Tag : online learning

Online Education

As online education gains momentum, can India tap its full potential? Insights from U.S.-based professor Hari K. Rajagopalan.

I work in a small public university in South Carolina, U.S., and we pride ourselves on providing an excellent liberal arts education. The School of Business is accredited at the highest level by AACSB, an international accreditation body, for both its Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) and the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programmes. The 2008 recession and the resulting slump in the economy caused enrolments in the MBA programme to drop. By 2011, we had to take a call about continuing with the MBA programme.

The first thing we did was take a survey of our former students and companies in our area who pay for their employees to do an MBA. The most important feedback was that attending classes from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. after a full day’s work was not convenient for them. Online programmes, they pointed out, were convenient and more suitable for working adults. Many colleagues in public and private universities who don’t offer online classes believe that online education courses do not have the same rigour or value as the traditional style of education.

Rising popularity

However, I believe that this attitude is wrong. Online learning is here to stay and I believe it will revolutionise the education industry. It will make learning more accessible, cheaper and might enhance the learning experience for students if done properly. It is important, however, to ensure that the learning experience is legitimate and implemented correctly.

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Online learning and its pedagogy have to be engineered in a specific manner to meet the aspirations of a range of learners.

States of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh see a strange conundrum. While almost all students who complete class XII and all those who can afford to pay, end up getting into some higher education programme, tens of thousands of seats go vacant every year in professional and arts/science colleges in these States. Very few youngsters, who can afford it, choose not to enter college.

So, although seats are available, lakhs of students do not pursue higher education as they cannot afford it. Alternatively, the problem may lie in not having access to a college or university. Or the learners feel the quality of education is not up to the mark.

Enrolment crisis

Look at the other side. The Union government wants to increase the gross enrolment ratio to at least 30 per cent in the next five – six years. (Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is the ratio between youth population in the 17 – 25 age group and the number actually enrolled in higher education institutions). Overall, only about 20 per cent of the relevant age population in India is enrolled in higher education. Tamil Nadu is relatively better off, as its GER is already 30 per cent.

A GER target of 30 per cent translates into bringing 35 million young people within the higher education ecosystem — a mammoth task in terms of cost of infrastructure, systems, processes and recruiting the faculty. Still, there is no guarantee that the education that’s delivered will be affordable and accessible for all rural students, or be of reasonable quality.

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