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International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering Website: (ISSN 2250-2459, Volume 2, Issue 10, October 2012)

INTERNET ACCESS IN NIGERIA: PERCEPTION OF NATIONAL OPEN UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA (NOUN) STUDENTS Francis Osang National Open University of Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria And Ph. D Student ICT University, Baton Rouge, USA. Facilitations and examinations are held at the study centres. Due to the nationwide spread of the Institution and the opportunities which ICT offers as a catalyst in the delivery of open and distance learning, it is currently used in almost all the stages of the students’ study circle namely the application stage, the admission stage, the Registration, the learning stage, the evaluation stage and the transcript stage. In all these stages, the students are expected to be online (except the evaluation stage for now) in order to carry out these activities. In addition, course materials are also hosted on the website for downloading by the registered students. Tutor marked assessment (TMA) are taken online in real time mode. Each of the courses has four TMAs with twenty questions in each TMA. This implies that a student with eight courses must take 32 TMAs to form the 30% of the student’s continuous assessment. It therefore means that every NOUN student spends quality time on the internet. But with the high cost associated with access to the internet (mostly available in the cities) in Nigeria, the absence of internet infrastructure in the rural communities where most of the students reside, and the demand for these students to be connected to the internet for their academic activities, calls for attention. How do these students cope with such difficulties?

Abstract - Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been touted as potentially powerful enabling tools for educational change and reform. When used appropriately, different ICTs are said to help expand access to education, strengthen the relevance of education to the increasingly digital workplace, and raise educational quality by, among others, helping make teaching and learning into an engaging, active process connected to real life. But with the high cost associated with access to the internet in developing countries like Nigeria, the absence of internet infrastructure in the rural communities where most of the students reside, and the need for these students to be connected to the internet for their academic activities, poses great threats to their studies and the use of ICT in Nigeria. A major interest of the study is to determine the perception of the open and distance learners on the challenges in accessing open and distance learning education through the use of internet. The study is based on interviews and focus group discussions with learners. The findings indicate that internet penetration in Nigeria especially in the rural areas is still very low. Also factors like the high cost of bandwidth, low computer literacy level as well as epileptic internet services are some of the major barriers preventing the students from accessing education through open and distance learning using the internet. Keywords — Internet access, study centre, tutor marked assessments, MODEM, open and distance learning, learners.


A. Objectives of the study This study is aimed at evaluating the perception of the NOUN students on the challenges they face in the use of ICT. It is believed that at the end of this paper, the students’ view on access to the internet would be made known and it would be a good reference point for other open and distance institutions especially in the developing countries where the use of the computer may not be comprehensive among all the students population and where access to the internet remain a big problem. Also, the findings would be found useful to planners and managers of Open and Distance Learning (ODL), especially towards a plan of a new ODL institution.

As a worldwide phenomenon, open and distance education (ODE) has become an acceptable mode of education in Africa and particularly in Nigeria (Adekanmbi, 2004) providing access to the teeming population with major challenges of inaccessible education. In Nigeria, the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) was rejuvenated in 2002 and is the only accredited singled-mode University providing open and distance learning education in the country. The main academic activities of the students take place at the study centres that are spread across the country. As at the time of writing this paper, NOUN has forty seven (47) study centres all over Nigeria. 492

International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering Website: (ISSN 2250-2459, Volume 2, Issue 10, October 2012) B. Research questions   

Specifically, Adomi et al (2004) posited that the Internet is very important to university students in Nigeria because it enables them to have access to timely, accurate and relevant information. But, the cost of access to this internet remains another issue that the students from the open and distance learning institution have to come to terms with. Rumble (2001) argued that the factors affecting the costs of face-to-face education include whether small tutorials, seminars, lectures or independent and resource-based learning strategies are adopted. But it is important to note that the technology adopted also plays a crucial role in the determination of the aggregate costs of an education system. In developing countries, the high costs associated with Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) have greatly prevented the use of computers in teaching and learning, especially in the conventional education setting. When one considers the fact that each of the technologies adopted in the instructional processes of open and distance learning education has its own associated cost implications, it is easy to see why studies have shown (UNESCO 2002, Rumble 2001, Hulsmann 2000) that the costs per average student of distance education is more expensive than that of the traditional setting. UNESCO (2002) found that open and distance learning is not necessarily the most costefficient approach, but the greatest benefit is that it opens up access to certain target audiences. In Nigeria, the main Internet access points for the young are cyber cafés which are usually cited in the cities, other access points includes offices and homes (for working class who may be students), mobile and wireless internet MODEMs. The latest figures from the National Population Commission show that Nigeria’s population is about 167 million people. Over 95 per cent of the 167 million Nigerians, according to the National bureau of statistics (NBS), may never have used the computer and the Internet before. The survey covered all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. It also considered access to mobile phone, radio and television among Nigerians. According to that report, the national Internet access rates stood at 3.6 per cent with only 0.5 per cent of the people who had access really owned a connection device. Among the states, Lagos state leads with 27 per cent followed by Rivers and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) that recorded above 10 per cent total access, although a considerable proportion did not claim ownership.

What is the level of accessibility of broadband internet facility in the Nigeria? How do the students of the open university of Nigeria cope with the challenges of access to the internet in the country? And how does this affect their performance?

C. Importance of the research to ict.  The study will present state by state level of penetration of the internet facility across the country.  It will assist in bringing to the fore the internet access challenges faced by the students with a view to guiding the Institution’s policies toward reducing the plight of their students.  The work will also showcase the efforts being made by the telecom operators and NOUN in extending ICT to the entire country.  Those in the business of providing internet would also be adequately informed of the available ICT opportunities for investment in Nigeria. II. LITERATURE REVIEW The Internet has emerged as an important component in academic institutions as it plays a pivotal role in meeting information and communication needs of institutions (Luambano & Nawe, 2004). They observed that the Internet makes it possible to access a wide range of information that is up-to-date. It enables scholars and academic institutions to disseminate information to a wider audience through hosting websites and search facilities. Furthermore, students and lecturers can communicate via the Internet irrespective of their geographical boundaries. Luambano & Nawe (2004) agree that distance learning has also been made accessible by the Internet. On the same vein, Rehman and Ramzy (2004) opined that the Internet has established a place in the personal and professional lives of researchers and scholars through their daily use of the internet for serious work and personal communication. Lazinger et al (1997) also agree that the Internet has transformed information access, use, exchange and application for the university community and other professionals. In his findings, Lund (1998) noted that the advent of the Internet has brought about a steady growth on the number of online courses and virtual universities in the world thereby transforming the whole concept of distance education. 493

International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering Website: (ISSN 2250-2459, Volume 2, Issue 10, October 2012) For states with the least access, Sokoto emerges with only 0.3 per cent access to the Internet. Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna and Ebonyi also turn out to have low Internet access rates, each with less than one per cent according to the report. The survey noted that urban dwellers had more access and ownership of Internet services at 11.6 per cent compared to the rural dwellers, which was put at 1.5 per cent. Going by the equation embedded in the NBS data, it means that over 158 million Nigerians do not have access to the Internet.

The arrival of a second international submarine fibreoptic cable (Glo-1) in 2009 and a third in 2010 (Main One) has broken the monopoly of Nitel’s SAT-3/WASC cable and is revolutionizing the market by reducing the cost of international bandwidth by up to 90%. Two additional cables are expected to go online in 2012. Supported by the expansion of several competing national fiber backbone networks, applications such as e-commerce, online banking and e-payments, e-health, e-learning, e-examinations and egovernment are rapidly evolving. The mobile industry has emerged. A survey conducted by Opera in its State of the Mobile Web report last year revealed that 90% of Nigerian Internet users between the ages of 18-27 said they use their mobile phones more than desktop or laptop computers to access the Internet. In fact, Nigeria has overtaken South Africa in mobile technology to become the continent’s largest mobile market with now close to 100 million subscribers, and yet market penetration stands at only around 60% in early 2012. Subscriber growth had slowed significantly during the global economic crisis, re-accelerated in 2010 but then slowed again in 2011. Much of the remaining addressable market is in the country’s rural areas where network rollouts and operations are expensive. Given the proliferation of cellular mobile telephone use across all sectors of Nigerian society, it is becoming increasingly evident that this highly mobile form of technology and its infrastructure can be leveraged to deliver flexible educational opportunities to more and more Nigerians. III. METHODOLOGY Interview was adopted in gathering data in this study in order to capture students’ real views on the challenges of access to internet in their locality as it affects their studies in NOUN. Semi structured interviews are especially suited to the study of students’ attitude, and behaviour, as well as exploring lifestyle and contextual issues. The use of open ended questions allows the respondent to elaborate on their experience or attitudes. There are six geopolitical zones in the country. 3 of which are in the southern parts of Nigeria covering about six to seven study centres in each zone. Face to face interviews were carried out with seven students each from the five major schools in the University in 3 zones of the country (south west, south-south and south east). Also focus group discussions were conducted with each focus group meeting three times. Each focus group discussion lasted for two hours and all participants spoke during each session.

From the statistics above, the question remain whether there are conscious efforts being put in place to address this challenges? As reported in buddecomm, significant consolidation has occurred in Nigeria’s Internet and broadband sector, from over 400 ISPs three years ago to around 120 in early 2012. New powerful players from the fixed-wireless and mobile network operator camps have entered the market with 3G mobile and advanced wireless broadband services such as WiMAX. The Internet Protocol (IP)-based next generation networks currently being rolled out are enabling converged voice, data/Internet and video services. Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) is already carrying the bulk of Nigeria’s international voice traffic. 494

International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering Website: (ISSN 2250-2459, Volume 2, Issue 10, October 2012) The focus groups (subjects) were chosen among the students of the following schools: School of Arts and Social Sciences, School of Science and Technology, School of Management Sciences, School of Law and School of Education. Each group of participants was considered as an independent group. The procedure used for group selection was varied. The students' members of the group were chosen from the randomly selected centres in each zone. One such confirmatory focus group comprised members of the target group and peer educators, and was used to reflect on the results of a process evaluation of a health promotion intervention targeting a public sex venue in London. Respondents were required to discuss how they access the internet for their assignment, the time they spend per week on the internet, how their families about the time spent at the cafes with the attendance risk to their family lives, familiarity with internet operations and how their studies are affected by these challenges. The participants were intimated of the purpose of the discussions in order to elicit objective and truthful responses on their perception (what they feel) on the accessibility of the internet. Responses from focus group discussions were analyzed by controlling all statements about a particular aspect, by summarizing the main point of consensus existing among the focus group respondents, and taking note of the differences if there were disagreements and by selecting illustrative comments for inclusion. Samples of the responses provided by each group of respondents are highlighted below:

As security personnel, one is always on motion from one duty post to another. It was very difficult participating in time bound assignments. The availability and use of the internet especially in the cities have eased the tension associated with the regular posting exercise in my office. I can now work and learn anytime, anywhere within the cities.  Undergraduate Student (Police Officer) Male I have been dreaming of studying Law right from inception. I had an uncle who encouraged me to study law. But the quota system being implemented in Nigerian university admission system denied me access to the conventional university for a period of six years. Whatever its cost, this system of distance learning has made it possible for me to enroll for the recently accredited Law course with the university without getting to “fight for admission”. I got my instant admission online, registered online and have been writing online assignment and examinations. In fact, people around my shop now call me “computer lawyer”. I hope to back my Law degree soon.  Law student (Spare part dealer) Male I am the third of my husband’s four wives. Although i got married at a very early age, i had a strong desire and passion for university education. Faced with the challenges of raising children and managing my own small business centre, my hopes were almost dashed until my enrollment for a Hospitality Management course with the Open University. Although i had no previous experience of working with the computer, i had to enroll for private computer training classes to enable me cope with my studies. I am always using my study centre cyber cafe for my assignment. The queue at the centre is always much due to their experience, cost and reliability. Hours are spent to the detriment of my family. My husband understands. I still prefer this to the outside cafes.

A. Responses Of Learners Participants expressed positive comments about the benefits of Open and Distance Learning System of education. On the use of internet, participants agree that the internet enables them to have access to timely, accurate and relevant information. However, there are mixed feelings about the access to the internet due to the high cost of access, epileptic services and in most rural communities, unavailable broadband internet services. Some students who reside in the rural areas have to travel down to the urban centres in order to have access to the internet for their assignments. I am a second year student of Criminology and Security Studies. Before my admission into the Open University as a student, several admissions with the conventional universities have been deferred because of posting.

 Undergraduate student (Hospitality Management) Female This is the kind of school that i have been waiting for. In my office, it is possible to get study leave but those that leave are normally replaced by someone else notwithstanding the kind of degree one acquires at the end of the course. There are lots of people who will just fill up the vacancy created immediately one proceeds on leave of absent. With my office internet, I am able to study online, without leaving my office while still carrying out my normal work.


International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering Website: (ISSN 2250-2459, Volume 2, Issue 10, October 2012)  PG student (Banker) Male There is no cyber cafe in my area, so i have to travel to Ogoja –an urban area in order to check up information and take my TMAs or download course materials. This is a big problem for me. I made an arrangement with some of my colleagues at the study centre to send text messages to my phone when ever any TMA is to be administered (Although the school sometimes sent such messages). It is sometimes painful and frustrating to embark on such a journey just to be told of no service or network.  Agric Extension Student (Applicant) Female Before my marriage, my husband and I agreed that in order for us to really promote the core values in our children, one of us have to sacrifice his/her career in order to take care of our children. I accepted to be a full time house wife. My third baby is 2 years old now. With my starcomms broadband connection, the link is always fast and steady. The connection has provided an avenue for me to reconnect to my old friends on facebook, twitter and other social networking site also in addition to my regular studies. The actual monthly subscription for the IZAP Epivalley 8089 + Purple 100 hours bundle for 30 days is N13, 000 (82USD).

 Undergraduate student (Retired teacher ) Male I use the internet in my office for my studies. During break, access to the internet is available for staff in the office. After closing hours, I usually stay behind for my studies with our information technology staff (ICT). I decided to study for an MBA programme, my family has to bear with me since my greatest challenge as a banker and mother is in my office. With the internet, access to online books, journal and conference papers and even access to international libraries for content have been made easier. It would not have been possible for me to work and learn with ease without this approach.  MBA student (Banker) Female I can view my emails, participate in social networking sites like facebook, twitter etc through my mobile phone but cannot take my assignment on my phone. Before purchasing my laptop and MODEM, my assignments were done in the cyber cafe. Diagrams, chats and images were never rendered properly and took so much time to display. Perhaps I need to buy an iPod. Let the University adopt the use of mobile phones for learning. It will assist students who are even in very remote villages where there is network coverage. I am saying this because some of the students that are being encouraged to study with the university will experience this problem.

 MBA student (House wife) Female I worked for Lagos state government. It was at my office that i heard about the university. I got an MTN MODEM for myself after spending several fruitless hours in a café. The network was either slow or there is a queue, or that the police are around chasing cyber criminals (popularly known as 419) etc often resulting to late or non-completion of my tutor marked assessment (TMA). Since I started using my high speed glo internet MODEM, I am now able to download online course materials on time and access my TMAs. Although the MODEM is expensive to maintain due to the high cost of subscription, and the cost of running generators due to epileptic power supply. My status as a worker makes ownership of MODEM possible.

 First degree student (Nurse) Female As a student, i spend more on the internet than the actual fees required of me. Most of the courses are online in addition to the already printed copies sometimes distributed in printed format, soft copy and in CDs. I will have to download these voluminous courses and print them myself at a high cost so as to begin my studies on time. I normally study at night or when there are no customers to enable me have time for my barbing salon too. I don’t wait to be given the course materials during registration since i am the only one managing the shop.  Undergraduate student (Barber) Male B. Potential ethical issues

 Post graduate student (ICT Professional) Male This computer thing is better for the young people. University Management should also consider the aged students by giving them pen and paper exams. I am determined to learn but usually end up spending more in a usually hourly payment plan at the cafe attempting to type fast. I usually seek the assistance of the cafe attendant for a fee to enable me complete my task on time.


Research ethics deals primarily with the interaction between researchers and the people they study. Professional ethics deals with additional issues such as collaborative relationships among researchers, mentoring relationships, intellectual property, fabrication of data, and plagiarism, among others. Issues raised by the students were held in uttermost confidentiality by the researcher.

International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering Website: (ISSN 2250-2459, Volume 2, Issue 10, October 2012)  

There was absolute respect for the students as they narrate their experiences and encounters in the course of their studies. Cultural views were respected especially when interacting with the female students. Focus groups approach was adopted to avoid having problems with especially married Islamic women.

IV. FINDINGS From the responses of the students above, the following can be deduced: a. There is a consensus that the use of internet expands access to education and drives open and distance learning activities beyond physical boundaries or campuses. b. Most students’ access internet through cyber cafes’ while very few students’ access it from their offices. Very few students can conveniently afford internet MODEMs which are still expensive. c. The internet speed in cafes is still a major issue. This is not unconnected with the high cost of bandwidth and the poor ICT infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa. Study centres should work towards running cafes at cheaper rates. It will assist students in ensuring availability of quality, reliable, affordable and well better organized services. Alternatively, institutions should liase with operators who are willing and capable of offering such services. d. Some students are of the opinion that the university should consider possible partnership with telecom operators on the possibility of using mobile phones for learning due to it wide spread coverage in the country. e. Students who have studied before in the conventional universities are of the opinion that they spend more time and resources studying in the open and distance learning than in the conventional setting. f. From the same students, it is clear that ODL students make more use of the internet than other conventional students.

On the accessibility options participants have mixed feelings about the access to the internet due to the high cost of access, epileptic services and in most rural communities, unavailable broadband internet services. Some students who reside in the rural areas have to travel down to the urban centres in order to have access to the internet for their assignments. Efforts should be made in ensuring that reliable and affordable internet sources are provided in order to really make education available to those who desire it. Cafes to be established at the study centres should be equipped with all the necessary hardware and software for students to fulfil the requirements of their university education, with properly trained support staff to assist students. It is important for students to be introduced to courses on internet applications at the secondary school level to enhance their internet experience at the university level. It is believed that addressing some of these issues might go a long way in making education more accessible through open and distance learning. REFERENCES

[1 ] R. Power. 2002. The application of qualitative research methods to the study of sexually transmitted infections Social research methods. London. [2 ] Pena‐Bandalaria, Melinda dela.2007. Impact of ICTs on Open and Distance Learning in a Developing Country Setting: The Philippine Experience. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 8, 1‐15. [3 ] Ojo O. D, Ogidan R and Olakuleyin F.K. 2005. Cost Effectiveness of Open and Distance Learning In Nigeria : Responses From Focus Group Discussions [4 ] Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide Module 1 Family health international. [5 ] Suresh Garg. 2006. Use of ICTs for Capacity Building in the ODL System. Paper presented at Pan Commonwealth Forum-4, Jamaica, West Indies. [6 ] Annual Socio-Economic Report: 2011.Access to ICT,” an outcome of the NBS/CBN Collaborative Survey. [7 ] Adekambi G.2004. The transformation of distance education in Africa. Viewed 16th July, 2010. [8 ] Ireneus Luambano, Julita Nawe. 2004. Internet Use by Students of the University of Dar es Salaam", Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 21 Iss: 10, pp.13 – 17. [9 ] Sajjad ur Rehman, Vivian Ramzy.2004. Awareness and use of electronic information resources at the health sciences center of Kuwait University", Library Review, Vol. 53 Iss: 3, pp.150 – 156. [10 ] Adomi et al. 2004. Internet services in Nigerian private Universities: A case study. Digital commons. Library philosophy and Practice (ejournal) Paper 534. [11 ] Percentage of internet access in Nigeria. 2011. National Bureau of statistics, general household survey.

V. CONCLUSION In conclusion, students really consider the establishment of the Open University as a major step towards providing accessible education to any level in life.  They agree to the fact that the Internet is very important to open and distance learning students in Nigeria because it enables them to have access to timely, accurate and relevant information. 497

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