In a recent public appearance, while inaugurating the three day national workshop on distance learning, honorable Mr. S K Sinha, Governor Jammu & Kashmir, referred to the distance learning education system as the most suitable learning schema to reach remote areas. The special reference in the speech was towards provision of education, in the areas untouched by tradition classroom learning modules and thus appropriateness of this counter program. While the stated is certainly a wise call, however as an education seeker, there definitely is much more to analyze, before enrolling with a distance learning curriculum.
Before highlighting upon the nuances of distance education in Indian context, it is imperative to clearly understand the concept. Distance education, unlike the classroom learning system, enables the learning process between the educator and learners, while they are not physically present at a common venue. Communication happens over various channels including print, electronic, real time technology and more. In the present scenario, the advent of technology in this domain is rampantly increasing.
Pros and cons of distance learning with specific reference to the Indian education scenario:
The invisible bridge: Distance education is an evolving field with obvious merits. For those who for any reason cannot make it to the classrooms, distance learning is the perfect answer. It simply connects the two ends of education rope and thus simplifies the learning process.
Efficient system: Distance learning does not mandates physical attendance and thus saves on commuting and miscellaneous time heads. It is an efficient learning schema, which maximizes output in minimal time.
Apt for professionals: Distance education is especially convenient for working professionals, who cannot spare 2-3 years for pursuing full time higher education courses.
Host of options: Distance learning offers education curriculum over a host of learning streams to include higher education. Even the most reputed of education programs like IIT are soon to be added to the already extensive list.
Quality Concerns: Distance learning is a definite education enhancer, especially for geographies like India, where students from remote areas are unable to learn and thus grow. However, with lesser restrictions and almost negligible practical guidance, the quality aspects of the curriculum are highly questionable. The situation further worsens in developing nations like India, where even in classroom learning mode, the education quality is often compromised.
Infrastructural mismatch: Distance education has been a wonderful model in developed parts of the globe, where the most superior technology enabled tools disseminate the course nitty-gritty. However in India, even the basic online access is not available to majority. The mismatch would be explicitly apparent, if compared with aptly progressed nations, where distance learning is synonymous to online learning.
Lack of information: Distance education in India is still in nascent stages and as a growing concept, it is not perhaps being adequately nurtured. Aspirants are still not clear on the procedure and the communication channels are too loosely knitted. In such circumstances, the adequacy of the concept is gravely skeptical.