The Role Of The Internet In Distance Learning Education
Distance learning is an excellent method of reaching learners that are separated both by distance and time from a source of information. The structure of distance learning gives students the greatest possible control over the time, place and pace of education system. To be effective, distance education programs need to redefine the roles of the Internet in learning-teaching process.
This study is aimed at exploring the role of the Internet in distance learning education, using University of Abuja as a case study. To achieve the study aim and objectives, questionnaires were distributed to respondents as a method of data collection, the collected questionnaires were analysed and a program was designed to represent this study as a computerised system.
The invention and development of the Internet was the biggest discovery by mankind in the 20th century that leads to a revolution. Today, the Internet is used by more than 50% of the world population as its applications are found in nearly every fields of life: be it communication, knowledge, news, shopping, sport, marketing, entertainment, education, etc.
Internet is a global information system that allows resources sharing, data communication, instant connectivity and interconnection of computer networks. According to Rosenberg (2001), “the Internet is the most remarkable technological breakthrough of the 1990s. And it will continue to play an important role in transforming higher education”.
The Internet which was originated to aid computer scientists and researchers to interact with colleagues has today grown in a tremendous way that it has almost become an inevitable tool both to individual using it to gather all manner of information for personal consumption and corporate organizations; the academia and other research oriented bodies are not left out either, (Uche, 2011). This network has been pioneering the development in web- based learning and distance education.
Distance Education also referred to as Distance Learning is a system of education that focuses on teaching methods and technology with the aim of delivering teaching, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional educational setting such as a classroom. It has been described as a process to create and provide access to learning when the source of information and the learners are separated by time and distance. Jegede (2003) defined distance education as education provided by a mode other than the conventional face-to-face method whose goals are similar to and just as noble and practical as those of on-campus full time face-to-face education.
Distance education is expanding rapidly as it gains worldwide acceptance by students, educational institutions, employer organizations, and the public at large. It makes education accessible to underserved populations, and flexible in fitting into complex lifestyles, schedules, and responsibilities of today’s learners. The quality of Distance Education is no longer in question, and focus has moved beyond defining what it is to determining what it can do.
In distance education, interactivity has become an integral part of Internet learning environments. This may include interaction between students and the informational materials, between students and their teacher, and between students (Dempsey, et al., 2002). And this interaction leads to cooperation, and cooperation to better learning.
Internet-based distance learning service offers a host of ideas, a broad array of information and interactive opportunities to educators and students using any of the following forms: electronic mail/electronic discussion group, bulletin boards/newsgroups for discussion of special topics, interactive tutorials on the web, real time interactive conferencing using MOO (multi-user Object Oriented) Systems or Internet Relay Chat, intranets, the use of online database, library catalogues and website to acquire information and pursue research related to study.
However Internet can also be used to offer other services like online registration of students and courses, online examination, computer conferencing, downloading of course materials or tutorials, and even to access the academics calendar of a particular institution of learning.
This study presents a critical review of several key issues about the role of the Internet in distance learning education, and aim at helping course designers, researchers, teachers, and even students to make better decisions in the new domain. In addition, it discusses several important questions and suggests promising research directions for the future.
1.1 Aims and Objectives
The major aims and objectives of this study is to find out the role of the Internet in distance learning education so as to determine whether distance learning is better off using traditional means of education which is face-to-face, with the teacher and the learner regularly interacting or using the Internet services.
Other objectives include:
- To determine the usefulness of Internet in distance learning education.
- To ascertain the level of computerization /automation of distance learning service.
- To acquire information and pursue research related to study.
- To determine the challenges associated with the application of the Internet in distance learning education.
1.2 Significance of Study
The significance of this study is to find out the role Internet has played or can play in university of Abuja distance learning education. This study will be of great help to both students and teachers in the education sector most especially the university system, and the output will serve as a blueprint for libraries, lecturers, students, information managers/information scientists and even other researchers in the field of study.
For the purpose of this research work, both the primary and secondary sources of data collection will be used. Interview and questionnaire will be administered as a primary source to extract the necessary information that will be useful in this research work.
And the secondary source will include the use of books, journals, seminar papers and other relevant source which may include the use of the Internet, encyclopaedia and many more.
1.4 Scope and Limitations
This research work is based on the role of the Internet in distance learning education using University of Abuja as a case study, and will only cover literatures published from 1993 till date.
1.5 Definition of Terms
Some terminologies are used in this project and few of those terms are defined below;
An electronic device that accepts, processes, stores, and outputs data at high speeds according to programmed instructions.
2. Computer Conferencing:
Method of communicating via computers network at the same time (synchronous) or delayed time (asynchronous), either as a group or between two individuals. Typical formats include email, bulletin board, threaded discussion, net meeting (with the possibility of audio, video, and shared “blackboard” displays), and databases.
3. Distance Learning:
Form of education in which the main elements include physical separation of teachers and students during instruction and the use of various technologies to facilitate student-teacher and student-student communication.
The action, practice, or profession of teaching.
An electronic communications network that connects computer networks and organizational computer facilities around the world.
6. Virtual Learning:
Is a term frequently used interchangeably with distance learning, online learning, web-based learning or e-learning. Is referred to the intentional use of networked information and communications technology in teaching and learning.
5.0 Summary, Recommendations and Conclusion
The primary aim of this research work is to ascertain the role of the Internet in Distance learning Education, using University of Abuja Centre for Distance Learning Education as a Case study. This chapter elucidates the summary of findings, recommendations and conclusions of the whole study.
Arising from this research work are some findings, and these findings are summarized properly as follows: The introductory aspect of this project describes the importance of the Internet in Distance Learning Education, aim and objectives, significance of study, scope and limitations of the study, research methodology used in carrying out the research works, as well as definitions of some terms used in the course of the study.
Chapter Two focused on the literature review including the basic concepts which described the views and opinions of different scholars regarding the meaning of Distance Learning Education and its importance to the education sector, and also the advantages and disadvantages of Internet in Distance Education to the students, lecturers, Institutions, and the society as a whole were discussed.
In addition, chapter three of this research work was based on the collection of data and the analysis of the collected data from respondents. In this chapter respondents were given opportunity to air their views through the use of questionnaires. The collected questionnaires were analysed. One major conclusion that can be drawn from the analysis is that the Internet is very essential for growth of Distance Learning Education.
Finally, Chapter Four explained how the system was implemented, tested and documented. This chapter also showed the requirements of the designed system, flowchart and some sample results of the project.
Based on the findings and the conclusion that can be drawn from this research work, the following recommendations should be considered:
- Short computer training and retraining should be organized from time-to-time to assist both Staff and Students who have no or little knowledge in the use of the Internet and computer skills. This will also aid awareness of the Internet potentials and capabilities.
- It is recommended that further research should be carried out on this project within the University as it will be of great impact on the development of Distance Learning Educations and even to other sectors in the University.
- Effective and efficient power supply supplemented with standby generators should be provided to check the menace of frequent electricity power failure. In the same vein, the government should address the problem of erratic power supply more seriously not through military order but through research and development.
- More generous financial support should be made available to provide the basic Internet infrastructural facilities within the school premises and even to Students that are in distanced locations to the University.
Base on the analysis of the collected data (questionnaires), the inevitable conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that the Internet plays a significant role in distance learning education by improving the flexibility and quality of learning. Also, the analysis showed that the Internet permits interaction and communication between lecturers and students irrespective of their geographical location and time disparities, thereby opening educational opportunity to every class of society most especially those deprived from the conventional face-to-face mode of learning.
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