It is my pleasure to welcome you to this site, which is the official Website of the Open, Distance and e-Learning (ODeL) Centre, of the University of Port Harcourt. The ODeL Centre is one of the outcomes of the collaboration between the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) and the African Virtual University (AVU) in Nairobi, Kenya.
As you are probably aware, Nigeria’s National Policy on Education recognizes the place of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in achieving lifelong education and affirms that lifelong education shall be the basis of the nation’s education policy. Open learning refers to the absence of constraint in the learning process, a sort of unrestricted learning that can be carried out by anybody at anytime and anywhere (Dike, 2014)
The terms virtual education, on-line learning and e-learning are often used to describe the application of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to enhance distance education, implement open learning policies, make learning activities more flexible and enable these learning activities to be distributed among many learning venues (Andrea-Hope, 2005). The gradual changes in distance learning from the traditional type of courses where there was no use of online technology, and the content delivered in writing or orally has long become obsolete. Unfortunately, this is largely still the order of the day in Nigeria and some developing countries as against online or e-learning where 80–100% of contact is delivered online and typically has no face-to-face contact. This has helped to open up educational opportunities for people at anytime, anywhere and for anyone. This is also helping individuals and nations to develop themselves and their human resources. Distance education is particularly being recommended for solving this problem of access to education because it has potentials for large-scale education and also it primarily supports individualized learning. Indeed, distance learning is a response to a growing demand to democratize and liberalize education, which cannot be achieved by the traditional methods centred on the classroom (Vikoo, 2007).
Open and distance learning is considered by many scholars as an important alternative to the education of large number of people for many socio-economic reasons one of which is the fact that opportunity for higher education is extremely limited in Nigerian universities. Again, working class men and women in the society who may wish to upgrade their knowledge and skills in their professional areas may find it difficult to leave their jobs and go back to school for fear of losing their jobs. Many universities in Nigeria have established outreach campuses to increase access.
The problems associated with satellite campuses compelled the National Universities Commission (NUC) to advocate the adoption of supported blended delivery model for Nigerian universities. Blended delivery is an instructional delivery mode which combines online or Internet delivery with limited face-to-face contact sessions. The blended mode is a hybrid of the synchronous and asynchronous delivery modes. It takes cognizance of the stage of technological development in Nigeria and recommends that content be delivered using full time online mode, CDs/DVDs/Flash and hardcopies.
The University of Port Harcourt has always being desirous to be one of the few dual mode universities in Nigeria and hence, in 2012, established the Open, Distance and e-Learning (ODeL) Centre. In the same year, the University of Port Harcourt became a Platinum and 18th member of the African Virtual University (AVU) (http://www.avu.org/)—an intergovernmental organization funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) with a mission to increase access to quality higher education and training through the innovative use of information and communication technologies. One of the benefits of University of Port Harcourt’s Platinum membership of AVU is that the AVU has donated and installed state-of-the-art ICT equipment in her ODeL Centre.
Justification for establishing the ODeL Centre
Two limiting factors severely compromise the ability of the Nigerian government to respond adequately to the challenges of education in the global environment. These are funds and infrastructure. The share amount of funds needed to provide basic literacy education to the teeming masses of Nigerians is staggering. New requirements for employees are creating a high and ad-hoc demand for new knowledge and skills. Prior learning is often not sufficient to meet these challenges. What is required is continuous learning, the acquisition of specific knowledge, and education and training geared to the needs of the individual (Langabach & Bodendoff, 2000:169).
The issues raised by Egbokhare (2009) and Dike (2014) as outlined below foreground the crises of access to education, particularly higher education in Nigeria:
- Less than 20% of over 1.5 million applicants to universities yearly are admitted.
- Upsurge in Part-Time/Sandwich/Outreach programmes whose quality is eroded by workload, corruption and lack of facilities.
- The University system in Nigeria is increasingly excluding individuals above the age of 23. Such individuals are thus forced to seek education from illegal universities and dubious part-time programmes.
- Less than 8% of those who complete primary education make it to the university
- Under-achievement in science and high dropout rates in basic and post-basic levels, especially in the sciences.
- Poor content and out-dated curricula
- Average cost of tuition in private institutions beyond the means of the over 70% of Nigerians 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 (such as the huge Nigerian students’ presence especially in Ghana)
- Ever changing admission requirements and entry qualifications as a result of increasing demand further constrain access to education.
The above constraints impose certain fundamental considerations on an ODL policy among which are the need to take into account learner profile, expectations and actual needs, local context and challenges, regulatory environment, technology requirements, cost, parity of esteem of learners, institutional vision and capacity among other factors. The formation of the ODeL Centre is therefore justified in that:
- Open and distance learning remains the primary mechanism for the information-driven age, a tool that has bridged the gap between developed and developing countries the world over. Universities are turning to distance learning programmes to increase access to flexible education and improve on their human resource needs.
- The need to offer access to many people who would have otherwise been denied access to educational opportunities based on where they live and work, poor socioeconomic circumstances, social status, etc.
- The University of Port Harcourt has numerous experienced and skilled academic, technical and administrative staff members who can assist in effective delivery of distance learning programmes.
- There is need to take advantage of the huge investment by the University in Information Technology infrastructure development as a basis for effective running of ODeL programmes.
- There is need to take the opportunity of University of Port Harcourt’s collaboration with national and international institutions (such as the AVU) running ODL programmes.
So far the ODeL Centre has trained and continues to train interested staff and students in some departments, Faculties and Colleges of the University of Port Harcourt, sensitizing and publicizing the Centre as an avenue to access open resource materials donated by the AVU. Such open educational resources (OERs) can be accessed directly from the AVU’s portal http://www.avu.org/.
Like I mentioned at the outset, the University of Port Harcourt has entered a fruitful relationship with the African Virtual University. Just recently she also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with BytePlus Nigeria Ltd to facilitate the process of content development for some courses. I am glad to inform you that with the assistance received from these two sources the ODeL Centre has now advertised for the take-off of programmes in seven academic disciplines at the Diploma level namely Economics, Political Science and Administrative Studies, Law, Sociology, Accounting, Marketing and Computer Science. It is our hope that you will make a good use of the opportunities opened up via these programmes to improve your academic standing. We will equally appreciate if you will kindly help in disseminating information about the said programmes and the University of Port Harcourt’s ODeL Centre and by so doing helping in achieving the objectives for which it was set up.
Thank you and best wishes.
To provide highly accessible and qualitative education anchored on social justice, equity, equality and national coherence to all persons who desire to enhance knowledge through a comprehensive open and distance learning mode that transcends all barriers.
The University of Port Harcourt’s ODeL Centre seeks to provide quality, functional, cost effective and flexible learning experience to add lifelong values to the education of those who seek improved knowledge using the state-of-the-art ICT delivery system.
- increase access to higher education and make the acquisition of certificates, diplomas and university degrees, more flexible and affordable
- offer demand-driven programmes and courses
- enhance education for all and lifelong learning
- foster strategic partnership and collaboration with leading international ODL institutions
- promote the integration of information and communication technology in the teaching and learning environment
- extend the frontiers of knowledge in ODL through basic and applied research and development
- promote entrepreneurship education
- promote comprehensive institutional and capacity building for staff