“Distance education has always been there; it has just got evolved with time. E-learning is a new dimension of distance education. Ekalavya could be termed as the first distance learner. The difference between E-learning and distance education is that the former has built informal recognition that the latter may or may not have. A fine line of difference exists between the two forms: Distance education is done as a postal course, where content is developed using SIM (self-instruction material), printed and sent to students; and is not available on the electronic media. E-learning content, on the other hand, is delivered only through electronic media. However, distance learning today is the ‘education offered from a distance over an electronic media’.
Distance learning has grown in leaps and bounds in the last five years and industry experts predict that Mumbai will grow in fame to become the hub for imparting this mode of education. Distance learning has gained popularity due to its various benefits. For most universities, distant learning increases the reach and helps in overcoming the shortage of quality teachers. For students it empowers them to have access to knowledge and the additional resources. Distance learning is expanding with every passing day and is known by different names like open learning, continuing education, and non-formal education.
Due to its any-time any-where approach towards education, many students in Mumbai are considering this as a favorable option. So, people who missed out on earlier education, people looking for up-gradation of knowledge and higher education, to those employed who need additional skills, and the non-traditional clients, who do not prefer classroom sessions – all are cramming into it. Even students from the lower strata of society have begun to prefer this option due to the reduced fee as compared to regular courses.
With the development of e-Infrastructures, an increased budget and the various governmental initiatives – the future prospects of distance learning is gaining momentum. “More and more people of all age groups are getting connected through the Internet and mobile devices, thereby increasing awareness. There is a gradual upturn of interest – and more students log in to the various university portal and are using e-learning modules – the numbers are only steadily rising.
Various universities in Mumbai offer distance education. Institutions today are offering engineering and business administration courses as well, thereby showing the growing approval and integration of distance learning in Mumbai. It has become more crucial since it has been used to both empower and marginalize good and bad educators respectively.
Distance learning is also ensuring a future to the people that they will not be denied education. Access to education especially higher education has not been at par and there have not been enough schools and colleges to accommodate all aspirants. Interestingly, distance education has been able to bring students closer to learning.
Role of technology
Without a doubt, technology plays a huge role in content generation and delivery. It uses various tools to put together rich content — power-point, smart boards, integration of multiple media (video, audio, text) and interactive animation. The computer and web together have changed the game by enabling wider access, richness, and interaction with content. Internet and the constant improvement of the bandwidth have enabled the delivery of large files with image and video. Technology has also allowed control of access as well as evaluation. In traditional systems, one would use chalk and board to teach the operation of an electric motor to mechanical engineering students. But with the capability of animation available today, this can be done using 3D models. This method is helping in teaching difficult concepts like turbines, internal combustion engines, etc. Technology is constantly adding great value as these modules are providing better understanding and clarity to its students.
Government of India has taken the various initiative to set up the core structure of e-learning for engineering and science students. This paved the path for introducing multimedia and web technology to enhance effective learning. High-quality e-learning solutions are currently being developed that use the right technology and industry support in various sectors. As the PC costs are getting lower and the broadband penetration are becoming deeper, distance learning technology will get strengthened further. Today, it co-exists with other technologies.
However, more initiatives are required to improve and increase the reach for this mode of education. Things such as basic ICT (Information and Communication Technology) infrastructure, creation of content, better quality and statutory recognition, vast geographical reach-out, depth of content need to improvise. Also, this will allow students to benefit from pervasive access to learn content in multiple languages.
Can distance-learning replace on-campus learning?
E-Learning is an effective technological tool – to conduct and deliver education – which can improve the quality of distance education, provided it is deployed. Yet this is only a supplement and not a substitute to on-campus education.
So, will distance learning enables the return of the gurukul tradition in future? Let’s wait and watch.
Distance learning, as well as E-learning, is here to stay. There are plenty of benefits stated above and considering the fast-paced life of Mumbai, distance learning is one of the best options where you can peruse education at not only your own pace but also without leaving your existing job.