Just a temporary arrangement or a sustainable mode of study

Schools and colleges across the country have shifted to online mode during Covid as the enforcement of lockdown and social distancing has made classroom teaching impractical.

Either way, parents were keen to protect their children from the virus and were therefore not mentally prepared for traditional classroom studies.

The country was adapting to the innovation of distance learning (or eLearning as it is commonly known) but in fact it is an online teaching method while distance learning as it was previously known varies from the new evolving scenario.

Online courses or distance learning are in fact the new version of the correspondence course. The new way of learning requires a computer, a smartphone, a reliable internet connection, whereas in the correspondence courses, an address (to send the study materials) was the only thing needed. Online courses or distance learning have an advantage over correspondence learning, because in this mode of teaching, the teacher and the students can interact simultaneously, sitting in the comfort of their home / place favorite and seeing each other.

Simply put, there is a subtle difference between e-learning and distance learning, although the goal remains common to both approaches.

It is prudent to erase the distinction between the two. In online studies, the instructor groups the students through virtual means; that is, without being physically present in one place.

The paraphernalia required for digital eLearning includes PCs, tablets, laptops or smart phones with high-speed internet connection for all participants. When using e-learning methods, students work online while the teacher assigns work and checks homework digitally.

Whereas distance education is done without the presence of the teacher; students study alone. This mode of study is known as a correspondence course in which students and teachers interact via email or post in some cases.

It is pertinent to note that about 58% of young Indians suffer from some degree of skill deprivation. Since the conventional education system takes too long or costs too much for those who have missed the bus, the gap is filled by the open distance learning ecosystem.

Distance learning helps students continue their education from home or a remote location rather than attending university or school classrooms, which is not available in the conventional educational environment. It gives learners the flexibility of entry, exit and re-entry while refining their technical skills.

The flexibility offered by distance learning is unmatched, as learners can continue to fulfill their professional commitments without meeting strict deadlines.

Progressive professionals who are engaged in office environments or need to attend work-related obligations can do so without having to miss their structured online classes. Assignments are sent to instructors via email which was previously sent by post.

Distance education is one of the most popular educational systems in India as a large number of students resort to study while on the move.

In India, enrollment in open distance learning accounts for about 24% of total enrollment in the conventional system. This has steadily increased over the years due to the opportunities it provides to the employed workforce and enables them to improve their technical qualifications contributing to their personal and professional growth.

IGNOU is the standard-bearer for distance learning, enabling working professionals to access higher education and advance in their careers. Currently, there are 10 popular open universities in India offering distance learning programs, although more than 50 in total offer cost-effective higher education certification.

Master of Business Administration (MBA) is arguably the most preferred program in the country, followed by Human Resource Management and Bachelor of Computer Applications (BCA) in addition to Bachelor of Education among others.

Importantly, the quality curve is rising, juxtaposed with transparent regulation. The government of the day legitimized distance education and private ownership. The authorities have recognized vertical mobility between short-term certificates and medium-term diplomas by deregulating higher education and study center frameworks.

It offers students the opportunity to improve their qualifications as it is less stressful and the study materials available for distance learners are more student friendly.

Distance learning has books, study guides, help books that provide easy understanding leaving lasting impressions in the minds of students. Help books make self-study a breeze which is the predominant underlying factor that makes professionals choose distance learning.

The adjustment of the skills and employment ecosystem in distance education challenges the domain of the mainstream education system and is increasingly becoming the preferred choice of professionals, even if online learning remains a viable option to meet educational requirements.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.


Norma A. Roth