on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 10, Issue 2, Article 7
The higher education academic scenery in the Niger Delta includes: teaching and learning, pedagogy, research methodology, dissemination and publication, libraries and information services, administration and management (Beebe, 2004). Many institutions of higher learning in the Niger Delta are not getting the job done and are in no particular hurry to redesign their programs so as to ensure improvements in curriculum, instruction and students’ academic achievement (Ololube, 2008).
The challenges in the Niger Delta can be identified in relation to the geography of the region. Oil exploration and exploitation are intrinsically hostile to the people and the environment that surround resource-rich areas. While these problems are not insurmountable, they have been made worse by prolonged periods of neglect, marginalization, and cooperation and conspiracy between the state and multinational oil companies looking to exploit the resources of the region without a reciprocal plan to fully develop it (Thomas, 2001). The impacts of these underdevelopment tendencies are not difficult to detect as the education infrastructure is in a visibly poor condition — dilapidated buildings, chronically inadequate funding, a lack of ICT instructional materials and a lack of qualified ICT-literate faculty.
While we recognize that the use of instructional technology in the higher education teaching and learning processes is still in its infancy in Nigeria, ICT instructional use is vital to the progress and development of faculty and students alike. Higher education institutions, especially those in the West, have adopted ICT as a means to impart upon students the knowledge and skills demanded by 21st century educational advancement (UNESCO, 2002a). According to UNESCO (2002b), ICT now permeates the education environment and underpins the very success of 21st century education. ICT also adds value to the processes of learning and to the organization and management of learning institutions. Technologies are a driving force behind much of the development and innovation in both developed and developing countries. As such, all countries must seek to benefit from technological developments. To be able to do so, professionals (including faculty) have to be educated with sound ICT backgrounds, independent of specific computer platforms or software environments, to meet the required competencies of the ever-changing global environment.
When ICT in education does not achieve expected goals or when it introduces complicated educational reforms, students and teachers can lose focus on the essentials and become distracted by the rapidly changing technologies themselves. This result is likely when students and teachers have not been able to acquire a full understanding of the technologies, the role ICT plays and where, how and what technology to use. When the meaning of ICT and its unlimited potential in the educational arena are understood, rapidly changing technologies are not seen as overwhelming, but as enablers of greater critical thinking and problem solving in education (Iloanusi & Osuagwu, 2009).
Despite the keenness of some institutions of higher learning to establish effective ICT education programs, they are confronted with enormous problems that may impede the proper implementation of these programs. The most significant of these is poor ICT penetration and usage among Nigerian higher education practitioners. Almost all African countries’ basic ICT infrastructures are inadequate; a result of a lack of electricity to power the ICT materials and poor telecommunication facilities. Above all, this lack of access to much needed infrastructure is to the result of insufficient funds (Ololube, Ubogu & Egbezor, 2007). Several cities and rural areas in Nigeria still have fluctuation in their supply of electricity which makes the implementation of ICT in education most difficult. Additionally most Nigerian universities do not have access to basic instructional technology facilities, which also makes the integration of instructional technology in the delivery of quality education difficult.
Poor economic conditions and their effect on middle level manpower stand as a major barrier to the implementation of ICTs in higher education. Even an average middle income earner can not afford basic technological communication gadgets. Thus, computer related telecommunication facilities might not be overly useful for most Nigerian students and faculty members, as computers are still very much a luxury in institutions, offices and homes. This has made the integration of necessary on-line resources (e-mail, world-wide-web, etc.) into higher education most difficult (Ifinedo & Ololube, 2007). For example, in an African survey of ten countries (Gillwald & Esselaar, 2005), Botswana has the highest fixed line household penetration while Uganda trails far behind the rest, with penetration under 1%.
According to the Commonwealth of Learning International (2001), another serious challenge facing higher education in Nigeria is the need for integration of new ICT literacy knowledge into academic courses and programs. In this regard, professionals in Nigeria have not been able to benefit from international assistance, international networking and cooperation, or from courses, conferences and seminars abroad, because of lack of funding. This denial of assistance and absence of interaction has had adverse consequences, both on the psyche of faculty and on the implementation of the infrastructure necessary for professional development.
Despite these conditions, optimism for the realization of Nigerian ICT and higher education goals remain; especially following China’s launch of a communication satellite for Nigeria. This is the first for an African country and the first time China has provided both the satellite and the launch service. The Nigerian Communication Satellite (NIGCOMSAT – 1) is a super hybrid, geostationary satellite that will provide communication services for Africa, and parts of the Middle East and Southern Europe. Experts have predicted that the satellite will revolutionize telecommunications, create professional IT jobs and provide Internet access in remote villages. It is also expected to improve e-commerce and government efficiency by promoting the development of a digital economy in Nigeria and the rest of the African continent (Ololube, Ubogu & Egbezor, 2007). China’s efforts represent a progressive move towards bridging the global digital divide, as there is no doubt that faculty and students in Nigeria would have much broader resources available to them were they to secure reliable access to the Internet.
Progress has also been made in terms of improving ICT penetration in university education in Nigeria. A 2009 survey of the online presence of 70 higher education institutions found that 46 Nigerian universities have an online presence whereas 24 are not online. The University of Jos, for example, has an online library (eGranary) and select infrastructure on campus to support basic forms of ICT integration in education. Some of the other university websites have online-learning portals with downloadable tutorials and provisions for online chatting; however, none support virtual classrooms, tele-conferencing and other synchronous forms of online-learning. Government departments, non-governmental organizations, financial institutions and individuals are all beginning to understand the need for these types of learning tools and have begin to fund ICT implementation in Nigerian educational institutions. Some of these organizations include the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Education Trust Funds (ETF) (Iloanusi & Osuagwu, 2009). Strategic plans and related projects that regularly revisit Nigerian ICT targets are ongoing.
The prospects for the use of ICT in teaching and learning in Nigerian higher education are positive, though there is much work left to be done. Aduwa-Ogiegbaen and Iyamu (2005) have observed that ICT enhances educational efficiency in general and that the efficiency of faculty teaching in Nigerian institutions stands to be improved. Many higher education faculty, for instance, are already teaching large classes of students using ICT materials. With enhanced ICT capabilities it would be possible to use carefully prepared ICT programs to ensure that learners are more accurately and systematically instructed using effective instructional technology.
Copyright (C) 2009 HKIEd APFSLT. Volume 10, Issue 2, Article 7 (Dec., 2009). All Rights Reserved.