In the new developing economies interest in distance education and in particular, in online distance education, is increasing. (Daniels, J, West P. 2006). In India, this trend is evident in the proliferation of foreign and domestic institutions, public and private, becoming the new “providers” of online digitally delivered education. This proliferation should not be surprising given that India is a country rushing to develop educated human resources to meet the needs of a rapidly growing economy in every sector. Broad access to high quality education is a high priority to meet the needs of a knowledge-driven society.
A key goal for open and distance education is to extend higher education to non-traditional learners, specifically those who are at a disadvantage in the conventional system with respect to age, gender, geography, social and economic background. Adopting an open, flexible and relatively inexpensive approach is one strategy for meeting this goal. In many cases this type of open and flexible program could be the only university or higher education that some people may get. However the current formal system simply does not have the physical infrastructure or the human resources to meet this demand vector in terms of scale or quality.
In India, several initiatives, notably the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and EDUSA have been launched in recent years, but their impact is stymied due to many factors. These factors include a dearth of quality educational content and applications, lack of a robust infrastructure for delivery, a lack of appropriate organizational arrangements as well as inadequate educational tools and practices.
Distance education is also largely perceived as second-class education, for school leavers alone but not for mainstream education. Distance education is seen essentially seen as a delivery mode and not a whole educational process/platform. Consequently many of the inadequacies of traditional educational practices — rote dependency, no interactivity, lack of experiential learning opportunities — are merely carried over to this mode of delivery.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Edusat: The first exclusive satellite for serving the educational sector in India. Edusat is a collaborative project of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO,) the Union ministry of human resource development, state departments of education and the Indira Gandhi National Open University in response to the growing demand for an interactive satellite based distance education system The satellite has multiple regional beams covering different parts of India -- five Ku-band transponders with spot beams covering northern, north-eastern, eastern, southern and western regions of the country, a Ku-band transponder with its footprint covering the Indian mainland region and six C-band transponders with their footprints covering the entire country.
OCW Consortium: The Open Courseware Consortium is a collaboration of more than 150 higher education institutions and associated organizations from around the world creating a broad and deep body of open educational content using a shared model. The mission of the OpenCourseWare Consortium is to advance education and empower people worldwide through Opencourseware.
MIT OCW: MIT OpenCourseware (OCW)) OCW is a free publication of course materials from all of MIT’ s courses on the Web. Since the project’s launch OCW has published free lecture notes, exams, and other resources from more than 1800 courses spanning MIT’s entire curriculum.
NPTEL: The National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), a Joint Venture by seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and funded by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India to enhance the quality of engineering education in the country by developing curriculum based video and web courses. In the first phase of this a collaborative project, supplementary content for 129 web courses in engineering/science and humanities have been developed. Each course contains materials that can be covered in depth in 40 or more lecture hours. In addition, 110 courses have been developed in video format, with each course comprising of approximately 40 or more one-hour lectures. In the next phase other premier institutions are also likely to participate in content creation. Presently, there are 14 open universities and about 130 distance education institutions (DEIs) of conventional universities in operation. There is perceived confusion, unevenness and disparities in the structure and quality of programs from these institutions.
IGNOU: The Indira Gandhi National Open University was established in 1985 by an act of Parliament (IGNOU Act, 1985) as the first national university to impart open and distance education and also the nodal agency to coordinate, encourage and set standards for the same. Its degrees are recognized to be at par with other universities by the UGC (as of 1992). In addition, IGNOU also allocates and disburses funds for open universities and distance education systems in India through the Distance Education Council (DEC).