What is distance education?
Distance education or distance learning is a type of education, that focuses on the pedagogy, technology, and instructional systems design, that is effectively incorporated in educating students who are not physically present on site at the classroom. Instead, teachers and students communicate asynchronously, by exchanging printed or electronic media, or through technology that allows them to communicate in real time, synchronously. Distance education courses that require a physical on-site presence for any reason, including the taking of examinations, are considered to be a hybrid or blended course or program.
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Need and Importance of Distance Education in India
Distance Education in India is getting overwhelming response. What was once considered a ridiculous mode of learning, is now gaining popularity across India. Following is the importance of distance education in India:
- Rapid growth of education: With advancement in education and technology, it is very difficult to implement new changes through formal education.
- Population: The immense growth rate of population has reduced the possibilities of formal education to educate a wide range of students.
- Geographical limitations: Students living in places that are geographically isolated from the nearby educational centers, find it difficult to get formal education. Distance learning would be a great platform for these students.
- Qualification improvement: Many aspirant students cannot afford to quit current jobs for higher studies. Distance learning enhances educational qualification of these students, while being in their current jobs.
- Desire to work and study: If you are good enough to learn while you earn, then you must consider enhancing your skill set through opting for a distance learning course.
- Education for all ages: Unlike formal education, distance education does not have an age barrier. Students of any age can enroll for distance learning.
- Financial Circumstances: Distance learning is gaining popularity across India, as it is a much cheaper option when compared to formal learning. Not everyone in India can afford formal learning courses like MBA and other masters’ courses. Most students opt for distance learning owing to shortage of money
- Fast tracking Promotion: You can fast track your promotion with the help of distance learning. Gain the required knowledge and skills to fast track promotion.
- Flexibility factor: Flexible education is in demand and distance learning offers this. You can choose your date and time to take up tests and exams.
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Importance Of Distance Education In India
Reasons why Distance Education is Popular
With versatility and flexibility, distance education is very popular these days. Following are the major reasons why distance education is popular:
- Location is no longer an issue: If you are working, or if there are other reasons that do not allow attending college, then distance education is suitable. If there are no nearby institutions that offer the course that you are looking for, you can still do it, but through informal modes like distance learning from any university/college offering the course. Consider this example: colleges in Tamil Nadu are not offering a course XYZ, and if a college ABC in Karnataka is offering the course, but due to various circumstances you cannot leave Tamil Nadu, then you can still do the course by staying in Tamil Nadu, by enrolling under distance education of college ABC in Karnataka.
- Flexibility: Distance learning offers high flexibility. You don’t have to be physically present in the classroom. You don’t have to be on par with the learning pace of other students. You can learn at your own pace. The distance learning courses are structured such that you can still be dedicated to your work and commitments and attend classes and exams at your convenience.
- Choose from a wide range of colleges and courses: As mentioned earlier, location is not a constraint. You can choose any course and college for distance learning. More options mean that you can choose the best course and college.
- Getting admission is easy: Most distance learning courses offer online enrolment. You don’t have to physically visit the college/university campus for admission. This saves time and the process of online enrolment is very easy to follow.
- Good support throughout the course: Distance learning does not mean that support provided is nil. You can reach out to the college/university for any clarification through email, video chat and many other virtual media.
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5 things to know about distance education in India
- There is only one National Open University that offers distance education in India. That is Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).
- There are 140+ dual mode universities that offer distance learning courses.
- All distance learning programs must be approved by the Distance Education Bureau (DEB) of the University Grants Commission (UGC.) You can check the list of ODLs (Online and Distant Learning Institutes) that are approved by the DEB.
- Distance learning has evolved immensely over the last two decades. With great advancement in technology, distance learning now includes online learning or e-learning. A traditional open university like IGNOU now offers a host of online programmes and you must be aware of this.
- Two degrees cannot be pursued simultaneously in formal education system. But, students can pursue two programmes simultaneously through the distance learning mode or combination of distance and regular modes from the same or different universities/institutions in the following combinations:
- One Degree and one Diploma/PG
- One PG Diploma and one Diploma/Certificate
- One Diploma and one Certificate
- Two PG Diplomas
- Two Diplomas
- Two Certificates
Top 5 Distance Education Universities in India:
- Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU): The Indira Gandhi National Open University was founded in 1985. IGNOU is the largest and most popular distance learning university in India. IGNOU has its headquarters in New Delhi, the capital city of India.
- Annamalai University: The Annamalai University was founded in the year 1979. It is located in Annamalai Nagar, Tamil Nadu. It has also the unique distinction of offering first in India, Postgraduate Degree Programmes in Applied Psychology, Physics, Chemistry, Zoology, Botany, Bioinformatics and Law through Distance Education mode.
- The Sikkim Manipal University: The Sikkim Manipal University of Health, Medical and Technological Sciences, is headquartered in Gangtok, Sikkim. It was founded in 2001.
- Symbiosis Centre for Distance Learning (SCDL): Symbiosis Centre for Distance Learning (SCDL) was founded in 2001. SCDL has a reputation of providing quality education. Student strength of SCDL crossed one Lakh across 48 countries including India, US, UK, Middle East, Russia, Germany, Singapore and Japan, making it one of the few largest and most sought after distance learning institutes in India.
- Punjab Technical University (PTU): Punjab Technical University is a state university established in 1997. PTU has certified more than 380 engineering and architecture, management and hotel management, pharmacy colleges across India.
Influence of Online and Distance Education on Indian Students
Unlike other countries, India took quite a lot of time in becoming receptive to online courses and distance education. For many years this pursuit has been looked down upon by people, who think that distance education is not of the level of formal education. However, over the last decade this has seen considerable changes. Students are interested in distance learning as many reputed colleges have started offering distance courses.
Is this form of education really beneficial? This is the question that has worried many parents whose children want to enroll under distance learning courses. Many families have an orthodox thinking when it comes to education, which has made distance learning take time to establish its roots in India. While regular courses enjoy credibility and benefits, these courses are tailor made for those students having the time and money to spend on their education.
What you need to realize is the fact that learning is beneficial if one has the passion, interest and the right attitude. There are women who want to pursue higher education but because of personal and family-related issues, have not had an opportunity to pursue higher education. Online education has come as a boon to these women. Now, they have an opportunity to pursue professional dreams along with taking care of the family.
Drawbacks of Distance education
1. Chances of distraction high: With no faculty around for regular interaction and no peers who can help with constant reminders on assignments, the chances of getting distracted and losing track of deadlines are high.
2. Hidden charges: Although the cost of a distance education program is cheaper than a regular program, there are hidden charges involved.
3. Complicated technology: Overdependence on technology can be a major drawback, especially when the learning takes place in an online environment. Any malfunctioning software or hardware can bring an ongoing class to a standstill which hampers learning.
4. Quality of faculty compromised: Distance education is often plagued by lack of quality instructors/professors. In other cases, even if the instructors are good, they may not be comfortable to teaching in an online environment.
5. Questionable credibility of degrees: Even though distance and online education is starting to get recognition and popularity, there are still a lot of fraudulent and non-accredited degrees being offered. With the increase in the number of distance/online programs, the number of fake/scam operators is also rising.
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