Journal of Education & Social Policy

ISSN 2375-0782 (Print) 2375-0790 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/jesp

Perception and Experience of Distance Learning for Women: Case of the Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) Program in West Africa
Jane Wakahiu, PhD; Rosemary Shaver, M.Ed

Online distance education is transforming higher education in the U.S. Technological innovation is effecting higher education in many ways, arguably most important, it is making education more accessible, globally. Online distance education can provide opportunities for marginalized populations, and people living in developing countries, to access higher education. This study focuses on the case of 17 women religious in West Africa, who are enrolled in the Higher Education for Sisters in Africa (HESA) program, a project funded with support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The students are living in Ghana and Nigeria, and studying online at a university in the U.S. The students were surveyed after completing one semester, or twelve credits, online to evaluate programmatic methods and to gauge their perceptions and experiences. The study addresses the contexts in which West African students are living – the challenges of Internet connectivity, scarcity of university seats, and condition of women. Findings and analysis of regional contexts indicate that online distance education is an increasingly viable, and needed, means of providing higher education to individuals in West Africa, especially women. HESA students’ status as adult learners was also determined ideal for the rigor and self-directed nature of online learning.

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