Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and the Kerala State IT Mission have joined hands to offer distance learning courses through Akshaya e-Kendras.
Come 2009 and the 3,000 plus Akshaya e-Kendras in the State will start offering a clutch of distance learning courses designed by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). A Memorandum of Understanding for this venture was signed by the Kerala State IT Mission and IGNOU at Thiruvananthapuram on November 1.
To begin with, seven IGNOU courses would be offered at the special study centres—Computer Literacy Programme (one month), Certificate in Computing (six months to two years), Bachelor of Computer Application (three to six years), Bachelor Preparatory Programme (six months to two years), Diploma in Creative Writing in English (one to four years), Certificate in Tourism Studies (six months to two years) and Certificate in Business Skills (six months to two years). While the open university will provide the necessary academic inputs, the Akshaya kendras should provide the infrastructural facilities and arrange for adequate numbers of teachers as per IGNOU’s norms.
IGNOU Vice-Chancellor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai in an exclusive interaction with The Hindu EducatonPlus after the MoU was signed said this joint venture would dovetail the academic versatility of his university with the e-reach of Akshaya centres. This joint venture is also part of the university’s thrust in providing “contextualised education” for people, particularly those in remote areas of the country.
“We will begin by offering our pre-designed programmes. These will later be re-designed and contextualised based on the feedback we receive from the participants in the programme,” he explained.
Prior to the launch of the programme and afterwards, the Akshaya centres will undertake surveys to find out the precise academic requirements of people in a particular area. In order that contextualisation becomes effective, studies will be done on the profile of the community which will use IGNOU’s courses.
“There can be large variations across communities, even in a place like Kerala. Ultimately it is the community that will decide what it wants. It is happening in the case of our community radio programmes. We have one such programme in a place near Coimbatore. In that 15-km radius the radio offers programmes on local art, local business and so on. The content creation is done by the community itself.”
According to Mr. Pillai, the content of the academic programmes that IGNOU seeks to provide through Akshaya centres is not at all new. All this is available across the world in a high-end form. What the special study centres will offer are contextualised modules. “For example, if there is going to be a module on business strategy, it will not be about a lecturer giving out a lecture. The module will feature an academic expert but more importantly will also feature a local success story, interviews with entrepreneurs and so on. That is where the impact of this programme lies,” he said. The contextualisation, though, will take place within the broad framework put in place for a programme by IGNOU.
A latent advantage of the IGNOU-Akshaya venture is that people with prior academic, practical knowledge but with no certification can now get that vital certification done by IGNOU. For instance, if a school-drop out wishes to get a certification which will enable him to go on to do an academic programme in a university all he has to do is to sign up for the ‘Bachelor Preparatory Programme’ (BPP). No formal qualification is necessary for this programme that can last from six months to two years. The participant should, however, be aged 18 or above. The fee for this programme is only Rs.700.
The BPP will also act as a base certification for a person wishing to do the ‘Certificate in Computing’ which, otherwise requires a participant to clear the Plus Two examinations. “Even this bridge programme is not a universalised course. It is highly contextualised so that it targets the precise knowledge, skill gap that a person or a community might have,” Mr. Pillai pointed out.
Over the past two years IGNOU has developed about 50 programmes with 15 to 20 contextualised modules per programme based on feedback from communities that sign up for the university’s courses. In Kerala, the special study centres will be operated on a cost-sharing ratio of 30:70 between IGNOU and the IT Mission and the entire programme will be monitored by a Joint Coordination Committee.