The Indira Gandhi National Open University has embarked on a wide range of projects that would help provide seamless access to quality education across the country. A look at the various projects being implemented by the university.

Flexibility and innovation seems to be the driving mantra for the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in its silver jubilee year. The university has embarked on a wide range of programmes to provide seamless access to sustainable and learner centric quality education across the country.

Flexi Learn, IGNOU's open course portal (www.ignouflexilearn.ac.in) is one among the key new projects aimed at stepping up training and capacity building across the country and abroad by making use of innovative technologies in distance education, open learning and online teaching learning methodologies.

An extension of the university's popular e-GyanKosh (a repository of learning resources), the Flexi Learn platform will facilitate informed learning wherein anyone can register and explore courses free of cost to gain knowledge and skill in a particular area of interest.

Explaining that e-GyanKosh includes digitised and uploaded storage of over 95 per cent of the IGNOU's self-instructional print material, Vice Chancellor V. N. Rajasekharan Pillai told The Hindu-EducationPlus that about 40,000 self-instructional print materials and over 1,600 videos are available in the repository.

Under the project, certification of courses will be based on payment of the requisite fees. Flexi Learn platform will provide an alternative way of awarding degrees and diplomas. It offers courses in a complete open and flexible environment, Prof. Pillai said.

Any visitor to the Flexi Learn site has the option to register for any particular course of a full length academic programme. A modular approach is followed wherein a registered learner can combine course credits to obtain a diploma or degree of their own choice.

The platform provides a self-learning environment with a list of academic advisors/course guides who will act as mentors. The personal learning environment will have interactive tools like discussion board, blogs, wikis, podcasting and RSS feeds.

Stating that each course has option for both online assessment as well as an offline one as per the choice of the learner, Prof. Pillai said that the final exam will be in a proctored environment. The evaluation will be at three levels—diagnostic (where prior knowledge testing is required), formative and summative—and will be designed by the faculty based on the course requirement, he said.

Various modes of evaluation may be adopted including objective, short essay type, term paper, course projects and practical activities. A complete tracking mechanism is integrated in the platform through the e-portfolios of individual learners.

The e-portfolio will keep a formal record of all formal and informal studies carried out by the registered learner. Certification of the course will be based on stipulated time spent on course (for a credit a minimum of 45 days) and completion of all learning activities identified by the faculty.

The Flexi Learn platform provides an opportunity for prospective learners to sample a course before enrolling and also help them in choosing courses and programmes of study. Course-wise registration facilitates offer topic-specific continuing education programmes especially in skill-based professional areas. A flexible framework is provided through this model for Schools of Studies to identify and combine different courses already available for offering new tailor-made and need-based programmes.

He said that open courses will help students to explore career opportunities, give them confidence before returning to school, improve on retention once they are enrolled, make degrees cost effective, spur alternative ways of awarding credit and guarantee standards throughout.

IGNOU has also come up with its knowledge modules series aimed at enhancing the professional qualifications of candidates applying for various programmes. The aim of the project is to offer academic programmes in select areas utilising the advantages of science and technology.

Latha Pillai, Pro Vice Chancellor (who is the overall coordinator of the programme), told The Hindu-EducationPlus that the first knowledge module will be offered in the area of higher education. Called knowledge modules for higher education management, the idea is to provide learning and capacity building for higher education professional managers with the skills necessary to be successful in the new working ethos, Ms. Pillai said.

The key objective of the knowledge module in higher education management is to provide an overview of the evolution and growth of the country's higher education from a historical perspective. The programme will help candidates to understand several curricular models and issues involved in curriculum making and transaction.

Ms. Pillai said that the knowledge module series in higher education is targeting the academics and others who are already in some managerial/leadership positions in higher education institutions. However, it does not exclude those who are interested in pursuing this programme, as part of their academic interests.

Eight modules have been conceptualised for the new programme in higher education management that include higher education: an overview; management of teaching, research and collaboration; technology and change management; governance and leadership in higher education; resource management; curriculum management; management of student support services; and quality assurance and management in higher education.

Present modules will earn the learner six credits per module. When a student completes four modules, an opportunity to obtain post-graduate diploma through the submission of project work (six credits) exists. On successful completion of 30 credits, the learner can earn a postgraduate diploma in higher education management. When all the eight modules along with a dissertation work of 12 credits are over, the learner is eligible to obtain MBA in Higher Education Management.