Millions of people from different sections of society regardless of caste, community or age factor are completing their higher education which is helping them better their career options and this has been possible only because of distance education. Most of the universities are offering all types of courses through distance mode while some are even offering lateral entry to many of the courses.
Distance education has played an important role in shaping the personal development of students who are not able to attend their regular colleges. Since its inception in early 80s, the demand for distance education has been increasing with time. The distance education system has evolved from print based materials to delivery mechanism involving various technologies in past three decades.
This non-traditional education delivery system in which the student and instructor are separated by time and place is slowly gaining preference over the traditional education system. It has come as blessings for the students who are not able to attend regular colleges and universities because of some or the other reason. Its courses and degree programmes have helped students to develop their dynamic personalities for themselves by providing opportunities to engage in multiple activities.
Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is the leading institution of distance education in India with a student base of more than 1.5 million, most of them coming from under privileged sections of the society.
V N Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice Chancellor, IGNOU, said, “Distance education is the only way in providing competency advancement of various professions. About 80 per cent of people who are studying under distance education all over the world are those who are working. Work integrated learning and professional competency advancement of workers are possible only through distance education.”
Presently, there are around 11 open universities and 54 distance learning institutes in India that provide distance education offering various courses including professional ones catering to the higher education sector.
“There are many bright graduates who want to study further while working and this has been made possible through distance education. We have been successful in providing education to less advantaged section of the society like jail inmates, agricultural workers, SC/ST and the key to their education is that they are completing their education even without going to the conventional universities,” V N Rajasekharan Pillai further said.
Distance education has seen tremendous growth because of several reasons like admissions in regular university courses have become competitive due to limited number of seats available in particular professional courses. It also provides quality education at affordable prices and students can pursue education even while working.
Sahil Sharma, a student of IGNOU, said, “Distance education has really helped in completing my higher education. I did my graduation from Delhi University and then I got job; after two years, I thought of completing my post graduation without quitting my job and it has really worked.”
Although, there is a general misconception of associating distance learning with online education, while all online degree programmes can be termed as distance learning courses, it is hard to call distance learning courses as online courses. A variety of technologies are used as delivery systems to facilitate this learning. Print materials, broadcast radio, broadcast television, computer conferencing, electronic mail, interactive video, satellite telecommunications and multimedia computer technology are all used to promote student-teacher interaction and provide necessary feedback to the learner at a distance.
S K Singh, Vice Chancellor, Madhya Pradesh Bhoj (Open) University, speaking to India Education Review, said, “Distance education is meant for people from under privileged section of the society or for the people who are working somewhere as they cannot go to the conventional colleges and they are the most benefitted lot. The fee structure is also very less along with study material and counselling. My university is providing a lot of facility to the under privileged society and there is a huge scope for distance education in developing countries like India.”
Distance education provides a wide range of degree and certificate programmes like management, arts, media, mass communication, information technology, commerce, accounting, law, business, finance, marketing, etc. Many of the open universities also provide PhD at the doctorate level.
Though, many universities have started open learning courses but there are also some private open learning institutions which are offering degrees without having any concern about the knowledge gained by the student.
“We need to have more centres, the existing universities should start distance education programme but quality and standard is the real issue because many private institutions have come up which are just registering students in the name of distance education and even award degree but the students do not learn anything and this is not distance education,” said V N Rajasekharan Pillai.
by Abhay Anand