LEARNER CENTEREDNESS / LEARNER – AUTONOMY
Unlike formal education, distance education puts the client, i.e. the student, first and then the institution. Distance education, infact, lays emphasis on the needs and convenience of the learners while taking into account the individual diversity among them and indeed makes this an operative condition. It works on a concept of time which is not arbitrary in the sense that it permits individual variation in the time span required for purposes of study. Further, it does not advocate a definite time frame for any course of study. In that sense, it is a flexible kind of system which adapts itself to the needs of the learners as they actually exist and arise from time to time and place to place. It does not distinguish between the young learner and the old learner, but provides them with a possibility that permits individuals to programme their specific course of study.
These principles, however, should be understood not in the absolute sense but in the relative sense. For example, an on- campus educational programme of three years duration meant for young students of a particular age with prescribed previous education and economic and social status is restrictive. If the same programme is made a little flexible by relaxing the age limit, formal qualifications, the choice of place to study, and the duration within which the programme could be completed, then, the degree of learner centredness will increase. In relative terms, a three year programme becomes learner centred, if it can be completed in six to eight years. Similarly, in all other aspects too, if the programme is made suitable to the needs of the learners, it becomes learner centred.
Indirect education suggests the existence of a form of education that is direct. Direct education may be understood as one which assumes the presence of face-to-face communication. In this context, distance education can be called indirect education because the provision for face-to-face interaction here is minimal. It is indirect also in the sense that it provides for as many inputs to learning as can be maintained and preserved. These inputs to learning are placed at the disposal of the learner, within whomlays the crucial ability to learn and to make use of these inputs. Of course, the learners must have the minimum preparedness and the abilities to learn and complete the course.
EDUCATION IN REAL-LIFE SETTING
One feels that distance education does not have the kind of recognisable and apparent structure that formal education possesses. It seems to be amorphous, supine and bloodless, lacking the obvious dynamism that an oral communicator necessarily imparts. While it is true that it suffers from an absence of a certain kind of vitality which only the presence of a teacher can generate, it nevertheless compensates for this by making use of asmany inputs to learning as are possible and by structuring itself around the actual learning experience of the students. The recent development in the telecommunication and computer technologies, have increased the possibilities of teacher-student dialogue and peer group interaction. Through e-mail and internet facilities, collaborative learning has become a reality. Given the access to these facilities, distance learners would feel less lonely and alienated. If some sort of face-to-face teaching-learning component in the form of summer schools and contact programmes can be arranged, the loneliness of distance learners can be reduced still further.
Having touched upon the concepts on which distance education operates, we shall now unravel the mystery around a few terms which are commonly used interchangeably with distance education. The question is whether we are correct in doing so.
The confusion over the use of the terms stems from the fact the various expressions, such as non-formal education, distance education, non-traditional education and open education, which are currently used in the field of education are either not properly understood or not adequately defined. The reason simply is that educational process underlying the expressions is similar in one or the other aspect, either in terms of their philosophy or in their procedures. In other words unless one is clear about the philosophy underlying these expressions and also the procedures which they imply, there is bound to be an element of confusion, which we should resolve, before we proceed any further.
The distinction between correspondence education and distance education lies in their aims, methods, and orientation. Whereas correspondence education becomes an extension of conventional education as far as its imparting of prescribed knowledge for issuing of certificates is concerned, distance education aims at more varied goals. These include personal growth, training for better job prospects and job enhancement, a change in attitude, etc., in addition to imparting of knowledge. Distance education also employs a multimedia approach including human contact. Correspondence education, on the other hand, depends mostly on printed materials distributed by post. The procedure adopted mostly on printed materials distributed by post. The procedure adopted for admissions to the courses and examinations are more or less the same as have been in use over the centuries in the traditional college/ university education. Thus, correspondence education is essentially a system based on the mode of
i) Distribution to teaching materials, and
ii) Of effecting interaction, if needed, between the teacher and the taught.
Distance education contrastingly is oriented towards pedagogy: it tries to build the teacher in the materials. Now we may turn to the concept of “openness”.
We may define open education as a system of education that does not operate through traditional conventions which are essentially restrictive in nature admission restrictions, attendance restrictions, restrictions on the candidature for examinations, restrictions on the period of time to be devoted to a course, restrictions on the number of examinations given and taken in a year, restrictions on subject combinations for a particular degree, restrictions on the modes of didactic communication and the didactic tasks, etc. The larger the number of such restrictions left unobserved, the higher the degree of the openness of the types of education under consideration. We should make our points clear.
Correspondence/distance education institutes may or may not be open in the sense we have referred to above, or may be open only to a limited degree. And in the same way, even a traditional college/university may become open to a recognisable degree. Research programmes like M. Phil and Ph.D. may be put under this category.
Besides these three terms, there are a few more in use currently, but in the main their currency is localised. They are as follows:
i) EXTERNAL SYSTEM / STUDIES: This term is in use in Australia. It does confuse one, when one thinks of the external system as it functioned in London years ago. The London model of External system makes it possible for learners to sit for recognised examinations, but teaching is not necessarily associated with the system. It is obvious that the term does not connote all that is meant by the term “distance education” today.
ii) EXTRA-MURAL SYSTEM: This expression is used in New Zealand to convey what distance education means to most of us.
iii) INDEPENDENT STUDY: Wedemeyer’s definition of distance education. in fact, it is through his writings that this term gained currency in North America.
iv) HOME STUDY: This term is localised mainly in Europe, probably under the influence of Swedish schools of correspondence courses. However, it is also being used at a few places in Canada and the USA.
V) OFF-CAMPUS STUDIES: To denote a contrast with the on- campus traditional type of studies the expression”off-campus studies” is widely used in the pacific region Australia and South-East Asian Countries.
As indicated above, these terms do have local concurrency. But the term distance education enjoys international concurrency. It may be that these localised terms are not replaced entirely and immediately by the more acceptable term “distance education. The fact, however, remains that most of the current literature and reports on all kinds of activity in the field are presented under the label distance education” and /or open learning”
SIGNIFICANT FEATURES OF DISTANCE LEARNING
Obviously, the question of defining distance education is open, and it will remain so for quite some time to come. The purpose of the above details will have been served if they enable you to identify the various characteristics of distance education as it is understood today. This is exactly what Keegan has already done for us. He brings together various aspects of these definitions in order to clarify the nature of distance education. These aspects are
i) The separation of teacher and learner.
ii) The role of the educational organisation
iii) The people of the technical media
iv) Two-way communication
v) The separation of the learner from his peer group
Each of these may be considered briefly as follows:
i) The teacher and the learner are separated from each other and this is a central characteristic of this form of education.
ii) Distance education is an institutional kind of educational system. It is, therefore, distinct from private study which may result from private reading or watching TV or attending a talk, etc.
iii) Distance education makes use of the various technically advanced media such as printing, telephone, audio-video, broadcasting, computer, etc.
iv) It is two-way communication because the student is able therefore can receive through assignment-responses or other media and therefore can receive feedback. The student thus enters into a dialogue with the institution.
v) Each student is separated from his/her peer group in the sense that although the learners form a fairly sizable population they do not have face-to-face interaction among themselves. Thus distance education becomes a highly individualised learning system. In this sense, it remains one of the most individualised of all educational systems. Even though study groups may be formed under distance education learning programmes, these may not be compulsory and the student is free to work entirely on his/her own.
vi) Distance education is a specific answer to a specific need. It is the developed industrial society that has created a need for a more capsular kind of education. At the same time, it is the same society that has developed the necessary technology to be able to structure an educational system that will cater to such a specialised kind of need for education.
In the sense, one can say that distance education is an offshoot of industrial development. Thus, today one can define distance education as that field of educational endeavour in which
i. The learner is quasi-permanently separated from the teacher throughout the duration of the learning process;
ii. The learner is quasi-permanently separated from the learning group throughout the duration of the learning process;
iii. A technological medium replaces the inter-personal communication of conventional, oral group-based education;
iv. The teaching/learning process is institutionalised (thus distinguishing it from Teach-yourself Programmes) and,
v. Two-way communication is possible between both the student and the teacher (thus distinguishing it from other forms of educational technology).
In essence, it represents individualisation of the educational processes. Finally, one must recognise that the concept of distance education is basically a democratic idea. This is, perhaps, what makes it most unique. What a lecture says as part of his/her oral and spontaneous communication within the classroom is in many ways private. At least, it is restricted to a definite and small number of persons and con not be captured in any medium for review or revision.
On the other hand, the information that is communicated in a distance education learning programme is something that is open to public inspection. Such learning resources, therefore, can be publicly criticised and can be reviewed and revised from time to time. Hence one might conclude by saying that the democratisation of the educational process is possibly achieved in some measure by the process of distance education. Currently there are 14 state open Universities and more than 200 Distance Education Institutes are engaged in imparting education through ODL catering to about 25 percent of enrolment in Higher education institutions.
DETERMINANTS OF CURRICULUM
It is everywhere seen that the form of the curriculum undergoes a change whenever the aims of education are altered to suit changed conditions in society. For this reason, it is necessary to define the various bases of curriculum, of which the more important are sociological, philosophical and psychological.
1) Sociological: To promote social values of co-operation, team spirit & developing social skills.
2) Philosophical: – Based upon fundamental principles of Educational philosophy, National objectives and school of educational thought.
3) Psychological:- Learner abilities, capacities, interests, aspects of individual difference I.D. stages of physical & mental development is very important.
SOCIOLOGICAL BASES OF CURRICULUM
It is considered very much desirable that the curriculum is organized, so that it may help in the achievement of social aims. Upon curriculum,depend the social progress. This is the reason why educational sociologist considers it essential to organize the curriculum properly. Accordingly the curriculum should be planned keeping in view two important things
1. The curriculum should be such that it helps in the achievement of the social aims of the education and
2. Curriculum is so organized and its relationships with instructional methods should be such that it becomes an effective medium to keep a control over society.
Let us try to understand the different social structure and its relation with curriculum.
Education socially speaking is a process of transmission of culture. To the sociologist, culture has a much wider meaning than its popular reference. It refers to the total ways of life of a society. Its knowledge, belief, attitudes, values, skills and behaviour patterns and not just to what is best or most important in that way of life, or to art, music or literature. Culture, to the sociologist, is a natural term that includes everything that is learned and man made. Schools are formal institution specially set up for the preservation and transmission of culture by the society. Institutions seek to discharge this function through the curriculum, which is nothing but the sum total of learning experiences provided under its auspices.
SOCIAL CLASS AND CURRICULUM
The curriculum should represent class-free, non- controversial fund of knowledge that was good for all children that came under the fold of the school had till recently been taken for granted. Early sociological research on educational opportunity certainly treated as unproblematic the concept of what it is to be educated or the nature of the education pupil failed at. Of late however school-curriculum has become target of severe criticism in the context of the ideals of social justice and equalization of opportunity, the charge against it being that it is invariably conceived in narrow middle class terms and therefore acts against the interest of the children coming from improvised lower socio- economic classes. Why school-success should be judged in terms of high score in languages or mathematics rather than in work or social service?
EQUALITY OF CURRICULUM
A different kind of curriculum may be common curriculum that takes the form that one subculture or culture is as good as any other. It is also accepted that those who found it difficult to respond to such curricular treatment, either because of poor home- background or the other socio-economic reasons should be given compensatory education to make up for their cultural disadvantages and deprivations. Thus the curriculum should be culture
Free, transmit knowledge, languages, science, mathematics, arts and crafts and so on which is believed to be needed by one and all for the all-round development of one’s personality
SOCIAL LEARNING AND CURRICULUM
How the social class factors affect the school achievement unfavourably of learner, especially of the unskilled working class- has been brought out by many studies. The most well-known of these is Basil Bernstein’s work in social learning. His findings were that since child learns his social structure through its language, spoken language powerfully conditions what is learned and how it is learned and so influences his future learning. The school by simply substituting a formal language, which is not necessarily a logical, impersonal, emotionally eviscerated language cut off the individual from his traditional relationships and perhaps alienate him from them. So the schools should maintain the choice of language.
Thus for non-formal system of education curriculum should be framed keeping in mind the individualistic need and of the dynamic society.
They are: The curriculum should be flexible and changeable according to the needs of an individual and society.
i. It should be confirmed to the level of individual development.
ii. It should inspire an individual to become responsible citizen.
iii. It should include variety of assignment.
iv. It should emphasize more and practical work rather than theoretical.
v. It should make individual capable for their livelihood.
vi. Through curriculum the cultural values should be brought to light and through it the high ideas of the society should be transmitted to the generation.
vii. The method of teaching should promote democratic feeling, ideals and value.
CURRICULAR TRENDS IN ODL
Curriculum is suggestive of the course of (Programme of studies or course content) as well as time (planned learning experiences, intended outcomes) having interplay of teaching and learning. We should also understand that curricular trends cannot be explored without understanding history of curriculum but is interlinked to the history of education. Also as we know, curriculum is not only defined by educational philosophers but also by societal needs.
Traditionally curriculum was confined to religion-based orientation. Curriculum in the pre-World War era focused on subject- centeredness emphasizing factual details. The social conditions following World War II made the world in three parts: the communist bloc, the Western non-communist block and the rest of the world. Mid-1960’s witnessed humanistic goals, cognitive and aesthetic and experimental learning activities. ODL began in seventies and gained ground in Western block taking a decade to reach India. Late twentieth century witnessed collapsing of communist bloc in most part of the world. Early twentieth century also witnessed shift from sectarian education to liberal education. Curriculum shifted from knowing to understanding and application.
We in India inherited British educational system and curricular design in 1947. In January 1961 The Central Advisory Board of Education, the highest policy making body in India for education, established committee under the chairmanship of Prof D S Kothari to formulate proposals for establishment of correspondence education in india. The University of Delhi after necessary amendments to the University Act started first ever course in correspondence education in 1962. Sixties and seventies saw expansion of correspondence education in India. National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) published curricular framework for school education in December 2005.
National policy of education in 1968 marked an important step in the history of education in post-independent India. It aimed towards national progress, a sense of common citizenship and culture, and promotion of national integration. The constitutional amendment of 1976 which included education in concurrent list was a far-reaching stand making education joint responsibility of the Union and the state. National policy of education in 1986 prepared the ground to take India into twenty-first century. It emphasized the role of lifelong learning as a cherished goal of educational process.
After early twentieth century, in recent times curriculum has undergone dramatic changes. The direction it has taken has been:
1) Increasing emphasise and shift to utilitarian mode unlike compartmentalized it is more inter-disciplinary
2) Importance given to needs and demands of learners and students not static but dynamic nature of curriculum as per societal needs
3) Increasing importance on technology and instructional delivery than on content
4) Not vocationalised but more driven to lifelong, continuing professional education for anyone and everyone
Curricula in ODL especially in the third world, now known as emerging economies, aimed mainly at national development. Diverse groups like women, tribal, youth or drop out children turned to ODL for variety of reasons. ODL to an extent could address needs of women who moved out of formal system of education for personal or social reasons, rural or tribal population whose needs were not satisfied by the mainstream educational processes, youth who wanted vocational education, people with disabilities who could not attend regular schools, all these people could turn to ODL for achieving their respective goals.
Adult education and worker education as well as curricula in unconventional courses, like for example, ideology of Paulo Freire in Latin America especially Columbia, Brazil and Chile and similar experiments by Deccan Development Society or Self-Employed women’s Association in Ahmedabad at some stage integrated principles of ODL in face-t-face situations. Curricular trends in ODL can be classified into four broad categories:
1) Mass education: ODL curricula that address requirement of masses for attainment of their individual goals contribute to mass education. It can be the individual need to be called sheer graduate, urge to gain knowledge or to even get degree for the job or inability to take on regular education that pushes masses towards ODL.
2) Community development: The educational curricula to address the community requirements for the betterment of their lives have been elaborated in community development curricular trends. Most ODL institutes in India today offer community development curricula through courses for diverse clientele.
3) Rural development: Curricula that has been evolved with the rural focus and needs and which can lead to betterment of lives in rural areas.
4) National development: The broad aim of all the educational processes is improvement of individual knowledge, abilities, skills, practices. ODL curricula in global south always targeted at national development by making educational opportunities available to the poorest of the poor and creating trained human resource through education. ODL curricula for diverse industries, depending upon the country-specific strengths and global requirements can lead to national development.
In India over the years various State ODL institutions have created visibility for themselves by creating mass education opportunities for the masses. Post Dr. B R Ambedkar open University in Hyderabad in 1982 and national university in form of Indira Gandhi National Open University in 1985, State open universities at Kota named Vardhman Mahaveer Open University in 1987, Nalanda Open University in 1987, MP Bhoj University in 1991, Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University in Gujarat in 1994, Karnataka Open University in Mysore in 1996, Netaji Subhash open university at Kolkata in 1997, UP Rajashri Tandon Open University at Allahabad in 1998 and Tamil Nadu Open University at Chennai in 2002 has created curriculum according to state languages and learners. Punjabi University at Patiala introduced M.Phil course in English and Punjabi through distance mode in 1991.
For example, Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU) which was established in July 1989 offers Degree (B.A., B.Com as well as Science and Technology,Â Applied electronics) and has 226 academic programmes having average annual enrolment of 2,50,000 students and cumulative enrolment of 1,7,00,000 students (http://ycmou.digitaluniversity.ac). Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has 175 programmes on offer through its 21 schools of study has enrolment crossing two million mark.
In a country of diverse linguistic, climatic, geographic, cultural climate, ODL can and has proved itself as viable solution to large majority of illiterates leading to mass education. Developments of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have made mass education through ODL feasible across time and space. Inability to reach out to large majority through formal as well as non-formal educational systems makes ODL all the more relevant and meaningful.
In the decade spanning 1992 to 2002, with the advancement in interactive communication technologies lead to many courses in computer education, management programmes with various specialisations, programmes in foreign trade, environmental management, human rights, pollution management, yoga and astrology. Technical and paramedical programmes gained importance through ODL in this decade. Distance Education Council in the year 2004 reports 429 academic programmes with 3483 courses across 11 ODL institutions across India.
India has one of the most impressive systems of agriculture education at the tertiary level that was credited with green revolution. YCMOU launched certificate and diploma level agricultural programmes for five subjects- gardening, fruit products, vegetarian products, floriculture and landscape gardening. YCMOU adopted novel approach to identify target groups and courses appropriate to their levels. First group is functional literacy programme based on life work skills for illiterates, semi-literate and non-literates, Second group is less educated for whom vocational, technical and skill based programmes and third group of educated and higher educated programmes for doctoral, postgraduate and degree programmes for professional, vocational and general continuing education. Union Government prioritized rural development and food and nutrition to develop academic programmes for awareness and skill development.
Community development programmes of IGNOU have been conceived as empowerment and income generation programmes for the rural masses and unemployed youth. IGNOU has signed Memorandum of Understanding with various agencies like Kadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), construction Industry Development Council (CIDC), Central Leather Research
Institute, Hero Honda Motors Limited and so on. Food and Agricultural Association (FAO) has prepared a framework to explore utilization of distance education and training strategies to address challenges of food security and rural development.
The ODL programmes on agriculture raises primary concern about farm experience and laboratory experimentations. Agriculture being applied science the need for development in cognitive, asychomotor and affective domains to achieve quality is essential. YCMOU experiences indicated that with appropriate pedagogy the ODL limitations can be overcome.
Dr.M.S.Swaminathan committee report on education for agriculture recommended establishment of State Agricultural Universities (SAU’s) independent cell for distance education for rural youth to impart skills in agriculture and allied sciences. The committee also suggested for Agricultural Media Development Centres to development multimedia capsules for dissemination of knowledge and information empowerment to increase agricultural production through improved productivity.
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has established Global Open Food and Agriculture University (GO-FAU) for open distance learning and capacity strengthening that serves traditional and open universities in developing and developed countries. The university would use traditional text, CD ROMs and other technologies in variety of languages so that participants can benefit.
Open and Distance Learning has been an established and acceptable form of continuing education in management, computer and tertiary level education. Thenmozhi (2009) narrates case of University of Madras management education through distance mode course launched in 2002 and modified 2006 where students expect plausibility and flexibility in courses offered, duration is vital factor in opting for courses. Sending project report by post and abolishing viva eradicated time and geographical barriers, study material in Self Instructional Mode exclusively prepared for distance education through highly participative methodology gave interest/motivation to students.
Salooja (2006) narrates how food processing industry has been influenced by ODL programmes. Garg and others (2006) complies cases ODL in variety of sectors impacting the national development in India. Broadly speaking various rural developments, mass education and community development programmes offered by ODL institutes across India also contribute to the national development of the country.
Today apart from universities and ODL institutions, different institutions and organizations are also using distance mode for training needs of different target groups. Training and Development Communication Channel at Development and Educational Communication Unit (DECU), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is utilized by government, non-government, corporate, academic sectors.
Indian Medical Association (IMA) is providing programmes in family medicine, geriatric care, etc. and Nutritional Institution of Health and Family Welfare is offering programmes in hospital management, health and family welfare management etc. Medical and health programmes of IGNOU are supported by World Health Organisation (WHO), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Asian Heart Foundation, Academy of Hospital Administration, Association of Rural Surgeons ofIndia (ARSI), Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI), and so on. Most of the health related programmes are knowledge based and not skill based. The practical component is taken through contact sessions. The skill based health programmes are in the field of dietetics and nutrition, yoga and counselling.
ADVANTAGES OF OPEN AND DISTANCE LEARNING
Â Open and distance learning offers a number of advantages to both learners and to providers of opportunities for learning. Problems such as distance and time, which are barriers to conventional learning, are overcome in open and distance learning.
OVERCOMING PHYSICAL DISTANCE
Open and distance learning can overcome problems of physical distance for:
learners in remote locations who are unable or unwilling to physically attend a campus; and learners and teachers geographically separated in that teachers in urban settings instruct learners in rural settings.
SOLVING TIME OR SCHEDULING PROBLEMS
Open and distance learning can solve time or scheduling for:
1) Client groups unwilling or unable to assemble together frequently;
2) Learners engaged in full-time or part-time work, both waged and volunteer;
3) Family and community commitments.
EXPANDING THE LIMITED NUMBER OF PLACES AVAILABLE
1) Open and distance learning can expand the limited number of places available for:
2) Campus-based institutions few in number; and
3) Stringent entrance requirements.
ACCOMMODATING LOW OR DISPERSED ENROLMENTS
Open and distance learning can accommodate:
1) Low enrolments over a long period of time; and
2) Low enrolments in one geographic region but additional enrolments elsewhere.
3) Making best use of the limited number of teachers available
OPEN AND DISTANCE LEARNING CAN MAKE THE BEST USE OF THE FEW TEACHERS AVAILABLE WHEN:
1) There is a lack of trained teaching personnel relative to demand;
2) Teachers are geographically concentrated;
3) Teachers with certain expertise are in short supply.