Quality Assurance Issues in Work Integrated Learning through Open and Distance Education in Nigeria
The trend at which distance education is moving these days has become increasingly noticeable in leaps and bounds. This is very much evident from the increasing enrolment in open and distance learning (ODL) institutions (Cavanaugh, 2005 and Fozdar & Kumar, 2006). Open and distance learning has a major impact on philosophy and practices of education regarding how students learn, how they can best be taught, and how educational resources could be more efficiently organised for the purpose of instructional delivery. ODL institutions are not only imparting knowledge as an educational mode which is an alternative to the conventional system, they are also striving in the areas of ‘Work Integrated Learning’ (WIL) which is made up of vocational and technical education, continuing education, teacher education and also high technology-based education (UNESCO, 2002; Mehrotra & Sacheti, 2005 and Bourne et. al, 2005). // Work integrated learning (WIL) is an arrangement between two resource groups, namely: an educational institution and an industry, in order to assist learners who are workers in the industry develop functional skills that are relevant in the world of work. It is a training curriculum which purposefully integrates training into productive and relevant work and therefore, remains a valuable link between training and productive work. The purpose of this training model is to give learners the opportunity of matching theoretical learning with practice. It is also aimed at ensuring that instructions carried out in the educational institutions are put to practice or have practical guidelines obtainable in the industry. Work integrated learning allows for professional work experience to be combined with classroom studies through many forms. This includes internships, cooperative education, clinical rotations, community service and studying abroad. Among the ideals of WIL is to promote and encourage learning in an integrated academic and work environment, though there are observable differences in how WIL’s philosophy and curriculum design is interpreted and implemented compared with many other programmes. Distance education through Work Integrated Learning has much to offer the world of work because it is responsive, flexible, promotes independent learning, and will fosters teamwork as well as individual achievement and the immediate transfer of skills in the work setting. It also encourage income-generating livelihood for those who intend to diversify their means of livelihood through acquisition of new skills while in a particular trade. According to Mishra, (1994) and the World Bank,(2008) such acquired skills enhances productivity and sustains competitiveness in the global economy. Taking cue from this background, the National Open University of Nigeria offers through the Centre for Lifelong Learning & Workplace Training (CLL&WT) many programmes which are in the category of work integrated learning (vocational technical education) for improving skills and capacity building of adult learners. Programmes floated in this area, include mobile phone repairs, call centre skill among others. These are highly skilled oriented programmes that involve intensive practical work that have a positive bearing on national development via employment generation. // In Nigeria, the term ‘WIL’ is not in trend but literally, it is synonymous with cooperative education which is a work integrated learning in which the time spent in the workplace forms an integrated part of the academic programme of study. As much as vocational technical education in distance learning is seen as a subset of work integrated learning, it falls into two general categories. One category is vocational training such as apprenticeships, where student works in their various trades, while undertaking formal training at a training institute typically a polytechnic, industry training organisation or private training enterprise. The other category is where a tertiary student, as part of his/her degree programme, goes out into the relevant workplace, typically over the holiday period and documents this experience. The student is assigned a grade for the work and/or report which forms an essential part of the degree programme. // This paper therefore reviewed the present status of work integrated learning and its quality assurance at the National Open University of Nigeria. It also examined the role of open and distance learning (ODL) system in providing effective and dynamic work integrated learning using the advent of National Open University of Nigeria’s experience in the delivery of vocational training programmes in the area of mobile phones repairs and call centre skill development for the people working.