Prof Ravindra Kumar, Vice-Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), talks to Sangeeta Yadav about setting up digital centres across India
- How has Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) evolved from being an open distance learning to an open digital learning university?
We aren’t an alternative education system. We are a parallel education system. Generally, we are identified as Open Distance Learning (ODL) system. But with the reach of digital learning centres across the villages, we are no more a distance learning institution. The Government should think of removing the word distance learning from IGNOU. Our students are not deprived of teachers. They have the facility of getting assistance from them over weekends. Now we are improving the facility and providing teachers everyday through Gyan Darshan and Gyan Vani.
- Tell us more about Gyan Darshan
Gyan Darshan is a 24-hour channel on Doordarshan. Out of the six hours, four hours will be live interaction through the medium of toll free telephone line. Our lecturers will be talking to them and answering student’s queries. Apart from the repeat telecast, two hours will be used for giving them general understanding of the society.
- How does Gyan Vani work?
The Gyan Vani is eight hours of live session and two hours of repeat broadcast on every radio set which receives FM 105.6 channel. We have, at present, 40 FM radio stations. We want to increase this number to 100. Initially, we will take assistance from AIR for which an MoU has already been signed. They will give us the facility of their broadcast station.
- What about the digital revolution?
We have made the admission and exam process online so that the entire process happens in real time. Earlier, students used to face a lot of problem in submitting fees through demand draft that used to take month’s time to reach the fees in IGNOU’s account and some get lost also. Moreover, the exam centres will be open in Kendriya Vidyalaya across India since June this year. Question paper will be maintained in the digital format at the headquarters and with the help of ICT, it will be released half-an-hour before the exam.
- What is the reason behind drop in the pass percentage?
Our pass percentage is only about 10-15 per cent. As we conduct exams every six months – June and December, students have an option to choose whichever test paper they would like write. They have to complete the papers in minimum three years and maximum six years. Suppose they are not able to complete the papers in six years, we allow the candidate to re-register for the course and he/she is allowed to complete the course in two years. If this is the system, naturally all the 10 lakh students who take admissions do not sit for the examinations in the initial phase and the pass percentage gets reduced by 15 per cent. Out of 10 lakh students registered for the course, only 5 lakh sit for the exam and only 25 per cent pass which is not bad. If you want to see the progress of the student, look at the period of six years. Even the drop-out rate was big but that has reduced dramatically as we give an option for re-registering for the course to the student which has increased 30-35 per cent.
- What are the challenges?
We lack in support service. There are financial constraints and less physical resources. To set-up a study centre, we require space. We prefer if a space is available in college. All colleges are not willing to give us space as they consider us as rival and think that the candidate who was normally going to college will start coming to IGNOU. At present, we have 3,160 study centres across the country and every year we are adding 150 new centres.
- How are you planning to better the student support system?
We are setting up digital centres across the country which are technology driven and would have access to all our digital products like Gyan Darshan, Gyan Vani, MOOC courses, etc. Some of it has already come up in Bihar and others are been set-up in Uttar Pradesh that will be open to IGNOU students as well as general public for free of cost. It will be setup with the help of Gram Panchayat. We are targeting to have total 6,000 digital centres across India in next two years.
- Tell us about the course material?
When we are preparing the learning material, we take assistance with the best possible experts from across the countries and the content is filtered, tested, checked and rechecked before it goes in public domain. The net impact of this is the quality of education available for all. Through the open learning system, we empower the learner to choose what they want to study and the study material that we prepare goes through a lot of quality check. There is text material, visual material in Gyan Darshan format and audio material in Gyan Vani format.
- Future plans…
My dream is to build a consortium through which the State universities can also access IGNOU study materials and make them empowered with the use of Gyan Darshan, Gyan Vani and MOOC project — Swayam for which we have started conducting workshops too. We also want to convert our study material in different languages. We have also collaborated with National Mission of Libraries to create virtual library by digitising books from the libraries, artifacts in museums, etc.
(The article also got published in Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/avenues/quality-education-for-all.html).