PERCEPTION OF DISTANCE LEARNING STUDENTS ON THE INFLUENCE OF ONLINE INTERACTION (E-LEARN) ON THEIR ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1     Background to the Study                                                                   

Education is a key factor for sustainable development (Chimombo 2005). Most developing countries including Nigeria, in the world now regard education as a fundamental factor that can be used to catch up with the developed world regarding, for example, global competitiveness (Hawkins 2002). Predictably, educational settings are different in developing countries than in developed countries, such as low quality of education and narrow possibilities in attending schools in rural areas because of far distances and high opportunity costs (Ibid 2005). Chimombo, (2005) opined that country-specific circumstances have to be improved regarding compulsory and free education to foster general access to education. In Article 26 of the 1948 UN universal declaration of human rights the right of obligatory and free education for everyone is already committed (UN Human Rights 1948).

Obviously, more people in the world get connected to the internet network on a yearly basis, its bandwidth increases and its use becomes more integrated to all the happenings in the global world. Connectivity to this internet network has become a key factor to opportunities, success and fulfillment for individuals. In Nigeria today, information communication and technology is viewed as creating an e-enabled and knowledge-based society by the year 2020. Just like the technology has changed the world, it is now changing the learning and teaching environment.  A broad range of learning approaches exists already, for example, e-learning, blended learning (Maier, 2007), and distance learning which utilize information and communication technology (ICT). Using ICT can be beneficial for students in rural areas by having them to attend classes as distance learners and enhancing them to learn. As regards to this, e-learning is a considered to be a possible assurance to educational development. However, the gaps between developed and developing countries knowledge transfer are not only difficult but also costly.

E-learning is regarded as the use of ICT by teachers and learners. E-learning consists of conventional training, such as courses, ad-hoc training, selected learning objects, formalization through document collections and community formation which can be achieved via social software Schmidt (2005). Several studies have revealed that there are already a number of e-learning programs offered in developing countries (Kohn et al. 2008). These programs are developed by various national and international initiatives in the country. The development and expansion of e-learning programs as observed by Lockwood and Gooley, (2002) borders on the need for provision of education in convenient and less expensive ways, increased access to information, effective learning and greater flexibility.

Stephenson, (2001) emphasized the need for little systematic research into the overall effectiveness of online learning despite the great interest in it. He acknowledges that while there is much more work to be done, a variety of e-learning courses aimed at making sustainable development a reality have been developed and demonstrate how e-learning can reach thousands if not millions of minds and potentially plant the seeds of change. It has been observed that students in higher educational institutions that engaged in E-Learning, generally performed better than those in face-to-face courses. (Holley, 2002) revealed that students who are involved in E-Learning score better grades than students who studied traditional approach. As a result of these findings, E-learning is growing very fast and is becoming popularly accepted and that is why many higher institutions of learning are adopting to virtual learning system, although, it may be expensive to run but very convenient for learners. E-Learning is widely used in many universities in the world today. In some higher institutions of learning, their E-learning does not add any value to the teaching and learning activities of the institutions and perhaps they do not investigate the impact of virtual learning on students’ academic performance. This study will show how E-learning affects students’ academic performance. This study is very important and will find out the relationship between E-Learning use and undergraduate students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria academic performance.

1.2     Statement of the Problem

The call for application of E-learning in schools is to infuse and inject efficiency and effectiveness in the teaching-learning process. Thus, in a developing nation like Nigeria, E-learning is currently encountering the challenges of material devices like the availability of computers, well equipped computer laboratories coupled with internet facilities, videophone systems and teleconferencing devices, fax and wireless applications, digital library, digital classrooms, multimedia systems and the problem of multimedia courseware development among others (Global Information Technology Report, 2010). Other studies revealed that there is a limited trained teachers for E-learning, lack of facilities, infrastructures and equipment (Ikemenjima, 2005; and Jegede & Owolabi, 2003).

E-learning has already influenced the field of teaching, training and development in the developed world. An increasing number of higher institution courses are now taught on the internet and are increasing student numbers (Chang, 2001). Many educational stakeholders are of the opinion that online learning is the future method for their training programmes (Barron, 1999). However, the field lacks enough documentation to show that E-learning is an effective delivery mechanism in relation to the individuals being taught. Aroyo and Dicheva (2004) indicated that many researchers in the area of education systems are concerned with moving their research to a coherent space of collaborative intelligence from scattered intelligent. There are limited studies that have investigated the perception of distance learning students on the influence of e-learning on their academic performance. This study will therefore investigate the perception of distance learning students on the influence of online interaction on the academic performance of distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria.

1.3     Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study is to investigate the perception of distance learning students on the influence of online interaction on their academic performance of distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. However, the specific objectives are:

i)                   To find out the relationship between distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria’s engagement in online interaction and their academic performance  

ii)                To examine the effects of online interaction on distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria

iii)             To determine the challenges faced by distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, on online interaction and its effects on their academic performance

iv)              To proffer solutions to the challenges faced by distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, on online interaction on how it will enhance their better academic performance

1.4     Research Questions

The following are some of the questions which this study intends to answer:

i)                   What is the relationship between distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria’s engagement in online interaction and their academic performance?

ii)                What are the effects of online interaction on distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria?

iii)             What are the challenges faced by distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, on online interaction and its effects on their academic performance?

iv)              What are the solutions to the challenges faced by distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, on online interaction on how it will enhance their better academic performance

1.5     Research Hypotheses

The following shall be the research hypotheses that will be tested for this study:

i)                   There is a significant relationship between online interaction and better academic performance

ii)                There is a significant correlation between distance learning and online interaction  (e-learning)

iii)             There is no significant influence of online interaction on the availability of computer and internet facilities for better academic performance

iv)              There is no significant relationship between hours of students’ engagement in online learning and academic performance

1.6     Scope of the Study

          This study investigates the perception of distance learning students on the influence of online interaction on their academic performance of distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. Therefore, the study shall be carried out among the distance learning students of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria.

1.7     The Significance o the Study

This study has great significance. First of all, the study findings will provide an idea about the e-learning aspects and academic performance in order to provide key information to further research work in such areas. In the same way, the study will provide knowledge and guidelines that may be of help to policymakers. The research will therefore be of a great importance for planners, and other social scientists. Finally, this study provides an input to the students, teachers and researchers in the areas of e-learning. Research works are embarked upon with a view to extending the frontier of knowledge. This study will therefore be carried out with this same objective, especially in the field of e-learning. It will undoubtedly contribute to the extension of the frontier of knowledge in the following ways. First, the study will show the predictive power of the selected factors, especially socio-demographic factors, prior computer skills and time management status in the determination of the academic performance. Lastly, government will as well benefit from the study because it will show how the provision of adequate learning facilities can enhance better academic performance in our tertiary institutions all over the country.

1.8     Limitation of the Study

 This study will reflect a number of limitations. Firstly, the student models of learning will be identified on the basis of a specific sample comprising those under e-learning study model and those under the traditional study model. Secondly, the theoretical nature of this study will limit its direct relevance for the educational praxis. Therefore, it is hoped that future research may additionally focus on how student cognitions about learning are influenced in the context of everyday learning environments. The results could enable educational practitioners to encourage the adoption of student learning models which invoke a deep oriented and self-regulated study strategy. This study will however not consider all the aspects e-learning influences but instead be limited to those elements of e-learning that affect academic performance in one way or the other.

1.9     Definition of Terms

The following terms were used in the course of this study:

Academic performance: the extent to which a student has achieved his/her short or long-term educational goals. Cumulative GPA and completion of educational degrees especially bachelor's degrees represent academic achievement.

Distance learning: a way of learning remotely without being in regular face-to-face contact with a teacher in the classroom. 

E-learning:  learning utilizing electronic technologies to access educational curriculum outside of a traditional classroom.

Internet: a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks using standardized communication protocols.

Perception: the way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.

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