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This research examined the Learner Support Services in the Nigeria Certificate in Education by Distance Learning under the National Teachers‟ Institute, Kaduna. Five research objectives were articulated and centred on determining the adequacy quality of the NTI Learner Support Services; determining the extent to which the NTI Learner Support Services are being utilized by the Institute in its Nigeria Certificate in Education by Distance Learning System (NCE/DLS); determining the capacity of the NTI personnel and Course Facilitators on effective implementation of the NTI Learner Support Services; and determining the perception of students and Course Facilitators on the impact the NTI Learner Support Services on their learning. An ex-post factor research design was adopted in which questionnaires with the reliability index of 0.87 co-efficient were administered to a sample population of 2,696 from a total population of 9,752 based on the Morgan & Kreycie (1971) table of sampling, from which 2,036 representing 75.52% were returned. The Data from the respondents was subjected to statistical testing using the Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and Independent t-test and the findings revealed that;
- The Learner Support Services/Facilities being used in the Institute in its Nigeria Certificate in Education by Distance Learning are not adequate.
- The Learner Support Services/Facilities being used in the Institute‟s Nigeria Certificate in Education by Distance Learning are not qualitative.
- The Learner Support Services/Facilities in the Nigeria Certificate in Education by Distance Learning are under utilized by the Institute in the training of its teachers through its distance learning system.
- The learner support services by the Institute‟s distance learning programme do not significantly impact on students‟ performances.
- The staff and Course Facilitators are not constantly trained by the Institute in most aspects of its distance education. Consequently, two (2) levels recommendations were given thus:
Firstly, is the need for a National Distance Education Control Agency to regulate and standardize the practice of distance education nationwide; Secondly, is the need to strengthen the operational bases with adequate facilities for both students and course facilitators to use to facilitate the delivery of the content of education through distance learning; Thirdly, is the need for regular editing and critiquing/evaluation of learner support services/facilities with a view to continuously injecting the quality required of learner support services; Fourthly, is the need to monitor and ensure proper and efficient use of the learner support facilities by both students and course facilitators in the study centres; and Fifthly, is the need for regular capacity training and motivation for staff and course facilitators who are the pivots of the institute‟s distance learning system in all aspects of distance education to make them strongly inclined to discharging their assigned roles.
1.1 Background to the Study
Distance Education has a worldwide application, including Nigeria. It started as a correspondence programme vide postal services to prepare oversea candidates for General Certificate in Education and update the capacities of the middle manpower between the late 50s and early 60s especially in the newly independent countries. Distance Education Institutions around the world sprung up since then to address the issue of improved access to education arising from the surge in population and dwindling economy. It was also clear to most governments that providing and maintaining the required physical infrastructure in educational institutions were becoming increasingly difficult in both basic and higher levels of education. Distance education is now seen as a remedial strategy to redress the issue of inaccessibility, which will amount to slow pace of development.
The practice is still being used to train personnel on job worldwide in proficiency and lifelong skills that are essentially required for personal and corporate development of societies. It is thus seen as a catalyst for personal and societal development.
The National Teachers‟ Institute (NTI) has been using this approach to train large number of teachers in order to address the challenge of inadequacy of qualified teachers in the basic educational sector in the country which was initially witnessed as a result of the expansion of the primary education in 1976. As the Institute continues to do so, it has remained focussed in the entrenchment of learner support services to address the unique characteristics of distance learners who by the convention of the programme study in isolation in remote and distant places with little help compared to their counterparts in conventional institutions. These range from tutorial (tuition), administrative and counselling services in operational blue-print and in the study centres and the peer support, which is equally an essential part of the learner support services.
These services are so important that they can affect or mar the success of distance learners. Whatever is needed to be done to effectively deliver the services to distance learners, must be done with precision and in total cognisance with the distance education practice. Learner Support Services is indeed the bedrock for the success of any Distance education practice because it addresses the challenges of competency of the people involved in its planning and implementation; its impact on the learning achievements of the learners.
The researcher views the practice of distance education with emphasis on learner support as not been clearly understood by the operators of the programme at different operational levels. This is seriously impeding on the effective utilization of the services and negatively impacting on students‟ performances in the NCE distance learning system of the National Teachers‟ Institute. Undertaking a research into the learner support services of the National Teachers‟ Institute is important as a positive step towards highlighting the various issues/challenges that are directly connected with its practice. The capacities of the various personnel involved in its operation will be strengthened and students will be provided with ample opportunities to maximise their successes vide utilisation of variety of learning packages meant to enhance their studies.
It is in line with this that the Evaluation of Learner Support Services in the Nigeria Certificate in Education under the National Teachers‟ Institute, Kaduna was made to uncover serious issues relating to adequacy, quality, utilisation, capabilities of personnel operating the distance education of the institute and impact of this important service being offered by the Institute.
Several efforts have been made in the past (Olufisan, (1992) and Koul, ( 2008) at both lower and higher academic levels to appraise some specific areas with a view to providing a guide or light towards enhancing the quality of the delivery approaches and the strength of the distance education content in relation to the national aspirations. The results of the researches have been quite revealing and have indeed led to series of discussions and attempts at addressing those gray areas highlighted in the researches.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
It has almost become the tradition of NCE/DLS students across the country and indeed students of conventional institutions to smuggle prepared answer materials or torn course materials into the examination halls or engage in other dubious means of cheating in examinations like girrafing, impersonation to earn objectionable grades without working for it. This bad habit is becoming increasingly disturbing to educationists and people imbued with the vision and mission to secure Nigeria and its development in all sectors of the economy. This ugly trend has set a phase in which the very foundation of development, i.e. justice and uprightness is eroded and in its place, corruption and inequity becomes the bane for our development. This very heinous act must be subdued at all cost and changed for the better and there is no better way to doing it except through the education sector.
Distinct from the strategies being advocated by the various groups of concerned citizens of this great country, Nigeria, in which laws are promulgated to curb this unwholesome behaviour of our students nationwide, it is believed that addressing the issue from the approach of effective use of learner support services, the trend could be averted and completely be eliminated.In a nutshell, a clear problem of quality assurance in our examination system which is the basis for certification in Nigeria is established and that nothing should be left undone to secure its lost glory for the sake of our development.
Course facilitators and students alike who are expected to partake in the effective utilization of learner support services to overcome the serious problems of examination malpractice and forestall sanity in the entire education sector do not seem to understand the promising effects of this strategy. Thus, the problem continued unabated, thronging the entire nation into disarray and in dire need for a solution.
This particular misgiving about the perception of course facilitator and students about learner support services and the powers that go with it in addressing the nation‟s developmental problems constitute yet another problem for this study which must be changed if education is to be of any meaning for our development.
The general outcry over the quality of NCE/DLS and the use of Open and Distance Education to train teachers effectively is without doubt the outcome of insensitivity of the nature of distance education itself in terms of its inherent potentials through the optimal utilization of learner support services to make remarkable difference in the training of teachers. (Daily Trust, Monday, August 28th, 2006) Because education is a general public enterprise for which everyone has a stake in, it is necessary that the general perception of public be lit with clear explanations about this important strategy of teaching so that the much needed support they are expected to give towards making the effort worthwhile is assured.
Evident from the performances of NCE/DLS students in the North West zone especially, is an indication that there is poor reading habit among the students. Students hardly get prepared before writing any examination and are ever ready to cheat at all cost to pass their examinations.Poor reading habit among student constitute another problem necessitating this study so that variety of other learning resources could be understood by the students from the perspective of learners support services. As important as it is to depend on the usual print-based materials, which is just an aspect, and indeed, not sole determinant of effective distance education delivery, especially as it affects the performance of distance learning students, it is equally necessary for the students to explore other means by which they can consolidate and expand their knowledge and skills in learning.
All things being equal, the services and facilities under learner support cannot by themselves impact meaningfully in students‟ learning or change the present status quo to a better one. It is essentially important that the capacities of the personnel involved in the planning and production of the required learner support materials is continuously built to be able to deliver the services effectively to students at a distance. This has clearly brought out the capacity problem of the personnel involved in the implementation of the Institute‟s distance education and that which must necessarily be tackled by this study.
The aim of this research is to evaluate the learner support services in promoting and enhancing distance education delivery in the NCE Distance Learning Programme conducted by the National Teachers‟ Institute, Kaduna.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objectives of the study are to:
- Investigate the adequacy of learner support services provided in the Nigeria Certificate in Education by Distance Learning System (NCE/DLS) in the NTI.
- Determine the quality of learner support services utilized in the Nigeria Certificate in Education by Distance Learning System (NCE/DLS) in the NTI.
- Find out the extent to which learner support services are being utilized by the Institute in its Nigeria Certificate in Education by Distance Learning System (NCE/DLS).
- Identify the capacity of the NTI personnel and Course Facilitators in NCE by Distance Learning under the NTI.
- Find out the views of students and Course Facilitators on the impact of learner support services in the NCE by Distance Learning of NTI.
1.4 Research Questions
The research questions for this study are:
- How adequate are the learner support services of the National Teachers‟ Institute‟s NCE through Distance Learning?
- How qualitative are the learner support services provided in the National Teachers‟ Institute‟s on its NCE/DLS?
- What is the extent to which Learner Support Services are being utilized in the NCE by Distance Learning of the NTI?
- What is the capacity of NTI staff and Course Facilitators involved in the NCE by Distance Learning in the NTI?
- What are the views of students and course facilitators on the impact of learner support services in the NCE by Distance Learning of the NTI?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
- There is no significant difference between the perception of staff and students on the adequacy of Learner Support Services of the NCE/DLS.
- There is no significant difference between the perception of staff and students on the quality of Learner Support Services of the NCE/DLS.
- There is no significant difference between the perception of staff and students on the effective utilisation of Learner Support Services of the NCE/DLS.
- There is no significant difference between the opinions of course facilitators and students on the impact of Learner Support Services on students‟ learning.
- There is no significant difference in the opinions of staff and Course Facilitators on the capacity of NTI Personnel and Course Facilitators in the effective implementation of learner support services;
1.6 Basic Assumptions
- Successful distance education practice is not possible with inadequate learner support services.
- Successful distance education practice to a large extent depends on qualitative learner support services.
- Effective utilization of learner support services is sin-qua-non to the implementation of successful distance education system.
- The ability of the Institute‟s personnel and course facilitators to implement effective learner support services depends to a large extent, on their knowledge and skills in distance education delivery approaches.
- Learner Support Services, if effectively managed, is capable of impacting positively on students‟ performance.
1.7 Significance of the Study
It is expected that by the time this research is concluded, the result will provide a genuine basis for the Institute to review and improve its learner support services with regards to its Nigeria Certificate in Education by Distance Learning System.
Distance and conventional institutions in the country will similarly benefit by utilizing the outcome of the research to enhance the delivery of their programmes. The outcome of the research will provide opportunity for the education administrators (Federal/State Ministries of Education) to have a clear focus on proper budgeting and procurement of all the necessary resources for the effective utilization of learner support services in their respective teacher education programmes. The Distance Learners will learn from variety of resources to strengthen their quality of knowledge and experiences making their learning easier.
The credibility of the Institute and indeed any other organization doing similar work will be bolstered if they care to utilize the outcome of the research to enhance their effectiveness in the implementation of standard learner support practices. Teaching and Learning will be revolutionised and significantly improved in accordance with expectations of curriculum planners and the vision and mission of the Federal Ministry of Education;
The study will impact on teachers‟ capacity in the classroom through proper handling of resources meant for the improvement of teaching and learning The research outcome will promote the effectiveness and efficiency of learner support services of the Institute in the implementation of NCE DLS. Finally, it will be of tremendous significance to textbook writers to streamline their writings of various NCE programmes to suit the learners‟ expectations.
1.8 Scope of the Study
The research is restricted to the Learner Support Services of the National Teachers‟ Institute‟s Nigeria Certificate of Education by Distance Learning System and restricted to only North West where students performance over the years, have consistently skewed to the left. The study is targeted at the key personnel that are directly connected with policy formulation and implementation of learners support services at the Headquarters of the National Teachers‟ Institute. They include deputy directors, assistant directors and chief education officers and their assistants; the seven state coordinators and their education officers who coordinate and monitor the implementation of this important service in their respective states; and the course facilitators, centre managers and studentsFor some obvious considerations, not all course facilitators, centre managers and students will be sampled for the study. Care was taken to ensure that the sample used were representative enough by the use of efficient sampling technique; The research could have been extended to cover more than one geo-political zone, but for the ease of data collection and processing.