What is Distance Education?

Today two terms that are being used almost inter-changeably are ‘Open Learning’ and ‘Distance Education’ and they are often combined to be known as Open and Distance Learning (ODL). Open learning is a philosophy and Distance Education is the mode used for translating it into reality as the two are complementary to each other.

Distance Education (DE) is an umbrella term which describes all the teaching learning arrangements in which the learner and the teacher are separated by space and time. In fact it is a mode of delivering education and instruction to one who are not physically sitting in a traditional setting of a classroom. Transaction of the curriculum is effected by means of specially prepared materials (self-study (learning) materials) which are delivered to the learners at their doorstep through various media such as print, television, radio, satellite, audio/video tapes, CD-ROMs, Internet and World Wide Web etc. Also a technological medium replaces the inter personal communication of conventional classroom based education that takes place between the teacher and the learners. Communication between the institution, teacher and learners is mainly through electronic media (telephone, interactive radio counselling, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, chat sessions, email, website, etc.) and also through postal correspondence and limited face to face contact sessions held at Study Centers that are set up by the DE institutions as close to the learners’ homes as possible.

Open Learning

Open learning, which covers a wide range of innovations and reforms in the educational sector that advocates flexibility to the learner with regard to entry and exit; pace and place of study; method of study and also the choice and combination of courses; assessment and course completion. The lesser the restrictions, the higher the degree of openness. The Open learning system aims to redress social or educational inequality and to offer opportunities not provided by conventional colleges or universities. Educational opportunities are planned deliberately so that access to education is available to larger sections of the society. Thus, ODL is a term which accepts the philosophy of “openness” and uses the “distance mode” of learning

Why Distance Education?

DL occupies a special place in the Indian higher education system because of its major contribution in enhancing the gross enrollment ratio and democratization of higher education to large segments of the Indian population particularly to reach out to the unreached and to meet the demands of lifelong learning which has become more of a necessity in the knowledge society. The major objectives of DE system are:

a) To democratize higher degree education to large segments of the population, in particular the disadvantaged groups such as those living in remote and rural areas, working people, women etc.

b) To provide an innovative system of university-level education which is both flexible and open in terms of methods and pace of learning; combination of courses, eligibility for enrollment, age of entry, conduct of examination and implementation of the programs of study;

c) To provide an opportunity for up-gradation of skills and qualifications; and

d) To develop education as a lifelong activity to enable persons to update their knowledge or acquire knowledge in new areas.

Why Distance Education?

India has one of the largest DE systems in the world, second only to China. There are six types of institutions offering DE today:

  • a) National Open University
  • b) State Open University
  • c) State Open University
  • 1) Institutions of National Importance
  • 2) Central Universities
  • 3) State Universities
  • 4) Deemed to be Universities
  • 5) State Private Universities
  • d) DEIs at Standalone Institutions:
  • 1) Professional Associations
  • 2) Government Institutions
  • 3) Private institutions

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