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Distance Education – Bringing Higher Education to Your Door Step!!

India’s expanding economy is not only creating a good number of new jobs, but also reminding us the value of higher education.
The importance of higher educational qualifications has come forth unlike never before. For upward employment and social mobilisation, higher educational qualifications have become a sufficient condition, if not necessary condition.

However, it’s not possible for everyone to higher education degrees, particularly if they were already into their work life. Distance Mode Education exactly comes here. It provides education to those who could not once afford to make to college or university due to different problems.

The landscape of distance education has also changed drastically in past five years. The industry is no more confined itself to some traditional degrees, but offering more variety in terms of subject combinations as well as teaching methodologies.

According to Socio Economic Survey of India 2011-12, the Gross Enrolment Ratio of higher education was only 20.4 per cent, which for every 100 youth who are in age group of higher education only 20.4 of them are availing it. The University Grants Commission (UGC) is working to take this statistic to 25.2 per cent by 2017 and to 30 per cent by 2020. As part of this, UGC is implementing to bring higher education to the door steps of millions of youth through UG, PG and PG diploma programmes in distance and regular mode. Particularly, the distance education programmes are becoming handy for those who cannot afford higher education due to its costs and those who are working.

Goals of Distance Education
  • To provide higher educational opportunities to those could not make into traditional educational systems
  • To provide undergraduate degrees in liberal education for the dropouts and improve their skill set
  • To develop courses and study methods according to the need of the hour and make them accessible to students
  • To nurture educational milieu by bridging the gap between students and educational institutions
  • To design programmes and courses for the people of all strata and make them accessible
Each programme is different
Once distance education means only BA, B.Com. and B.Sc. programmes. However, there is a sea change in the situation today. Now, the universities are offering several new subject combinations. These new programmes are highly market-oriented and indeed outdoing the programmes offered on regular mode in terms novelty. For example, Acharya Nagarjuna University’s Centre for Distance Education is offering novel programmes such as B.Sc. in Costume Design and Fashion Technology, B.Sc. in Information Technology, Bachelor of Hotel Management, M.Sc. in Food and Nutrition and M.Sc. in Bio-informatics. Prof. G. Ram Reddy Centre for Distance Education of Osmania University is offering B.Sc. in Aviation, PG Diploma in Bioinformatics, PG Diploma in Town and Country Planning.

MCA, MBA in demand
Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Computer Applications (MCA) programmes are leading the pack of distance mode education. MCA is in demand as it has become a necessary qualification for growth in IT industry. Those who are already working in IT industry are favouring MCA due to its career-boosting capacity. The MBA programme also enjoys similar popularity for similar reason. It helps the in-service executives to achieve upward mobility in their careers. Due to such demand, several universities are offering UG, PG and PG diploma programmes in management. Students of these programmes get the study material and some of the universities are offering contact classes.

Following are some of the important MBA and MCA programmes on offer –
  • Osmania University is offering three-year MCA, two-year MBA and one-year PG Diploma in Business Management.
  • Acharya Nagarjuna University is offering - MCA, MBA programmes in Pharmaceutical Management, Hospital Administration and Technology Management, PG Diploma in Financial Management and PG Diploma in International Management.
Many a field...
Today, distance education programmes are also available in subjects such as Law and Medicine. Many national law universities including NALSAR University, Hyderabad, and National Law School of India, Bangalore, are offering distance mode programmes in law. Acharya Nagarjuna University is offering LL.M. programmes in Labour Laws, Corporate and Securities Law and Constitutional and Administration Law.

Sikkim Manipal University is offering quite a few medical programmes in distance mode. Its list includes Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology, Diploma in Medical Imaging Technology, PG Diploma in Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs. Symbiosis Centre of Healthcare is offering one-year programmes. Due to regulations of Medical Council of India, Bar Council of India and All India Council of Technical Education, distance mode programmes are being offered as auxilory and value-added programmes, but not as full-fledged ones.

Deploying latest technology
Technology is the order of the day and cyber world has changed our learning habits forever. Now, most of the universities are blending online teaching in their teaching methodology. E-learning or virtual learning has become an indispensible component of distance education today. Students can avail their e-learning materials by creating their personal account against submission of their registration number.

The Premier of distance education
Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is playing a vital role in Indian distance education. This university offering a good number of UG, PG, PG Diploma and research programmes in distance mode. It has about 30 lakh students in India and abroad. IGNOU is on forefront in introducing market-oriented programmes according to the fast changing needs. The university always consults and collaborates with industry players to introduce and conduct new programmes. IGNOU has also been pioneer in introducing new learning methodologies such as audio-visual material, teleconferences, practicals and project work.

Its diversified course list includes programmes such as BA in Tourism Studies, Diploma in Aquaculture, PG Certificate in Cyber Law, Certificate in Business Skills, Certificate in Diabetes Care for Community Worker, Certificate in AYUSH Nursing, PG Diploma in Hospital and Healthcare Management, Diploma in Critical Care Nursing, among others.

B.R. Ambedkar Open University in Telugu States
Today several universities are offering distance mode programmes in the state ranging from certificate to post graduation. In the beginning, it was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University that started the distance education programmes on a massive scale. ‘Education to Your Door Step’, the slogan of BRAOU, is an appropriate indication of the mission this university undertook. With its vast network of study centres and advanced study material, BRAOU has been playing a leader-pioneer role in distance education in two Telugu speaking states. Today, the university is offering programmes such as B.Ed., M.Ed., MBA, PG Diploma in Marketing Management, Diploma in Herbal Products, among others.

The ever growing demand
Distance education is the only way through one can earn his higher degrees without attending the college or university. Its criteria such as entry qualifications, fees, study material, exams...all are accessible even to a common man. This is main factor that driving demand for distance education. For example, one can enrol himself in a programme of IGNOU in Hyderabad and can sit for its exams in Mumbai. If the need be, the same enrolment would be shifted to Mumbai.

Distance education is student-centric. The teaching material, availability of study centres and other aspects would be designed around student needs. Introduction of self-instruction material, audio-video programmes, interactive radio counselling, web conferences and other services exemplifies the student-centeredness of distance education. The study materials offered by distance universities are generally prepared by experts of highest level. This is another asset that attracts students.

IGNOU Programmes
IGNOU is presently serving its 30 lakh student community with its 21 schools of studies, 67 regional centres, about 2,667 learner support centres and 29 centres in abroad. It is offering about 228 certificate, diploma, degree, PG and research degrees.

Prominent Programme
In distance education, some of the programmes of IGNOU have gained great reputation. They are: MCA, MA programmes in Rural Development, Tourism and Management, English, Hindi, Philosophy, Gandhi and Peace Studies, Extension and Development Studies, Education, Anthropology, Gender and Development Studies, Economics, History, Political Science, Psychology, Public Administration, Sociology, Adult Education, Master of Social Work, Master of Commerce, Master of Library and Information Science, M.Sc. Dietetics and Food Services Management and M.Sc. in Counselling and Family Therapy.

Meeting the Demands of Job Markets
IGNOU has been introducing new programmes as per the demand of job markets and improving the skill set of students. For instance, our programmes in Urban Planning and Development, Geo Informatics, Social Work are designed and updated as per advances in their respective sectors. Now, the employers are more keen on the student’s skill set, rather than the brand image of his college. Keeping this in mind, IGNOU has been striving to impart skills to the students and improve their employability level. We are making the best use of art-of-the-state technology in this process. Our Open Education Resource (OER) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are example of our technology utilisation.
Dr. P.V.K. Sasidhar, Associate Professor, School of Extension and Development Studies, IGNOU, New Delhi.
Published date : 19 Feb 2015 03:16PM

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