Open and Distance Learning (ODL) – Things to REMEMBER!

Learning is acquiring knowledge and skills and assimilating experiences for application and implementation. Learning can happen in various ways; it can be through participation, reading, or just observation.

Regular learning mode is a classroom setup where a teacher helps students to comprehend information. The key to such a conventional education mode is guidance from a learned source, a teacher, their physical presence, a physical classroom, and a well-structured schedule. 

However, there exists another way of learning. This is without such active participation by a teacher, at least in physical presence. No classrooms. No particular time schedules. Students learn through their efforts by referring to various reference materials provided by the education institute at their location and convenience. Wherever they want, whenever they want, they can learn; however, the course duration will be fixed, and exam time and place will be as notified and per schedule. Open and distance learning (ODL) started as education through books and assignments provided by the institute throughout the course duration. Now, all the possibilities of modern-day technologies are used: webinars, online discussion platforms, and even various Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools wherever applicable. In summary, online and distance learning is catching up with conventional regular modes of education in many ways. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and alternate interaction platforms adopted in the education system while the world was isolating itself.

Given all the advantages of Open and Distance Learning, there are still some areas where students need to be vigilant or, more specifically, prepared while receiving this mode of education if they have to secure the maximum benefit. Below are the five points (rather challenges), each critical in determining your career with an open and distance learning platform.

1. Remote Education:

By all means, open and distance learning is characterized by the opportunity to be free of and away from a strict classroom boundary and an iron-clad timetable. Such freedom comes with a cost. If the student is not serious about their education, the probability is high that the student may not be able to complete the course on time. Freedom from strict boundaries and time schedules is a big challenge if the student is not self-disciplined, self-directed, and self-motivated. Focus, a sense of purpose, and awareness of the possibilities of that particular course – are all paramount, even if the education is through remote channels.

2. Self-learning:

Self-learning is the best mode of learning that can ever happen to anyone. However, to be capable of receiving the maximum advantage of such a learning mode, one has to be aware of the possibilities and opportunities of the course they are undertaking. Losing patience, focus, and purpose is the biggest challenge while self-learning. Self-learning is the soul of ODL. Although it depends entirely on the personality-situation-background, many young students struggle with the focus, determination, and patience the course demands. Moreover, self-study based entirely on textbooks with lesser exposure and participation in related learning activities (which may not be part of the curriculum but are needed to broaden the understanding and gain perspective) will significantly reduce the depth of knowledge one receives. Such a shallow learning style will affect the student’s short and long-term career prospects.

3. Approvals and Validity:

In India, University Grant Commission (UGC) controls and regulates Open and Distance Learning (ODL) through Distance Education Bureau (DEB). Since March 2018, UGC-DEB has tightened its grip on universities providing ODL courses. Each university must be approved through a healthy National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) A+ grade to qualify to give any ODL course. Each of the ODL courses also has to be approved by UGC-DEB, along with its learning centers which also has to be approved. Approval of each of the courses is time bounded. State universities can only provide approved open and distance learning courses within their territorial jurisdiction. No franchisee-styled education collaboration is accepted by UGC-DEB either.

In summary, before seeking admission to any ODL course, ensure that your university, their course, and their centers are all approved by UGC-DEB, which can be done through DEB online portal. Suppose you are doing a course from unapproved sources. In that case, your certificates are as valuable as a piece of paper with no practical relevance, neither for your higher education nor employment.

4. Limited Exposure:

Open and Distance Learning (ODL) has limitations regarding imparting exposure to its students. The conventional and regular mode of education has advantages  – such as regular interaction with faculty, facility, and classmates. The psychological benefits of such regular interactions are substantial. Moreover, education institutes provide many such opportunities where the students can participate in activities even if not prescribed in the curriculum, yet impactful in its accomplishment. Each of these occasions is priceless for broadening students’ learning processes. These opportunities give students perspective and reason for their learning. Though modern-day ODL is far ahead of its predated avatars when providing much-needed exposure to its students, thanks to the latest technological advances, the ODL still lacks on many fronts.

5. Employer Bias:

The present generation of fresh job-seekers is unique because they all are educated and carry graduation certificates. Since the availability of employees is more, and the jobs available are still limited, the filtering process put in place to sort out applications gives preference to students who secured their graduation through regular platforms. Interestingly, the reason for just prejudice is not about the quality of education or even the level of exposure students receive in traditional education but the authenticity of ODL certificates. 

Continuing the third point we discussed, many education agents deal with corrupt university officials to run fake education courses under the banner of ready-made degrees with minimum to no student effort. 

“You pay this much, and the degree is yours.” 

Such a corrupt education system has put the entire ODL program under a question mark and is the main reason UGC has put its strictest measure to clean up the system. Employers seek employees who can be trained and managed with minimum effort and can be converted into team players to deliver more efficiently after their induction training. Organizations have changed their outlook toward their employees as the world has changed in many other ways. Rather than molding employees as blind followers and instruction executioners, management has started looking for and promoting self-initiators and contributors. For such employment status to achieve, employees must be appropriately educated, and their qualifications must be valid and authenticated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s