Friday, July 07, 2017

Government framing policy to push online education

Digital India initiative in mind, the human resources development ministry is aiming to give online education a big push, in an attempt to widen the reach of higher education.

Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and leading universities—both private and public—will come together on 9 July in an initiative taken by the human resources development ministry to chart an online education policy for the University Grants Commission (UGC) and deliberate how best to integrate it with the mainstream.

An online degree finds no recognition by regulators in India though several countries including the US have adopted them in a big way in the higher education space.

“When the country is adopting digital in most sectors, keeping education away is not the right approach. Pure online courses—adopted and aided by Indian institutes—will push quality higher education to the masses,” said a human resource development ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said the promotion of massive open online courses (MOOCS) was the first step and it was time to take the initiative forward. In the past year-and-a- half, the government has asked top Indian institutions to develop MOOCS on various subjects for supplementary knowledge. These are in the nature of short-term, subject-specific capsule courses, available online to all.

“The UGC is already working on a plan and top educational institutions will be in a better position to tell us about the market demand, the drawbacks if any, and the way forward,” a second government official, who will be attending the meeting, said.

The second official, also on condition of anonymity, said Aadhaar or the unique identity number will be made part of the online education policy for authentication of students and linking them to the upcoming national academic depository. Institutions will be asked to present their innovations and best practices in the digital education space in sync with the ‘Digital India’ push of the Union government.

The new online education rules will enable institutions to offer courses for both regular students as well as working professionals. While online courses for regular students will allow the higher education space to grow, and cater to more students, the offerings for professionals will help re-skill them and be a good source of revenue for institutions as they can charge market rates.

Indian has 799 universities, 39,071 colleges and 11,923 stand-alone institutions catering to around 30 million students. Despite the size of the sector, the gross enrolment in higher education is just 24%, way below leading economies. With limited government spending on education, online education could spur the sector.

The second government official cited above said that the outcome of the meeting will aid in formulating online education rules, which may also find a place in the broader education policy being formulated by the K. Kasturirangan Committee. “The meeting will familiarize the leaders of higher education with all digital initiatives of the government and help evolve action plans for effective adoption and utilization of these digital initiatives in higher educational institutions,” he said.

Source: Mint, July 5, 2017
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