 1.1: Technology Acceptance Model

Source: Adopted from Park, (2009)

A trend observed in the educational sector is the setting up of Electronic Learning systems to provide students with online access and educational content (Park, 2009). According to Legris, Ingham, and Collerette (2003), the model that has been able to aid the explanation and prediction of user behaviour of information technology is the Technology Acceptance Model and as such the theory that underpins this research. The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) was originally proposed by Davis in 1986 (Park, 2009). This theory has been the main theory in explaining how well technology is accepted by a group of people. The theory hinges on four main concepts which are the “perceived ease of use”, the “perceived usefulness”, “behavioural intentions” and “attitude toward using” (Chuttur, 2009; Park, 2009).