With the advent of technology, distance learning has advanced to unprecedented heights. In its early years, distance learning was more about course material being dispatched through the mail but today, it has evolved and students can access course material online and discuss it with their tutors with the help of internet tools like webcams.

Online distance learning has brought many enthusiastic learners back to academic fold. A number of people who had quit academics early in their life because of some constraints, show faith in online education and are returning to complete their education. It is the idea of giving something back motivating people to return to education and online distance learning programme has proved to be of great help in realizing their dreams.

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Online learning paves way for convenient learning environment

The most sought after distance learning online course has been found to be MBA. Professionals these days are keen to specialize in their respective area and stay abreast of others by increasing their educational qualification through online programmes.

When it comes to distance learning online, most of its features are different from the traditional classroom environment, where students and teachers can interact in real time. As opposed to traditional classroom, virtual learning lets students study according to own convenience. There are some online courses that allow recording of interactions and instructional proceedings to review it later by students.

So, you must have got a fair idea about how distance learning works. But, there are more to it. In fact, the idea of distance learning is quite vast and one needs to carefully and sincerely examine all the features and facts about it.

Nature of study material

Students have access to the online study material in the form of audio CDs and video DVDs, though most colleges and universities provide plenty of printed study material as well. While compiling the topics into course materials, it is kept in mind that they are of highest quality and may contain specially written workbooks or textbooks, online teaching materials, audio and video CDs and computer software.

After enrolment, each student is given access to the module website, where they can find out plenty of additional resources. They are also given authority to visit the online library.

You are going to need a computer

If you enrol for a distance learning online course, you will need a computer and reliable and consistent access to internet so that you can gain maximum from the universities’ online services, which include online forums and vast library, among others. On the computer with internet access, you can interact with fellow students and tutors in order to seek assistance in your studies.

Assessment and examinations

Online learning is not an easy cakewalk. You are asked to complete your assignments that contribute towards completion of your module. Furthermore, you must submit the assignments online on or before due date.

The assignment given to you covers the material from your module. It helps you strengthen the knowledge you have gained from module. Your tutors provide comments on most assignments.

At the end of the module, you are expected to appear for examination on scheduled dates. You are made aware of the specific details of the examination up to a year in advance. Examination location depends upon your country of residence and arranged individually.

In a sharp contrast to early years, online learners today are sought after in the job market. A number of online learners have gone on holding the top positions in the corporate sector. Some renowned UK universities have come to Nigeria with a hope to contribute to its education sector. Nigerian students can make the best use of their presence and achieve their dreams by receiving globally recognized online degrees from them.

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While many 23 years olds across the world are still at university, Gossy Ukanwoke had by that age started one. In late 2012, Gossy Ukanwoke founded Beni American University (BAU), which is the first private online university of Nigeria. With the help of internet-enabled devices, students enrolled in this college can access their classes at any time of the day.

Ukanwoke, who is 25 now, says, “We are providing executive programs for graduates who are looking for employment and want to build up their resumes, or managers who want to climb up the hierarchy of their companies. We also have courses targeted at people who want to start their own business.”

Mark Zuckerberg of Nigeria

Before BAU, Ukanwoke had launched an online venture called Students Circle. He had launched this educational social networking site while in university. The Students Circle is meant to help learners interact with fellow learners and make use of free resources from top-tier schools.

Ukanwoke explains, “When I created Students Circle in 2010, I found out that … many were looking for certificates, hoping that they could get something they could use to maybe find employment or get a promotion in the workplace. There was a need for a new institution to be created in Nigeria,” Forbes once described him as “Mark Zuckerberg of Nigeria.”

At present, BAU has 10 instructors and about 200 students with 26 years as an average age.

This start-up has faced some roadblocks into its journey so far. As Nigerian laws ask universities to must have a physical campus, Ukanwoke bought the land in Benue State last year with an aim to construct a private campus with capacity to accommodate over 10,000 students.

The project is likely to commence next year but, meanwhile, the BAU continues to offer web courses at the cost of $100 to $300 for 12 week online programme. BAU offers a range of courses, including corporate diplomacy, leadership and management, project management, global marketing, digital journalism and entrepreneurship and innovation.

Chinenye Madukwe, a BAU student, says, “It’s good because I have four kids. I have opportunity to work at the same time, because I have a small interior design outfit.” On the other hand, Oo Nwoye says that he enrolled in the college for gaining knowledge. “It is just helpful for my business and that is the most important thing to me,” he says.

Education is the key to success

Ukanwoke is passionate about use of technology to find out the solutions of social problems. He says, “I grew up within the framework where education was put at a very high level of importance, and entrepreneurship is something that I always wanted to do,”

He further says, “Without education I don’t think we can do any progress. It’s not just about getting a certificate — education is about teaching people how to make a living and teaching people how to live; how to interact with others, how to lead their lives and make something out of themselves,”

Ukanwoke continues, “With education comes discipline and we need a lot of discipline in Nigeria as well, so education is really important.”

He depends a lot on social media for advertisement but says that student referrals are the main reason for increase in enrolment in BAU.

Ukanwoke has a long way to go, a lot of work to do, a lot of policy bickering too, but the work is in progress and he will surely and certainly achieve his desired goals. The future of education in Nigeria is bright and people like Ukanwoke have raised the awareness in the country.

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Social networking sites are a lot more than a platform for staying connected with friends and family. Social media gives us the opportunity to reach out and make a difference not just to people you know but to the world. As an educator, I have used the social media platforms to reach out to students across the world. But before you decide on how you want to use it, and how effectively you should use it, here are a few points to keep in mind.

The advantages:

  • You need to develop important social media skills required in today’s world
  • You need to prepare students for the world of social media
  • Social media gives opportunity to give feedback to individual students
  • It is an easy way to communicate and connect with parents
  • It is useful for gathering and sharing resources
  • It helps give a shy student a voice

The last advantage is extremely important as shy students in class hardly get to voice their opinions, ask questions or state points, they do not participate in classroom discussions. They usually just sit in one corner of the class. Such students prefer written communication. Therefore, social media will be the best platform for them to communicate with the rest of the class and teachers.

A few “do’s and don’ts”

  • Do not create personal accounts, stick to classroom accounts
  • Provide the students with resources but make sure that this does not become the only place for resources
  • Do provide students with feedback they require but don’t follow them
  • Do not leave the classroom social media unsupervised but do create a class contract
  • Do teach your students about digital citizenship

PLN or Personal Learning Network helps you grow. Here’s what it does:

  • Connects like-minded teachers
  • Helps find resources beyond the clutches of Google
  • Helps in answering and asking questions

How to improve PLN?

  • Share resources
  • Follow and be followed by others
  • Join chats related to education
  • Share the resources of others
  • Take part in discussions online

Sharing resources

A school’s account on social media is extremely effective and sharing resources as a school account is powerful. These accounts are also popular. These accounts can be used by teachers to share resources with students, give them information on upcoming events, holidays and various other activities. Teachers can also make things interesting by mixing learning with entertainment.

Platforms you can use

Pinterest: You can use this platform to create and share pictorial resources with your students

Twitter: You can carry out classroom discussions on Twitter by posting questions, using unique hash tags, Historicaltweets.com can be used to discuss and research about a topic or a person, etc.

Facebook: This is the most popular platform you can use. You can create groups to share resources, create assignments designed like events, etc.

I believe, that with social media, you can help your students a lot in an interactive, fun and enthusiastic manner. Social media in classrooms should be introduced for the benefit of students and teachers.

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