I recall the governor of Oyo State, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi, in his remark at the University of Ibadan’s 70th Foundations Day and admission to higher degrees (doctorate) and award of honourary degrees/fellowship ceremony held in the university’s International Conference Centre on Saturday, 17 December, 2018 referred to Unibadan as the intellectual capital of the nation.
Interestingly, the University of Ibadan was recently ranked top 400 in World’s Medical Science. This is a true picture of the pedigree of the university, not only as the first in Nigeria but an institution that is committed to sustaining the legacy of academic excellence. The many strides that depict that the bar is being raised by the premier university cannot be gainsaid.
One could go on and on to talk about significant contributions UI has made to national development. Of cause, the university prides itself on being the first and the best in Nigeria. But this piece is born out of the need to advocate for wider acceptance of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) as a sustainable component of the university and a viable mode of educational delivery in Nigeria.
The University of Ibadan ODL platform represented by the UI Distance Learning Centre (UI DLC) has contributed 30 significant years to the 70 years of the establishment of Unibadan. The Centre has contributed pointedly to the opening of access to members of the populace who would not have had university degrees if not for the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) platform. There is also no gainsaying the fact that the UI DLC contributes significantly to the internally generated revenue base of the university.
It has also offered employment opportunities to a handful. Most significantly, the Centre contributes to the Open Educational Resource of the university. This could be buttressed by the 2016 National Universities Commission and Webometric ranking which rated UI as the best. The Distance Learning Centre has contributed in no little way to this feat.
Despite these encouraging feats, the UI DLC is not without its challenges. Apparently, Open and Distance Learning (ODL) is an emerging mode of educational delivery in Nigeria. I should allude to an international stakeholders’ conference held from 28 to 30 October, 2018 to commemorate the Centre’s 30th anniversary. The UI DLC management found it expedient to call ODL practitioners to discuss quality assurance and management, emerging opportunities in ODL, new approaches and how to leverage on national and international collaborations for the advancement of Open and Distance Education in Nigeria. Local challenges were dissected in a bid to proffer practical solutions that would engender effective service delivery. This is a clear depiction of the fact that UI DLC is at the frontline of heralding wide acceptability and Open and Distance Learning best practices in Nigeria.
The present administration led by Professor Oyesoji Aremu has been giving its best shot at qualitative service delivery. The solid foundations laid by past directors cannot but be leveraged for greater works. Howbeit, the Centre cannot abjure that there are attendant challenges within the system of ODL administration in Unibadan; but it is not immodest to say it has been making significant headways. It is then sufficient to say that attaining global best practices is a process, not a destination.
With an unprecedented 3050 learners presented for graduation at the 2018 convocation ceremonies, one cannot but ponder the immense contribution this made to the entire Unibadan class of 2018. For the first time in the last few years, graduates on the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) mode were presented from a just concluded session. This largely underscores the fact that the lag between the regular mode and ODL mode has been bridged. It is also a great respite to younger learners on the platform. One of the highpoints at the ceremonies was the presentation of 33 first class graduands at the convocation ceremonies, a development that was greeted with commendations.
However, there are greater grounds to cover. Despite issue of appointing core academic staff of UI DLC, which is being addressed by the university and delayed academic feedback system, the Centre’s management has been relentless in assuring its stakeholders that the prospects of getting it right are bright. Therefore, all hands must be on the deck to ensure optimal ODL practices in the University of Ibadan and Nigeria as a whole.
Whilst Unibadan celebrates 70 and UI DLC celebrates 30, this is a clarion call for more advocacies for a more inclusive and wider acceptance of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in Nigeria. UI being the head is a feat worth celebrating, but sustaining headship is great responsibility.
It is up to all –management, staff, students and alumni of the University of Ibadan – to sustain the legacy, doggedly raise the bar of access to university education through ODL, academic excellence and research breakthroughs.