Merging classroom and distance learning
IGNOU has been promoting a convergence between the conventional university and ODL systems. G. KRISHNAKUMAR makes an appraisal.
No barriers: The IGNOU plan for a synergy between conventional and distance learning systems will enhance educational access.
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.
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.
Value-added programmes will be offered under the convergence scheme. 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. The college will transact the curriculum and examinations will be conducted as per the university schedule. 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.
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. Faculty will be trained to conduct contact sessions, conduct assignments and tests.
Some new programmes leading to a joint degree between two universities will be mutually identified by IGNOU. The programmes will be jointly formulated and IGNOU will supplement the face-to-face instruction of the conventional university with ODL component. Technology and multimedia support will be provided by IGNOU. Evaluation and examination will be handled as per the IGNOU pattern.
The university will provide the expenditure towards transacting the programmes. It will also provide capacity-building training programmes to teachers in the use of information and communication technology as a pedagogical tool. The college will provide adequate furniture, classrooms, library facilities and computers to supplement IGNOU’s assistance.
For colleges opting to conduct certificate/diploma programmes of IGNOU through the face-to-face mode, students will be enrolled from the respective college and adjoining institutions.
The college will be required to maintain an attendance register for all candidates enrolled. For all certificate and diploma programmes, a walk-in policy of admissions will be adopted for enrolling students round the year .
One of the senior faculty members with high motivation and dedication will be appointed coordinator for all the programmes offered by the college through the convergence scheme. He or she will be responsible for maintaining coordination between the various programmes in-charge/faculties to ensure effective implementation of the scheme.
Dr. Pillai said the faculty for various modules could be drawn from within the college.
The service of retired faculty members from university or postgraduate departments of colleges could also be taken for the implementation of the scheme. For programmes offered through the face-to-face mode, classes will be organised at different times. The timetable of the classes should be announced in the beginning of the session, he said.
Students will be encouraged to form study groups wherever possible.
Audiovisual and multimedia materials of IGNOU will be used to supplement the process of teaching and learning.
Pointing out that the university has one of the largest repositories of educational materials in multimedia format, Prof. Pillai said that teleconferencing, videoconferencing and other technological facilities would be provided or arranged through the regional centres of IGNOU across the country.
According to IGNOU, the targeted gross enrolment ratio (GER) of the 16-21 age group in higher education during the 11th Plan is 20, about double that of today.
“We believe that open and distance learning is a tool for education — it does not have to be utilised only by the open university system,” Prof. Pillai said.
IGNOU is also looking at a mixed model that links face-to-face learning and distance-learning systems. This is the state-of-the-art open system of education in the world now. It is also looking at how virtual laboratories can be created for a practical mode of teaching. This is when convergence will occur and form the background of the joint activity of the AICTE, the UGC and the ODL. The university will continue to hold discussions on the nature of convergence of conventional and distance modes of education; areas in which convergence is needed; strategies to be adopted towards desirable, effective, viable and cost-effective convergence; and possible outcomes of convergence and utilisation by various stakeholders.