• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

E-learning gap emerges as NUC drags feet on policy

e-learning

Nigeria is losing out in the global race to embrace E-learning and education tailored to meet the needs of a fast-paced, knowledge driven economy, due partly to the National Universities Commission’s (NUC) laggard E-learning policy. The 180 million strong nation loses an estimated N45 billion annually to this policy gap, BusinessDay’s inquiries reveal.

“The NUC’s current policy on E-learning is clear; we do not recognise online degrees. There are plans underway to do so in two years but until then, online degrees are not recognised by the NUC” a source at the NUC tells BusinessDay.

It costs on the average N4.5 million to obtain a Master’s (degree) online, based on a random sampling of foreign universities offering these services. “I paid N450,000 per course for ten courses to be awarded a Master of Science (M.Sc) in Communication from Walden University, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America. There are over 10,000 of such applications annually, when you do the maths you get about N45 billion leaving the shores of Nigeria annually for online tuition fees,” Emmanuel Uko, Nigeria project director of a United Kingdom based not-for-profit organisation said.

Uko pointed out that although the NUC is foot-dragging with regards to its E-learning policy, online administered tuition from foreign universities remain in great demand because it affords working class Nigerians who want to keep their jobs the opportunity to study at a foreign university online.

He added, “the NUC would in due course play catch-up because the current policy is not forward looking. International organisations  recognise such online degrees and certifications, provided the universities are duly accredited in their respective countries. For instance, I have friends working for the US embassy, the United Nations and some multinational companies with degrees awarded based on online tuition.”

Abiola Awosika, professor of education technology, and CEO EduTech, an education technology firm, led the team that pioneered Obafemi Awolowo University’s (OAU) Open, Distance Learning programme (ODL), which is in its second year of operation.

“We successfully launched the ODL programme at the OAU, for science courses and economics. We look forward to a similar partnership with Ahmadu Bello University, for Master of Business Administration (MBA). We hope the NUC would speed up the process of accreditation for these programmes. However, the students spend two weeks on the relevant campus during the period of their studies to meet the NUC’s current policy direction” she disclosed.      

“Online education is the way of the future in the world and is recognised by all industrialised countries of the world. Many of the professors from world class universities whose research findings make waves have online programmes that churn out thousands of top graduates every year. So, Nigeria can only aspire to remain an illusory island in the global sea of knowledge to her own loss and peril” offered James Makinde, former Vice-Chancellor of Babcock University, Ogun State. 

The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) is blazing a trail in the E-learning space. Although its programmes are not fully administered online, students could download some course materials through the courseware online.

James Kor, staff of a Federal Government security agency and a master’s holder from the NOUN, explained that having been awarded a master’s both from a conventional Nigerian university and the NOUN, he found the quality and rigour of tuition at the NOUN superior to what he experienced at the said conventional university.

The NOUN shared a story of how the recent NOUN-iLearn application is changing the way their students learn. They told a story of a student from Makoko, a slum neighbourhood located in Lagos, Nigeria. Primarily known as a fishing village, much of Makoko rests in structures constructed on stilts above the Lagos Lagoon.

Despite the low standard of living in Makoko, a student living in the area who understands the value of education could make use of the Internet through the unique NOUN model to push through the limitations of their environment to connect to school via their phone. This enables them to study and work.

STEPHEN ONYEKWELU