Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Disposition of Students to Online Counselling: The Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigerian Experience

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Disposition of Students to Online Counselling: The Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigerian Experience

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The Obafemi Awolowo University, one of the first generation federal universities in Nigeria was established on 8th June, 1961. In recent times and like in many other Nigerian universities, the Obafemi Awolowo University's student population has been on the rise, not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of complexity and diversity. However, the University is noted for not denying admission to students on the basis of age or any other consideration apart from the academic inability of the applicant. Hence, year-in-year-out, students of various age groups, economic and moral backgrounds are admitted. Given the poor financial status of the average Nigerian family caused by the economic downturn in the country, it is very likely that many of the freshly admitted students have not been given the necessary parental guidance, care and proper orientation which could enhance their healthy social interaction, integration and adjustment in the University. This situation means that their counselling needs would most likely be as diverse as the variations observed in their age distribution, social and economic backgrounds.

Furthermore, new courses and programmes are being introduced in the University to reflect the reality of the modern needs for top flight management level manpower that are expected to compete favourably in modern economies. Today, there are more faculties, departments, sections and directorates than there were at the inception of the university. Consequently, more applicants are admitted into such courses and programmes and more facultymembers are employed to service them, thereby, swelling the ranks of those who potentially will need help in confronting their day-to-day life challenges.

Moreover, some fields in which the university previously offered postgraduate programmes only, are diversifying and are admitting students into their undergraduate courses as well as certificate and diploma programmes. Distance learning programmes at both regular and executive levels are revitalized and broadened, ostensibly, in order to broaden the internally generated revenue base of the university. All these have placed more stringent pressures on existing facilities and services to the extent that a considerable proportion of the university community members now live off-campus and their ability to promptly seek and obtain counselling support is becoming distanced.

The Obafemi Awolowo University has a total of eight counsellors on its payroll as at the beginning of the 2012/2013 session. These counsellors are expected to provide Guidance and Counselling services to 31, 945 students, in addition to over 4,000 staff members. The counsellors are also not completely immuned from "other duties that may be assigned to them from time to time.". Obviously, the number of available counsellors is inadequate to provide the student and staff population with effective counselling support via the face-to-face approach. From the foregoing, it is clear that it is practically impossible for the face-to-face counselling approach to meet the counselling needs of students and staff members of the university. In this situation, online counselling becomes highly expedient.

Online counselling refers to the process whereby a professional counsellor provides counselling services on the Internet. This could be by e-mail, chat, video or even Internet phone. Online counselling becomes a viable alternative source of help when the traditional face-to-face counselling is not accessible. Online counselling is effective particularly when it is conducted by skilled and qualified professionals.

Many advantages exist for clients who use online counselling. It is of tremendous benefits to people living in remote or isolated areas, people homebound due to disability or agoraphobia, those relocating but still wanting to work with their current therapist, and people with fast-paced lifestyles or unusual employment schedules (Attridge, 2004; Collie, Cubranic & Long, 2002; Robson, 2000; Stevens & Shulman, 2003; Sussman, 2004). …

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