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Striding towards seamless learning

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TAPPING ALL RESOURCES: IGNOU is planning to bring about convergence between traditional teaching and distance-learning streams.
TAPPING ALL RESOURCES: IGNOU is planning to bring about convergence between traditional teaching and distance-learning streams.

IGNOU and the Distance Education Council are aiming for the convergence of the traditional teaching method and the distance-learning system, to help both rise above their distinct limitations and enable the country to achieve the targets set for higher education in the Eleventh Plan, writes G. MAHADEVAN.

The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and the Distance Education Council (DEC) have put in place a plan for convergence of the traditional teaching mode in regular universities and the open- and distance- learning system in the country and bringing about optimal utilisation of physical facilities and knowledge resources in colleges. The plan also aims to enable the higher education sector to meet the targets relating to access and equity set for the Eleventh Plan.The 10-point plan, okayed by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, envisages collaboration between IGNOU, State open universities and education institutes of dual-mode universities with select colleges, including autonomous institutions, for offering courses in high demand in the open- and distance-learning stream. The draft proposal, a copy of which is available with The Hindu Education Plus, says the collaboration will involve preparation of self-instructional material for the courses, digitisation of learning resources, technological "hand-holding" for delivery of the courses, training of teachers in colleges in discipline-based information-technology pedagogy for improving the quality of learning and providing an orientation for teachers in the science and technology of open and distance learning. The draft proposal says that 25 per cent of the affiliated colleges in each university can be identified in the first instance for the collaboration. The facilities of IGNOU centres, any open university or the distance education initiatives of the conventional university in the vicinity of the selected college(s) will be equipped appropriately to provide the collaborative arrangements. If there are no such centres now, new ones will be created. Creating a hub at this nodal centre, EduSat facilities will be made available to the clustering colleges under this collaborative local network. The nodal centre will be located in an affiliated college or in any technological institution which has the infrastructure and capability to provide such facilities, the draft proposal says.

More intake

If a college wants to have additional intake of students, there will be the option of offering the degree of its parent university, a joint degree with IGNOU or even giving a degree of the latter. Once a college signs up for such a venture, IGNOU will provide its self-instructional material, both the printed and digital versions, to the respective institution. Such colleges may initially enrol twice their present student strength for courses in the distance mode. The students will enrol with the particular college and courses will be offered through a combination of face-to-face and distance modes. The examination and evaluation procedures for such students will be either similar or even the same as that for regular students. The draft proposal points out that the colleges can think of a flexible admission policy for admitting students into the distance-education programme and consider setting aside four hours a day (4.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. or an hour in the morning and three hours in the afternoon) on working days and 10 hours during the weekends for such programmes. Suitable compensation will be paid as rental and establishment charges to the college for the extra provision of the facilities, IGNOU promises. Moreover, the teachers from the college (about 50 per cent) who will be involved in teaching and coordination of the programme will be paid honorarium.

Advantages

The draft proposal lists the following advantages that such a joint venture with IGNOU entails:The regular students in the conventional system can take additional courses online to cover more areas of study in their discipline to enhance the value of the degree or undergo some add-on vocational courses.The students of the conventional system can simultaneously enrol for same courses (as part of the curriculum) through conventional and open- and distance-learning systems to improve their learning skills and get a better quality degree. This is particularly useful in the case of below-average and average students (in terms of learning skills).Most often, language courses and other vocational courses are not offered as part of the curriculum in conventional colleges. Offering these courses also may fill the gaps in communication, vocational and other job skills.Removes apprehensions that one system is less than the other in terms of quality of programmes and degrees.Provides scope for credit transfer and mutual recognition of degrees

Plan target

IGNOU Vice-Chancellor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, in an interaction with The Hindu Education Plus, pointed out that the targeted gross enrolment ratio (GER) of the 16 to 21 age group for higher education during the Eleventh Plan is 20, almost double the present ratio. "By conventional expansion, this requires doubling of the physical facilities and human resources in higher education institutions, which is rather difficult to realise. All over the world, open and distance learning and technology-enabled distance education are 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," he says. The present programme stemmed from the following questions that leaders in the open- and distance-learning stream asked themselves. How can the idling time of the physical facilities, such as class rooms, laboratories, libraries and computer centres, be more effectively and optimally used, by making use of a combination of face-to-face and distance education approaches? How can the capabilities and service of a large number of qualified teachers in affiliated colleges be additionally (overtime) used for enhancing the quantity of education delivery by involving them pro-actively and giving them required information and communication technology (ICT) capacity-building? How can the ICT infrastructure of the technological institutions coming under the All-India Council of Technical Education, autonomous colleges and colleges with potential for excellence under the University Grants Commission, IIITs and private, credible information-technology institutions be made use of in a clustering approach to enhance the capabilities of middle-level and average-quality colleges for enhanced quality and education delivery?' Dr. Pillai says the facts that IGNOU has the largest repository of highest quality self-instructional learning material in the world and the internationally recognised Staff Training and Research Institute in Distance Education (STRIDE) and National Centre for Innovations in Distance Education (NCIDE), in addition to the several schools and centres, it would provide a good launching pad for demand-driven and socially inclusive convergence of modern technology with traditional learning practices.

Kerala's role

"A State like Kerala should come forward to take advantage of such a scheme. For instance, good colleges in the State can think of providing finishing courses in ICT or IT through the open- and distance-learning route. Again, if a university has a good economics syllabus, we can convert that material into self-instructional material so that the course can be offered in a multi-media mode. We are talking to all vice-chancellors in the country on this matter," Dr. Pillai said. IGNOU and DEC will implement the scheme involving State higher education departments, universities and principals of autonomous colleges, colleges with potential for excellence and special assistance departments, he adds.


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