Sunday, 1 January 2012

Distance Education with the Help of Technology for Learner

Ms.Chhaya Soni & Mr.Jitendra Kr. Singh
Lecturer  (B.Ed.)

Rama Mahavidyalaya, Chinhut, Lucknow

            Right to educate oneself and one’s children is a basic right in civilized society. More so, in a country like India, where the constitution provides for equal opportunities for learning to all citizens alike. Resources for formal education in schools, colleges & universities are bound to be limited. A large number of students who could not seek admission to the course they desired to pursue and students who drop out from institutions due to constraints beyond their control, e.g. lack of resources, inability to cope up with pressure of work, family circumstances, etc. wish to study later in life. They may choose to do so as full-time or as in service and part time students. Formal education has no scope for readmission. That makes a case for the establishments of non-formal modes of education like distance education, open school, correspondence education, telelecturing & teleconference etc.
Impotonce Of Distance Education- After independence, India had made tremendous progress in the field of education, though mostly quantitative in nature. Earlier, education was available only to the elites in society, and a large majority of poor and marginalized people remained illiterate. Political considerations have an important role in the expansion of higher education, especially at the state level. The state government experienced tremendous pressure from the public to establish more and more colleges and universities. In a democratic society, even the strong governments find it very difficult to resist such pressures and are compelled to succumb to the same. These considerations have led to fast expansion of higher education in our country, which in turn, have adverse impact upon its quality. Therefore, in order to insure access and education of a reasonably good quality, we must think of some alternative system capable of supplementing the role of conventional system, and distance education is one of such alternatives
                The term Distance Education received a formal recognition in 1982 when the four decades old International Council for Correspondence Education was renamed as the International Council for Distance Education. The old concept of distance education was exclusively associated with print material, while the new concept of distance education include supplementary material being used through non-print media, also such as radio, television, computers, through projectors, video lessons and satellites. These institutions may be called the dual mode institutions.
Now at present, India has two types of distance education institutions.
They are   1. Correspondence courses institutions.       2.  Open Universities.
                Distance education gets overwhelming response in India, the universities introduced many new distance-education job oriented courses according to the changing times and students requirements. The actual motive of providing quality education to all took the backseat as the main focus of universities slowly shifted to making more and more money. Currently in India, the Distance Education departments are generating the maximum revenue for their universities, in many cases more than even the professional and self financing courses. Except above qualities, distance educations have another some importance qualities which one make it’s very fruitful .Qualities are……………
1.   Equality of opportunity to study
2.        Student’s desire of learning and progress
3.        Faith in the dignity of an individual
4.        Freedom of time, place and pace of learning
5.        Ability to learn at any age in life
6.        Struggle to improve quality of life
7.        Autonomy of style and technique of learning
8.        Facility to acquire knowledge in new area
                With the help of above qualities distance education mode has become very popular and common in India, because it is catering to a wide range of aspirants (students), who are willing to upgrade their educational qualifications for various reasons. The Distance education system provides opportunities not only to younger students but also to those from the older age groups. The main reasons for increasing interest in Distance education lies in the need for continuing education in today's competitive world. Every people always try to add value to their competence in their bid to advance their carrier further. Distance Education is also very cheaper to compare with regular mode of education. Distance education has greatly reduced the wall of distance between education and a normal student beyond the long distance of home or work place to university. Now just a little need to increase the need to make it professional and employability part of education community.
Significance Of Technology Based Distance Education
                “ The house of education, which we want to build as of course going to be different than cottage in which we are living till this time. We know the present cottage does not fulfill our needs at present and certainly not going to cater for the needs in the coming decade,” Said Shri I.J. Patel, President, Indian Association for Programmed Learning and Educational Technology, Bombay. Here we want to express concern for educational reforms with reference to changing circumstances.
                The traditional classroom with one teacher teaching 30 or 40 students which was mainly one-way communication of information is no longer effective for modern conditions. The two general factors “information explosion” and “population explosion” are bringing about changes in the development and developing countries in more or less degree. Both of them have posed critical problems for education—more things to be learnt and more individuals to learn. It is not possible to solve them by conventional means. For solving these problems successfully, educational technology consisting of various media of mass communication, suitable child-learning process and modern testing and evaluation techniques are essentially required. Especially in developing countries like India, it has to be mastered and utilized by educationists, if they are to keep pace with each other and catch up with developed nations. As such, both quantitative expansion as well as qualitative improvement of education can be facilitated and accelerated with the help of educational technology.
                In order to provide open access to education to all, especially to those disadvantaged groups who could not join the formal system of education due to inbuilt constraints of the formal/conventional system. Open and distance education institutions have been increasing their access to higher education for a larger segment of population through multi-media instructional system. At present there are 117 institutions offering 31,000 courses in 103 countries (Madhavan, K and Manoj R. 2001). In its mission to reach out to the masses, the institutions have started introducing different technology in the delivery process to make the learners comfortable and to receive education at a convenient time and place as dictated by the learner. Hence the role of technology in distance education delivery process is imminent and thus the whole process became learner-centered approach.
                With the advent and advancement in communication technology, the education is becoming high- tech and the instructional changes are taking place. A variety of audio, radio, video, television, teleconferencing, video conferencing, computer technologies etc. have become part of the multi media package in teaching and learning at a distance. Radio, Audio and video teaching are considered as old technologies where as video conferencing and computer teaching are high tech/new modes (A.W Bates 1995). The new technology enables the learners to do courses offered from any part of the world with out moving out from their homes.
                In the field of distance education most of the institutions adopt different modes of delivery starting from print media as first level development to the present high tech video conferencing and computer teaching as a fifth level development. The modes of delivery have undergone different changes over the years and the institutions are competing to become more learner centered and assisting the learners with more supplementary modes of delivery. Now, the trend is towards the use of new technologies in distance education as a supplementary to the existing systems.
                In the context of India, the higher education in the conventional system is taken care by the Government by Supporting with sponsorships. The question is now to assist the disadvantages groups mainly adults in different settings. Most of the adult community who prefer distance education are working force and also those who could not attend to formal system due to distance, time and age factor. Since the country’s population is wide spread geographically, the significance of technology as a mode of delivery is the order of the day. Further, most of the young school leavers prefer the formal education. But the adults who wanted to learn at their own pace, time, location, etc., have increased in number. And the majority of learners who enrolled in distance education programmes are adults. Evan IGNOU, the adult community is the majority in their programmes.
Available Means Of Technology For Distance Education- Although distance education and its development is not new to India, the use of technology and its suitable role is the recent phenomenon. As such the role of technology in the delivery of distance education programmes is limited. However, National Development Plan reassured the Government’s commitment on the use of technology in distance education programmes. While the rationale for the use of technology is tied mostly to meet the needs of adult community, its future growth acceptance by the government and other distance education institutions led to a wide range of positive responses from different clientele in the society. The knowledge of technology based distance education should guide all facilitators as they play their roles in sensitizing the importance of technology in distance education. This should further help to understand learners’ problems and thus ensure the selection of proper technology to the intended purpose.
                In the process of identifying suitable mode of technology, the concerned institution should conduct needs assessment surveys and come up with the proposals to invest in technology. Apart from this, the International Council for open and Distance education (ICDE), Canadian Association for Distance Education (CADE) European distance education network (EDEN) and other relevant international agencies should guide these institutions with the required technology. In the days to come Virtual Universities are bound to become a reality when the institutions make ubiquitous application of new technology to deliver cost effective quality education to learners all over the world.
                The Centre for Distance Education uses the following multimedia approach for educational instruction to increase access to its learners.
•Supplying the printed course material
• Providing facilities for contact-cum counseling sessions at the study centers
• Organizing residential sessions/week end sessions for intensive coaching
• Broadcasting radio lessons through Radio
• Producing audio tapes and availing them to students at study centers
• Providing continuous evaluations through assignments
• Providing laboratory practical sessions in science subjects.
Video lessons: The department is planning to record video lessons in its recently established Audio-Visual Suit and deliver the video cassettes to the students through the study centers.
On-line Communications: In view of the importance that is attached to computer net working, the department is seriously thinking to make some of its courses available through on-line wherever internet facilities are available. The government of Botswana is prepared to invest in this process of development and already internet and e-mail awareness has increased in the country and facilities are available in most places of the country.
Video-Conferencing: This facility at the moment is available with the distance education. The equipment is installed through Education Democracy and Development Initiative (EDDI) project sponsored by USA.The facility is functional and the staffs are also being trained on how to use the system and soon the facility will come under effective use.
                IGNOU is also using more or less the same multi media for the delivery of distance education programmes which includes, Print materials, contact –cum counseling radio and audio lessons, assignments, laboratory facilities, etc .The Video programmes have just started to complement the other media which will be very useful for practical subjects. The institution is also planning to introduce computer network to deliver lessons through internet and e-mail. Plans are also underway to deliver some of its courses through T.V. channels.
Future Prospects For The Use Of Technology In Distance Education- Before discussing the future prospects, it is desirable to know the different approaches used in instructional delivery.
Integrated approach: In this approach, several media are used together to deliver educational services. This requires to be planned at the curriculum development stage.
Complimentary approach: In this approach, different media are used for different part of the syllabus. In this various media are given assigned roles and this should be planned at the time of curriculum development.
Supplementary approach: In addition to print media, any other media is used as an additional/alternative presentation depending on the amenability. This is used at any stage to enrich the knowledge.
Independent approach: In this approach, any media is used alone for delivery of educational programme.
                 In view of the above approaches, the best approach is supplementary approach, which is flexible and suitable in most settings. This approach is being used at present IGNOU. The future of distance education development lies in the effective use of the following media:
                Audio lessons: Audio lessons can be well planned and presented by adding the element of dramatization sound effects, synchronization with music, etc. In western countries, and IGNOU in India, audio cassettes are extensively used. Audio cassettes can either be mailed to students as part of their learning materials or made available at study centers. The distance education has to double the capacity in this area and dub many lessons on this media. Since, it is easy to integrate the audio lessons into course design and development; the audio technology should play an important role in optimizing teaching/learning activity in India.
                Radio lessons: This is another important media used in distance education. Radio has been extensively used for educational purposes all over the world. Although distance education is using this media, it is not enough, and the number of hours per week should be increased to accommodate as many subjects as possible. In fact the Government of India for a separate channel in future when the programmes are expanded. This is also very helpful media for adult learners giving the situation under which these adult communities live. Since some adult learners are unable to listen to the Radio lessons as the time might be unsuitable, the CCE would arrange to make copies of Radio lessons in the form of audio cassettes and dispatch the same to study centers.
                Video lessons: The lessons prepared at the studio setting will be supplied to students through video cassettes. This facilitates everybody, whoever has got T.V and VCRs, to watch these lessons and supplement the print media. Informal feedback suggests that this media will be used extensively because most households have T.V & VCR sets, moreover these can be arranged at study centers at the cost of the providing institution. These lessons are extremely useful for teaching science subject which involve demonstration, laboratory tests, etc. Besides, the video cassettes have an advantage over television as they enable the learner to have control and watch the programmes according to his/her time, place and pace.
                Television lessons: This is another method which can be tried to make use of the T.V channel which is dedicated for the purpose. This is considered to be an effective medium for imparting education as most learners prefer watching television to reading or studying course material. It is one of the most accessible media for open and distance education. Television as a medium has been subject to considerable change since the mid 1980s (Bates 1995).
                Introduction of Interactive Radio Programmes: The interactive radio has been introduced by many distance education institutions in many countries. In this process, the students can listen to the lecture by the subject expert and after listening, the learners would have their questions clarified by phoning in.
                Conclusion- Distance education plays very important role for giving education for a specific group of the society those who are prohibited by the formal education system. Without technology, distance education can not fulfill our responsibility. So we can say, in distance education, the use of proper technology will make all the different in providing effective learning to the learner. With the suitable technology in place, the distance education will become a high quality education compared to conventional education, and will become a preferred mode of education in present and future settings.
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