Technology has made it possible for higher education to be made accessible to a larger and diverse population.
While higher education of the masses has been in vogue since the early 18th century, it was formally implemented in the mid-19th century by the University of London. From the 1960s, the trend began to be adopted in India (Kundu, 2014). Today, this venture has been taken over by two modes: the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) and Online Learning (OL). What do these modes entail?
Suitability: ODL and OL target learners like home-makers who would like to continue their studies, students who do not have access to Higher Education Institutes (HIEs) and those in the workforce who want to upskill or update themselves.
Paperless mode: Both ODL and OL currently require being plugged in to Learning Management Systems (LMS), which depend on the institution’s needs. For example, accessing video lectures either synchronously or asynchronously, sharing lecture notes, assignment submission, webinars, evaluation and assessment and maintenance of records can all be done digitally.
Adaptability: With no restrictions on age, location, qualification or other parameters, these modes are flexible, allowing the students to attend the counselling/contact programmes, according to their comfort. Not only are these methods cost-effective but also allow multiple access to content and enable students to immerse themselves in the lessons without external disturbances.
However a few things need to be fixed. Some students may lack exposure to such technological tools and will require training. Second, appropriate infrastructure to enable access to the right tools needs to be developed. Third, it may not be possible to offer subjects that involve practical training through these modes.
With the pandemic yet to abate, there is uncertainty around the reopening of educational institutions. Perhaps, this is a time to look at allocating a part of the syllabus for online delivery, given that the NEP 2020 also encourages institutions to offer UG and PG programmes through both ODL and OL modes.