PERCEPTION ON DISTANCE EDUCATION AMONG UNIVERSITY OF CAPE COAST DISTANCE STUDENTS IN ACCRA

ABSTRACT
The purpose of the study was to assess the perception of students of distance education about distance learning in Ghana. Specifically, this study assessed; the opinion of distance students regarding distance education in Ghana, the main factors contributing to the demand for distance education, the level of distance students’ satisfaction of distance education, and the challenges faced by the students offering distance education. A cross-section survey and quantitative method were adopted. A survey questionnaire was used to conveniently gather data from a sample of distance education students of the University of Cape Coast Campuses in Accra. Overall, 280 distance learners took part in the study. Descriptive statistics such as percentages, mean and standard deviation as well as one-sample z-test inferential statistics were used to analyze the data. The findings revealed that distance education students of distance education had positive attitude towards the program as they perceived distance program to have similar quality comparable to a traditional classroom setting. Factors such as time flexibility, career development, interest in subject matter/subject offered, cost affordability, reputation of the course, and reputation of the University were the main drivers for students’ preferences distance education. The students were satisfied with the distance education despite the fact that students were faced with some challenges in the form of overloaded curricular, delay in the release of results, long distance to study centre, and inadequate learner support services. The study recommends to management and facilitators of distance education to address the challenges of the students so as to improve students’ satisfaction of the distance learning program.


CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
Education is one of the most important aspects of our lives, as it can determine our life path moving forward. However, there are circumstances that can sometimes serve as obstacles to those seeking education, thus hindering learning process along the way. One of the main reasons many may falter is due t their location and geographic flexibility. The path to development is aided by many things but common to all such efforts is learning and learning on a massive scale. The challenge of learning is so huge in contemporary times that traditional methods of teaching and learning are not sufficient to address it. Hence, just as technology has helped improve both quantity and quality of products and services, so must technology be applied to learning. This is the only way to address the learning challenge (Daniel & Mallet, 2008).

In the new era of education, the traditional classroom teacher – student study at the Universities and colleges is gradually being complemented or even now being replaced by Distance Education? The purpose of the study is therefore to assess the perception of students of distance education about distance education at the tertiary level in Ghana. Assessing the perception of students about distance education in Ghana is very important because it will provide crucial information to management of tertiary institutions, and providers of distance education to take onboard the opinions of students regarding distance education and the factors that influenced their decision to opt for distance education when formulating distance education policies and programmes.

Background of the Study
The importance of formal education in the development processes is well recognized all over the world. Education is a key contributor to social development and constitutes the bedrock for sustainable economic development. According to Oduro (2010), knowledge and technology are increasingly becoming the basis of competitive advantage in the world. The quality of a country’s stock of human capital influences the extent to which knowledge and technology can be utilized to enhance productivity and to improve the well-being of the citizens. These can be achieved through formal education and training. Schaefer (2005) posits that the most basic manifest function of education is the transmission of knowledge. Moreover, education increases the ability to understand, appreciate and critique new ideas, and it can facilitate the adoption and modification of technology to suit a country’s peculiar development challenges. One of the problems facing education delivery especially at the university level in developing country like Ghana is lack of access.

Ghana has nine (9) public universities and about sixty-five (65) private Universities, coupled with polytechnics and colleges of education. These institutions have over the years provided for opportunity for individuals both in the private and public sectors of the economy to be trained. However, due to the inadequate number of tertiary institutions in Ghana, these institutions are unable to absorb the large number Senior High graduates coupled with the number of Ghanaian workforce who desire to improve their human capacities.

In the last decade, the opportunities to participate in higher education have been considerably increased beyond the traditional classroom setting to include distance learning (Moller, Robison & Huett, 2012). Distance education can now be considered a viable means of providing higher education for many universities. Advancements in computer technology and public access to the Internet have provided a venue that supports distance learning (Moller, Robison & Huett, 2012). Many mainstream institutions of higher learning have adopted distance learning as the next logical step in educational delivery systems (Cleveland-Innes & Garrison, 2012). In a 2002 survey of 75 randomly chosen college of distance learning programs, results revealed an astounding rate of growth in the higher education distance learning market (Primary Research Group, 2002). In a time of shrinking budgets, distance learning programmes are reporting 41 percent average annual enrollment growth (Primary Research Group, 2002). The demand for distance education is pervasive in Ghana. Most of the public universities, which hitherto had strict admission requirements, are now providing distance education for workers in the evening and during the weekends.

Distance education, is a structured learning in which the student and instructor are separated by place, and sometimes by time is currently the fastest growing form of domestic and international education. Distance education (sometimes referred to as “distributed learning” or “distance learning”), is any educational process in which all or most of the teaching is conducted by someone geographically removed from the learner, with all or most of the communication between teachers and learners being conducted through electronic or print mediums (UNESCO, 2002). Distance education simply refers to the mode of teaching and learning where the learner and teacher are separated from each other in time and space (Moore, 1973). Distance education has two features namely, distance teaching and distance learning. Distance teaching refers to printed instruction materials developed for use by distance learners while distance learning on the other hand refers to the same process seen from learners’ perspective (Keegan, 2013).

One of the important goals of higher education, as commonly recognized and demanded for traditional higher education, is the attainment of higher order, deep and meaningful learning by students. Logically, this goal should be same for students of distance higher education (Garrison, 2010; Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007, Morrison & Anglin, 2012). Distance education has been found to be very useful due to its ability to serve a large number of students at an affordable cost, without constraints of space and time (Mbwesa, 2008).

Scholars in distance learning have also observed that provision of distance education also come with some challenges as cited in Lukwekwe (2015) including students support services (Reuben, 2010), challenges of teaching and learning (Muganda & Kabate, 2012), challenges of mixed mode of distance learning delivery (Muganda, Mwanongwa, & Kapalanaka, 2012), language as a problem in distance education (Msoka & Vuzo, 2012) and challenges that students face after completion (Bitegeko & Swai, 2012). Notwithstanding the above challenges, the demand for distance education in the tertiary level in Ghana is rising. It is therefore important to find out the factors influencing the demand for tertiary education in Ghana.

Statement of the Problem
Ghana, through the Ministry of Education (MoE) is mandated to provide relevant and quality education at all levels to all Ghanaians for human and national development and to create a dynamic education sector that prepares and equips all Ghanaians with relevant education and skills to promote socio-economic development (Ministry of Education, 2018). The vision is to provide relevant education to all Ghanaians at all levels with relevant education and skills to promote socio-economic development. The mission of the Ministry is to formulate and implement policies that would provide quality, equitable and accessible education to all citizens, with emphasis on Science, Information, Communication and Technology for self-actualization and peaceful coexistence, as well as requisite skills for the labour market and national development. The strategic thrust of the sector during the period under review included increasing access with equity, improving quality of education, and enhancing the management of education service delivery (Ministry of Education, 2018). To achieve its vision of providing relevant education to all Ghanaians at all levels with relevant education and skills to promote socio-economic development, the barriers to access to education especially at the tertiary level should be removed. In an attempt to remove the barriers of access to education, the government of Ghana instituted the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFUND) to help expand access to education. However, the demand for tertiary education is still increasing. One way of eliminating access barriers is the introduction of distance education.

The need for distance education in Ghana today is because the demand for higher education has been so high such that regular learning in the Universities cannot accommodate the huge numbers of students who want to have higher education through the regular program (Higher Education Bulletin, 2016). The demand for distance education may be occasioned by several factors, including population growth, limited number of universities especially public to meet the growing population, affordability of tertiary education, the need for access to knowledge in technology and many more. For example, previous studies have observed that the main factor driving students to take distance learning courses is career development (Chiu, 2010; von Prummer, 2010; MacBrayne, 2015). Constraints of time, distance and finances are also reasons for opting for a distance education (Sherry, 2017). With the rise and proliferation of distance education in Ghana and the multiplicity of factors motivating students to opt of distance education, there is the need to critically examine the perceptions students hold on distance education. Unfortunately, no research work has been done in this areas. It is against this backdrop that the current study aims at examining the perception of distance education in Ghana using public Universities.

Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to examine perception of distance education among University of Cape Coast students offering distance education in Accra. The study assesses the opinion of the students regarding distance education, the factors contributing to the demand for distance tertiary education, the level of satisfaction among students of distance education, and the challenges of the students face in accessing distance education.

Research Objectives
To achieve the purpose of the study, the following specific objectives have been outlined to:

analyse the opinion of distance students regarding distance education in Ghana.

identify the main factors contributing to the demand for distance education at the tertiary level in Ghana.

examine the level of distance students’ satisfaction of distance education in Ghana.

examine the challenges faced by the students offering distance education.

Research Questions

What is the opinion of distance students regarding distance education in Ghana?

What are main factors contributing to the demand for distance education at the tertiary level in Ghana?

What is the level of satisfaction of distance education among distance students in Ghana?

What are the challenges faced by the students offering distance education?

Significance of the Study
Considering the role of the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service in the provision of relevant education to all Ghanaians at all levels with relevant education and skills to promote socio-economic development, the need for finding out the determinants of demand for distance education at the tertiary level cannot be overemphasized. The finding of this study would help bring out the perception of students of tertiary Universities towards distance education. This information is important because it helps providers of distance education, especially, management of public Universities to take onboard the perception of students regarding distance education when formulating distance education policies and programmes.

The finding of the study would also bring to the fore, the factors influencing students’ demand for distance education at the tertiary level. Again, this information will be relevant to management of universities in to consider those factors in their attempt to provide distance education. For example, if affordable cost is the reason for demand for distance education, management of universities in Ghana would consider this cost element in the charges for distance education. Also, if gaining knowledge in technology is important to the students, ICT training would be incorporated in the educational curriculum of distance learners.

Finally, the findings would provide information regarding the effectiveness of distance education in meeting the expectation of distance learners in Ghana. This information would be relevant in moderating the expectation and demand of prospective students of distance of education. The finding would provide information about the relevance of distance education in Ghana and the need to make distance education much more relevant. Last but not least, the challenges students of distance education face will be found and recommendations made as to how to address the challenges. Finally, the outcome of this study will serve as a reference document for future studies thereby contributing to formulating theories on students’ perception of distance education and the factors contributing to the adoption of distance education by students.

Delimitation
The study is delimited to distance learners at the College of Distance Education (CoDE) of the University of Cape Coast, Greater Accra region. The students were selected from Accra only becauses of easy accessed to data. Contextually, the study is limited to the perception of students of CoDE – Accra, regarding distance education in Ghana, the factors contributing to the demand for distance education, and the level of satisfaction of students of distance education and the challenges the students face in accessing distance education. Methodologically, a survey strategy and quantitative methodology were adopted.

Limitation
It is expected that the adoption of the cross-sectional survey strategy presented some challenges to the validity and reliability of the research findings. This is because, the target participants, who are distance learners, were hard to find as most of them were workers who attended lectures only at the weekends. Because of this, data collection was time consuming. Both financial and time constraints, if not managed properly, could affect the validity and reliability of the research findings.

Definition of Terms
Distance education: Distance education simply refers to the mode of teaching and learning where the learner and teacher are separated from each other in time and space (Moore, 1973).

Demand for distance education: This is the motivation of potential learners to undertake distance education at the tertiary level instead of the regular and structured learning at the tertiary level.

Determinants: This study, a determinant is any factor that have significant positive influence on the demand for distance education at the tertiary level

Organization of the Study
The study was organized into five chapters as outlined as follows. Chapter One is the introduction chapter which encompasses sections such as the background of the study, the problem statement, the purpose of the study, and the objectives of the study. It further states the research questions, the significance of the study, and also looks at the delimitation and limitations, and finally organization of the study. Chapter Two reviews literature on the study area. The chapter reviews relevant theoretical and empirical literatures on the topic. Chapter Three presents the methodology. The chapter will describe the research design, the target population of the study, the sample size, the sampling techniques, the data collection instrument, and the statistical tools used in the data analysis.

Furthermore, chapter Four presents the results and discussions. The chapter presents the data collected from the field and summarize them via tables and graphs. The chapter will also discuss the findings of the study relative to the literature. Chapter Five will represent the conclusion and recommendation. The chapter summarizes the major findings of the study and conclusions attained and also makes relevant recommendations based on the findings. Recommendations for future studies are also included in this chapter.

Chapter Summary
This chapter primarily dealt with the introduction of the research topic as well as the background of the study. It described the statement of the problem and highlighted on the purpose of the study that would guide the researcher in conducting this study. It also presented the research objectives, research questions, significance of the study, as well as the limitations and delimitations of the study. Finally, some of the terms that were used by the researcher were defined, and the organization of the study were outlined.

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Item Type: Ghanaian Project Material  |  Attribute: 89 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Price: GH50  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.
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