By Nnamdi Ojiego & Biodun Ogundare

National University Commission, NUC, has said that distance learning method of education should not be seen as an adult or part- time education meant for older and busy people but a flexible means of learning for everybody irrespective of age or social status.

The Deputy Director, NUC, Dr. Suleiman Ramon-Yusuf made this assertion recently, while speaking on the “ Open and Distance Education in Nigeria: The Way Forward for Dual-Mode Institutions”, during the 2010 Open and Distance Learning Lecture/Seminar Series organised by the Distance Learning Institute of University of Lagos.

He said so many people misunderstood Open and Distance Learning, ODL to be adult education, sandwich and or part-time programmes. According to him, ODL is a strategy and alternative to provide access to higher education, in addition to traditional conventional face -to- face mode.

“ It is important to enlighten all members of the university community and the general public on the potential of DL  as an alternative mode of comparable standards and quality, in the provision of access to university education, to qualified candidates who may not otherwise have access due to the limited carrying capacity and  space constraints in the conventional brick and mortar / face_to_face institutions”, revealed stressing that it was made worse because most Nigerians prefer university to polytechnics, college of education and others.

According to him, it was in an effort to make learning easily accessible and flexible that ODL was established to accommodate those who could not be admitted through the regular learning method.

Dr. Yusuf who was a guest speaker at the seminar and ODL Desk Officer in the NUC stressed that  distance learning was not inferior to the conventional face -to- face learning neither was it a second learning or second chance education but the beginning of knowledge, an alternative to regular education, a potent weapon of mass instruction and a key to enhance human development

He regretted that Nigerian University system has not fully exploited the ODL mode in its quest to enhance access despite the perennial yawning gap between the demand and supply sides of the university access equation, while in the few universities where degree programmes were being offered by distance learning, the practice was far from the standard of global best practice.

The NUC official said to ensure full optimization, people should stop having poor perception of the programme and give it a pride of place in the institutions. He added that NUC was making efforts through its ODL project to bring the practice up to the global best practices; create centre of excellence in ODL as well as organising workshop on how to teach distance learning students.

The guest speaker however, admitted the efforts of the federal government in tackling the problem of inadequate access by encouraging private sector and state governments to establish and own higher institutions of learning.

Earlier in his address, the Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof Adetokunbo Sofoluwe said the popularity of DLI has continued to increase with each passing year, which has generated a lot of awareness among the teeming population of qualified aspiring applicants who could not gain admission into the mainstream institutions due to several reasons.

He said the last three years have seen a heightened national commitment to redeem the collective pledge made on September 29, 2000 in the Abuja Declaration of the 2001-2010 Decade of Distance Education in Nigeria.

“ The Declaration, while noting the urgent need for all stakeholders to satisfy the exceptionally large demand for education by our huge and rapidly expanding population solemnly resolved to adopt distance education as a desirable and inevitable mode for providing access to all and achieving equitable representation by taking the distance out of education.”

The V C stated that the Distance Learning Institute, University of Lagos has been making progress in its bid to meet the expectations of the Abuja Declaration, as well as global trends and best practices by concentrating on few critical areas such as academic staff recruitment, continuous training, and motivation; deployment of an integrated e-learning management system; the development of learner support system; quality assurance mechanisms; and building sustainable partnerships among ODL Institutions in Nigeria, the Open University, United Kingdom, University of South Africa (UNISA) and the Indira Ghandi National Open University of India (IGNOU).

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