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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 qualifications. The importance of qualifications has come forth like never before. For upward career mobility, they have become a sufficient condition, if not the necessary one.

However, it’s not possible for everyone to get degrees at their wish, particularly if they have been already into their work life. Distance mode education has a role to play in such juncture. It provides educational opportunities to those who could not afford to make to college or university during their youth due to different problems.

The landscape of distance education has changed drastically in past five years. It is not confining itself to a few traditional degrees any more. The university departments and centres of distance education are offering more variety and novelty in terms of subject combinations as well as teaching methods.

This is the season for admission notifications of distance education programmes, hence, this special story.

According to Socio Economic Survey of India 2011-12, India’s Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) of higher education was only 20.4 per cent. GER means the percentage of youth out of every 100 youth who are in the age group that is eligible for higher education. The University Grants Commission (UGC) is working towards taking this statistic to 25.2 per cent by 2017 and to 30 per cent by 2020. As part of this effort, UGC is implementing different projects to bring higher education to the door steps of millions of youth through UG, PG and PG diploma programmes in distance and regular modes. Particularly, the distance mode education is contributing to this objective on a massive scale, thanks to its cost-effectiveness and flexible modes of teachings.

Objectives of distance education
Following are the objectives of distance mode education -
  • providing higher educational opportunities to those who could not make into traditional educational systems
  • providing undergraduate degrees in liberal education for the dropouts so that they can improve their skill set
  • developing courses and study methods according to the need of the hour and make them accessible to society
  • nurturing educational milieu by bridging the gap between students and educational institutions
  • designing programmes and courses for the people of all strata and make them accessible
Each programme is different
Once, distance education was meant only for BA, B.Com. and B.Sc. programmes. However, there is a sea of change today. The universities are offering several new subject combinations at different levels through distance mode education. Most of these new programmes are highly market-oriented. Indeed, they are outdoing regular mode programmes in terms of novelty and innovation. For example, Acharya Nagarjuna University’s Centre for Distance Education is offering 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 Bioinformatics. 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, to mention a few.

MCA, MBA in demand
Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Computer Applications (MCA) programmes are leading the pack of distance mode courses. MCA in distance mode is highly popular among aspirants of IT industry and in-service techies that have a lower qualification, due to its career-enhancing capacity. MBA programme also enjoys similar popularity for same reason - it provides upward career mobility to in-service executives at a faster pace. Due to the demand, several universities are offering UG, PG and PG diploma programmes in management education. Students of these programmes get the study material and some of the universities are also conducting contact classes.

Following are some of the important MBA and MCA programmes on offer –
  • Three-year MCA, two-year MBA and one-year PG Diploma in Business Management being offered by Osmania University.
  • Three-year MCA, two-year MBA and one-year PG Diploma in Business Management being offered by Osmania University.
  • Acharya Nagarjuna University’s 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 University, 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.

However, due to regulatory constraints with Medical Council of India, Bar Council of India and All India Council of Technical Education, distance mode programmes are being offered as auxiliary and value-added programmes, but not as full-fledged ones.

Making the best use of technology
Today, technology has emerged to be the most impactful curator of our lives and ICT advancements have changed our learning habits forever. Following the trend, most of the universities are utilising online teaching and E-learning or virtual learning methods to make distance education more agile and powerful. Students can access their study material from anywhere in the world by creating their personal account up on submission of their registration number. The web-based learning is easier than book-based learning. These new applications are changing the ecosystem of distance mode education in unprecedented manner.

IGNOU - The Premier of Distance Education
Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has been the prime mover of Indian distance education in India. This university is offering a good number of UG, PG, PG Diploma and research programmes in distance mode and has 30 lakh students in India and abroad. The university has been a pioneer in introducing market-oriented programmes as per the expectations of fast changing market needs. The university consults and collaborates with industry players to introduce new programmes.

IGNOU has also been pioneer in introducing new learning methodologies such as audio-visual material, teleconferences, practicals and project work. It’s highly diversified list of the university 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 and Diploma in Critical Care Nursing, among others. the State
Today several universities are offering distance mode programmes in two Telugu-speaking states, ranging from certificate to postgraduate degrees. It all started with Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University (BRAOU), which started offering distance education programmes on a massive scale since 1982. ‘Education to Your Door Step’, the slogan of BRAOU, clearly exemplifies the mission this university undertook. With its vast network of study centres and advanced study material, BRAOU has been playing the leader 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 several others.

Ever growing demand
Distance education is the only way through which one can earn his higher educational qualifications without attending the college or university regularly. Its eligibility criteria such as entry qualifications, fee, study material and exams are accessible to common people. This is the major factor that is driving demand for distance education. For example, one can enroll him/herself in a programme of IGNOU in Hyderabad and can sit for its exams in Mumbai. If need be, the same enrollment would be shifted to Mumbai.

Distance education is primarily student-centric. The teaching material, availability of study centres and all other aspects would be designed around student needs. Services such as introduction of self-instruction material, audio-video programmes, interactive radio counselling and web conferences only confirm the student-centeredness of distance education. The study materials offered by distance universities are generally prepared by experts of highest level and are brought by non-students as well. This is another distinguishing factor that attracts students to distance mode programmes.

IGNOU Programmes
IGNOU is presently serving 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.

Following are some of the reputed programmes of IGNOU –
MCA, MA programmes in Rural Development, Tourism and Management, English, Hindi, Philosophy, Gandhian and Peace Studies, Extension and Development Studies, Education, Anthropology, Social Work, Gender and Development Studies, Economics, History, Political Science, Psychology, Adult Education, M.Com., M.L.I.Sc., M.Sc. in Dietetics and Food Services Management and M.Sc. in Counselling and Family Therapy.

In tune with job market
IGNOU is introducing new programmes according to the market trends. These programmes are equipping students with job-oriented skills. For example, programmes in Urban Planning and Development, Geo-informatics, Social Work (Counselling) are offering state-of-the-art skills to students. Now, companies are after skill and talent, not the qualification. This understanding motivates us to come up with new programmes every year. IGNOU also pioneer in making use of technology. Our Open Educational Resources (OER) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are examples of our technological engagement.
Dr. P.V.K. Sasidhar, Associate Professor, School of Extension and Development Studies, IGNOU, New Delhi.
Published date : 08 Oct 2014 02:29PM

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