The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is actively promoting convergence between the conventional university system and the open- and distance-learning (ODL) system. It is being done through enhanced and optimal utilisation of the physical facilities and intellectual and knowledge resources available in various colleges.

IGNOU’s ambitious plan is to have a flexible convergence system by clustering institutions and encouraging maximum use of existing resources. Credit transfer and mutual recognition of programmes both in the ODL and conventional systems are some of the steps being initiated to achieve the target.

Vice-Chancellor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai elaborates: “Latest technological aids and support through satellite-based education are also being used to address the areas of convergence of educational systems and enhance flexible and blended learning. Internationally, ODL and technology-enabled distance education is gaining acceptance for mass higher education in the areas of liberal arts, humanities, social sciences, languages, literature, mathematics, statistics, teacher education, commerce, computer and information sciences, management sciences and, to a considerable extent, even in basic experimental sciences.”

Prof. Pillai said that enhancing access through conventional expansion required doubling of the physical facilities and human resources in higher education institutions and that was rather difficult to realise. “To partially overcome these constraints, a synergy of ODL and conventional systems is the proposed viable alternative. The objective of the scheme is to achieve the projected targets related to access and equity in higher education during the 11th Plan. A convergence between the conventional university system and the ODL system in colleges is an integral part of this scheme,” he said.

Collaboration

IGNOU will collaborate with all universities coming under the purview of sections 2f or 3 of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act. It will initiate joint programmes with colleges having potential for excellence. The university will collaborate with autonomous colleges and affiliated colleges. Professional colleges that are recognised by their respective statutory councils will be included.Collaborating institutions will have the opportunity to offer enhanced access programmes. Prof. Pillai said that institutions could offer undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of IGNOU. “The scheme provides for a combination of use of printed self-learning course material and face-to-face academic counselling enabled by technology. Institutions will be provided all the printed course materials, multimedia materials and technological support,” he said.

An additional two to four hours daily (between 4.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. or an hour in the morning and two to three hours in the evening) and six to eight hours during the weekends suiting the convenience of the colleges will be a viable proposition for holding contact sessions. Teachers from the college can be involved in the teaching and coordination of the activities when such sessions are held in the colleges.

Undergraduate and postgraduate students of the colleges concerned and adjoining institutions can enrol for certificate and diploma programmes of IGNOU as a value-added programme. The mode of programme transaction may be either face-to-face or ODL.

If an institution opts for face-to-face mode, the entire course material (print and audio-video) will be provided by IGNOU. If an institution opts to host the programmes through ODL, then, IGNOU will provide the course material and the faculty will be oriented to offer the curriculum.

Dual courses

Regular students enrolled in colleges through the conventional system may simultaneously enrol for a degree of the same level in IGNOU. In such cases, credit transfer will be given due consideration through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between IGNOU and the university concerned. Institutions that wish to enter initially into this MoU will offer IGNOU syllabus through ODL/face-to-face teaching. Some new programmes leading to a joint degree between two universities will be mutually identified by IGNOU.

G. KRISHNAKUMAR