UTILIZATION OF LEARNER’S SUPPORT SERVICES BY STUDENTS OF NATIONAL OPEN UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA STUDY CENTRES IN SOUTH EAST OF NIGERIA. A RESEARCH PROJECT MATERIAL ON EDUCATION
CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
Background of the Study
Open University is a means of providing access to quality and equitable educational opportunities for those who wish to improve and upgrade their knowledge. It is a social evolution which has brought real educational transformation that will bring about the desired changes and development at the speed educationists have never imagined before (Okoronkwo, 2010). Its uniqueness lies on its flexibility, easy access, immediate application and the use of combination of media to provide mass education. It uses varieties of digital technologies to liberalize education, turning homes and offices into learning environment as rich as that of schools, colleges and universities (Delvaline, 2005).
The rapid growth of the concepts of open and distance education are possible because of continuing increase in the demand for education, encouraged by the convergence of digital technology. Though they are sometimes used as one but distinct concepts, Open Learning refers to situations where learners use resources in a flexible way to achieve their learning goal. These resources may be print, audio- or computerbased; used at home, at a study centre or in the workplace; with or without the guidance of a tutor or mentor (Commonwealth of Learning, 2003). Distance education on other hand refers to situations where learners are physically separated from the educational provider, communicating in writing, (using letter mail, email, fax, or computer conferencing); verbally (by telephone, audio conferencing, video conferencing); or in face-to-face tutorial sessions (Okoronkwo, 2010). Hence, open learning allows access to study without academic restrictions. Distance education programmes may follow the same approach of open learning, that enables as much independence and selfdetermination as possible. Therefore open and distance education is a flexible form of adult education, providing help to learners in many kinds of learning environments. It has also become a legitimized mode of education and has globally been embraced as a cost effective model for providing higher education to a large segment of the population (Krishnan, 2012).
In Nigeria, the history of open and distance learning dates back to the earliest and pioneering efforts by institutions such as City Correspondence College Lagos and University of Ibadan Extra-Mural Studies Department. These correspondence colleges were all engaged in correspondence education and registered students for London General Certificate Examination (GCE) Ordinary and Advanced levels.