Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in India

About Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in India

Due to the changing economy in India, an economy that is becoming much more specialized and technology-based, an increasing number of career fields now require employees to hold a university degree or technical diploma.  As a result, the demand for higher education has been increasing at a rate that is faster than the current university system can accommodate it.  Under these circumstances, distance education using online technologies has become increasingly popular as a means for providing university access to all who seek it.  Today almost every higher education institution in India, including full universities, “deemed universities,” private institutions and state-sponsored colleges and universities, have begun offering distance learning programs for its students, with courses leading to both undergraduate and graduate-level degrees in almost every major academic field.  It is estimated that at least half of all students enrolled in the country’s higher learning institutions now take at least a portion of their coursework online.
Distance Education in India:  Yesterday and Today
Distance education in India can be traced back to the mid 1980s, specifically 1985 when India’s parliament passed the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) Act.  In essence, this Act gave the University Grants Commission (UGC), India’s supervisory board for higher education, the authority and responsibility to create and maintain an Open University program.  The prime objectives of this Open University program, as stated by the UGC, are:
  • To provide opportunities for higher education to a larger segment of the population, particularly disadvantaged groups living in remote and rural areas, working adults and housewives.
  • To encourage Open University and Distance Education Systems in the educational pattern of the country and to coordinate and determine the standards in such systems.
Naturally, in the early stages of this program the available technologies in India were quite limited, so distance education in most parts of the country was conducted with the use of printed course materials sent through the post.  However, as the Internet became more widespread and widely available in India, particularly in the major cities where the majority of the Indian people reside, the UGC adapted these printed materials into a cohesive online format.  Today over 90 percent of the coursework in India’s distance education program is sent and received electronically.  These technologies, which include email, video conferencing, instant messaging and virtual classrooms, have also made it easier for students and faculty to communicate with each other from a distance, which effectively enhances the overall educational experience.
While the collective distance education programs in India have increased access, boosted university enrollment and improved the higher education system significantly, the country still faces major challenges in terms of educational delivery.  According to UNICEF, of the Indian population that are currently living in remote and rural areas, of which there are millions, only about 4 in 100 currently have Internet access.  Moreover, countrywide only a small percentage of India’s population, less than 5 in 100 people, currently seek higher education opportunities, despite the increased access available through distance education.

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