Students of IGNOU can now look forward to downloading their study course contents and get SMS alerts through mobiles.

India’s largest university will ink a pact with telecom major Ericsson on Thursday to provide facilities supported by 3G Mobile services in Open and Distance education.

“IGNOU is open to latest technologies that can be used to reach maximum students. We specifically target rural students who cannot always have a one-to-one meeting with teachers to clear their doubts among other things,” IGNOU Vice-Chancellor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai said.

“A certificate course in IT, covering 5,000 students, will be held as the pilot project in which the 3G service will be utilised. Based on its success we will then chart out courses and contents,” IGNOU VC K.R. Srivasthan, who conceived the idea, said.

Under the programme, mobile service provider Ericsson, which has a network practically covering the entire north-east, will help students access parts of the course web pages, download files like assignments and video clips.

“The service will be available in any mobile handsets having a 3G service,” Goton Achaibar, president and country head of Ericsson India, said in reply to a query.

The 3G technology helps a learner stream through video, audio and selective Internet browsing.

The total investment in rolling out the project will be worked out on the basis of the pilot project.

“Each student may have to shell out an additional around Rs. 25 to the service charges they are paying now. Also the government should give concession to those who cannot afford it. More students using the facility means less cost per head,” Mr. Pillai said.

When asked whether students especially in rural areas can afford handsets with 3G service, Mr. Srivasthan said, “Our aim is to create a 3G technology platform. So the student can go to the nearest Internet or link and make use of the facility.”

“Techniques like web-mentoring and web-procuring will help students to have not only a two-way audio and video interactives, but also access a delivery of classroom discussion or a seminar.”

Ericsson India Chief Achaibar said the rollout process (after the pilot project) is relatively easy in India as it has established network providers (BSNL, MTNL), and a large per cent of mobile users besides technology.

“Seven hundred million people in India are outside metro areas. But we are encouraged with the success of 2G which has 400 million customers. Also two-third of its population are mobile users,” he said.

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