By Sadaket Malik
Over the past five years, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has been busy in attaining the goal of making education accessible to every child, particularly among the marginalised sections in the rural areas. We are also addressing the gap that exists between the market demands and the available skill sets among professionals through the participation of private sector in the curriculum framework.
Coming to the aspect of quality, infrastructure and faculty are two major concerns that need to be focused on. We are roping in as many colleges as possible under the ambit of the University Grants Commission (UGC) to upgrade their quality. The UGC and AICTE are also pursuing various measures to lure fresh graduates into research and teaching profession.
Very recently, the Ministry launched National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (ICT).An amount of Rs.4612 crore is being incurred during the 11th Five Year Plan for the scheme. There is a budget provision of Rs.502 crore during the current financial year 2008-09.
The government alone cannot address all these challenges. The private sector needs to play a proactive role to supplement the efforts of the government. A PPP model is to be developed with the active participation of stakeholders at the central and state level.
The 11th Five Year Plan has kept a target of raising the gross enrollment ratio to 15% by the end of the plan year. This is where ICT steps in. Integration of ICT in education will give an impetus to our efforts to attain our target of increasing our gross enrollment ratio by widening the reach of education to the remote and marginalised areas of our country.
With a large percentage of our population constituting the workforce, ICT also gives them space to pursue education at their own convenient pace and time. The role of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) systems, which have accepted and integrated ICT in their functioning and outreach, particularly finds mention here.
However, there is also significant knowledge retention at the end of the training programs. High quality, e-learning solutions can be developed in India with the right technology and industry support in sectors as distinct as steel, IT, automobiles, cement and telecom. Industry watchers estimate that because of its advantages, India is bound to grow in stature as the hub for e-learning programs.
Interestingly, many companies are booming up here in India for providing eClasses; places like Mumbai and Bangalore are becoming prominent centers for providing eTutorials. It’s booming but the big question is what the future of eLearning is? Everyone educators, parents, and students have the question in mind but no one able to answer. To check it out its imperative to look the trends concerned with learning, which are already taking control in our world?
Considering above facts it seems imperative that eLearning would co exist with other technologies and the way of acquiring knowledge. And as soon as low cost PCs would be made available and broadband will penetrate deeper particularly in developing countries there are chances the e-learning will strengthen.
E learning is interactive too. With the growth of eLearning more and more pupil will opt for it, as there would be no worry that math’s teacher will beat for a sum doing wrong; since classes are available at ease there also be no hurry to get late and then standing out side waiting for permission. More and more working professionals would be interested in learning eWay because of flexibility the eLearning offers. The eLearning will soon become a great tool to enhance qualifications, and getting promotions in the job market. So to sum up, the future of eLearning is bright.
Talking of e-Learning and academic bodies in India like, UGC-INFONET. The chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 2002 decided that the universities and colleges should also reap the benefits, which ICT had in store for them. The deliberations of the various committees led to the setting up of the UGC-INFONET towards the end of 2004. UGC also joined this crusade of introducing e-Learning. Wholly funded by UGC, UGC-INFONET provides electronic access to scholarly literature available over the Internet in all areas of learning to the university sector in India.
There are several companies that are working towards e-learning in India. Our product focus is on providing simple, cost-effective e-learning tools for individuals.
Forays have been made in the field of e-Learning in form of Brihaspati, an e-Learning platform developed as open source freeware which IIT, Kanpur has developed and is using since January 2003 supported by Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Govt. of India. Faculties are using this platform to post the lecture notes, handouts, and reference material on the Intranet for supporting the classroom teaching, benefiting over 75 Universities / Institutes across India, and the list is growing. Yet another project to provide web based training is the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), which is being funded by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and was first conceived in 1999 to pave the way for introducing multimedia and web technology to enhance learning of basic science and engineering concepts, was launched in September 2006.
interestingly, The major advantage is the consistency that e-learning provides. e-learning is self-paced, and learning is done at the learners pace. The content can be repeated until it is understood by the trainee. It can be made compelling and interesting with multimedia, and the trainee can be given multiple learning paths depending on his or her needs.
However, one of the problems with e-learning in India is the lack of course content, especially outside the mainstream focus areas of IT education, English-language content, and tutorial-like courses. There will be high demand for people who can develop multi-lingual courseware that addresses various topics. Gartner says that one of the top 10 positions among Global 1000 companies of the future will be that of an online learning designer.
Significant infrastructure has been set up for production of video-based teaching material by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Bangalore based Indian Institutes of Sciences (IISc) and Technical Teacher Training Institutes (TTTI).Gyan Darshan which was launched on January 26, 2000 as an exclusive higher education TV channel on Doordarshan to provide quality distance education can be considered as an effective effort in India.
At the institutional level many institutes, mainly private as of now have entered into online distance education and the much talked about NIIT Varsity offers training to 500,000 students annually across 33 countries. One of the world’s leading management schools IIM Calcutta amongst others entered into a strategic alliance with NIIT, to offer executive development programmes through virtual classrooms. Researchers, academics, teachers, and students worldwide are excitedly embracing blogs (web logs). Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu, a state in South India played host to the Bloggers’ conference held at the TIDEL Park. CDAC and IGNOU are two of the India’s most esteemed organisations in their respective fields, which have held conferences in the field of e-Learning. Online Education is coming up as the biggest challenge to distance education in the near future.
Change is a painful process and is therefore resisted by most organisations but the need of the hour is effective change management by the leaders of the higher educational institutes, which are into e-Learning.
Higher educational institutions in India which plan to venture into e-Learning should take a lesson from this and are suggested to first follow the education and communication strategy of organisational change where the stakeholders should be informed as to how the change will affect them.
Most of the states run universities in India require an IT / ICT policy of their own.
The government needs to stimulate a learning culture, and e-Learning must become a policy issue. Government must recognise the e-Learning Industry as a separate forum and not treat it as part of the IT enabled services or a sub sector of the IT industry. A case in point is the Australian Government support for promoting e-Learning. The Government there has been successful in increasing the industry use of e-Learning in workplaces.
Schools and Universities taking the e-Learning route are still a very small fraction of the overall number. In addition, the transition from distance learning to e-Learning is moving at a snail’s pace. Universities are long over due in making significant improvement in the quality and employability of their courses offered. Through e-Learning, they have a chance to improve both the quality and quantity.
The Industry Unlike the west, in India, evens the large corporates and business houses have been slow to adapt to e-Learning.
With the tremendous explosion in web usage as a knowledge sharing and delivering platform, e-Learning will become more a norm than an exception. It is incumbent upon all of us to drive this process. Together we need to create an e-Learning infrastructure that is sustainable and continues to transform learning, education and training.
Nothing can replace traditional classroom teaching, but e-learning complements the process and can help reach out to the masses.