Distance education in universities in Kerala faces an uncertain test

Distance education prospects remain hazy in the State this year with the University of Kerala facing an uphill challenge of obtaining University Grants Commission (UGC) approval and publishing the necessary study materials in a short span of time.

While the Sree Narayana Guru Open University (SNGOU) had earlier expressed doubts in launching their open and distance learning (ODL) programmes this year, Calicut University is also yet to receive the UGC nod.

Nonetheless, both Kerala and Calicut universities had expressed their interest in conducting distance education programmes at a meeting of Vice Chancellors convened by Higher Education Minister R. Bindu recently.

Kerala University had obtained regular recognition from the UGC’s Distance Education Bureau for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years. On account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university had received an extension in 2020-21. The university had applied for recognition of its 26 programmes for the current academic year (2021-22) in October last and has been awaiting approval, Director of the university’s School of Distance Education (SDE) R. Vasanthagopal, said.

The SDE, which offered 26 undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, admit nearly 12,000 students on an average every year. Considering there are five papers in the first semester, around 50,000 copies of study materials used to be published from the Kerala University Press for the batch alone.

Printing ceased

However, the university ceased to print such materials last year after the government had passed legislation to bring distance learning courses under the SNGOU.

Official sources point out that the press will have to dedicate at least three months entirely to print the SDE materials. This poses a risk of its other activities going off track.

Besides, the syllabi are in dire need of revision. While the university is supposed to revise course content prior to the previous academic year, it has decided to persist with the existing one after being prompted by the government to launch admission process at short notice. At least 40% of the syllabi of SDE courses have to be ideally updated, an official says. This, however, appears unlikely this year too given the lack of preparation time.

Any delay in overcoming such hurdles could jeopardise the career prospects of nearly 1 lakh students who have set their sights on enrolling for ODL programmes in the State.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 8:01:14 PM |

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