Disclose full information about distance learning programmes: UGC to Institutes

UGC2Noting that Institutions offering education through distance mode are not disclosing full information regarding their Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programmes to prospective students and the public, the UGC on Wednesday directed such institutions to put up detailed information covering all aspects of ODL programmes on their official websites.

The latest notification also comes in the light of reports earlier this year that some universities are violating UGCs policy by issuing misleading advertisements that their programmes are recognized by the UGC. Some Institutes were involved in conducting technical degree programmes in distance education mode.

Since December 2012, the UGC has taken over the regulatory functions with regard to Distance Education programmes in higher education from the erstwhile Distance Education Council. Since then, it has implemented several measures to maintain standards of distance education programmes.  Currently, a total of 128 universities and institutions offering academic programmes under ODL mode are recognised by the UGC.

Following this direction, along with the titles of the courses offered, the Institutions are now required to display information regarding approval of the statutory bodies of the University, upload complete approval letters of the regulatory bodies, and provide details of academic calendar of such programmes.

Moreover, to help prospective students get a comprehensive view of the course they wish to enrol in, UGC has also mandated disclosing information regarding number of students who enrolled, appeared, and passed the exam under ODL courses during the last three academic sessions. Details of faculty and the minimum qualification of subject coordinators and counsellors at the study centres are to be displayed online as well.

Further, a list of study centres and examination centres with complete addresses and details of course co-ordinators and support services will now be available on their programme websites along with the information regarding availability of online Self Learning Material (SLM).

The UGC also took cognizance of the practice followed by some institutions of asking personal details from students before giving out basic information regarding these courses and has directed them to upload complete information in a transparent manner within 15 days.

Prior to this notification, released on August 24, UGC had come out with a policy of forbidding institutions to conduct examination for their distance learning programmes outside the State of their location or beyond their territorial jurisdiction. Distance education institute, therefore, cannot conduct examination outside their States or beyond their territorial jurisdiction.

EduLegaL View:

Education Law and Policy

Misleading Advertisement by Educational Institutions is biggest corruption in education. The solution is absolute transparency and disclosure. This is a positive step towards eliminating Misleading Advertisement.

In any case, “Right to Information” is a fundamental right and it should certainly extend to providing information to the prospective students so that they can make the correct decision.

Ravi Bhardwaj

 

UGC Notifies Regulations for Credit Framework for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

UGC2UGC recognising the need to widen the access to higher education through technology has released the Credit Framework for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) by establishing a indigenous platform of learning, named as SWAYAM (Study Web of Active Learning by Young and Aspiring Minds) and also prescribed regulatory mechanism to allow seamless connect between the online learning and the regular class room learning.

The Regulations, shall facilitate transfer of credits of such students who are enrolled as regular/part-time students in any educational institution in India through ‘Four quadrant approach’, wherein the

Quadrant-I is e-Tutorial: that shall contain: Video and Audio Content in an organised form, Animation, Simulations, Virtual Labs,

Quadrant-II is e-Content: that shall contain: PDF/e-Books/illustration, video demonstrations, documents and Interactive simulations wherever required. •

Quadrant-III is Web Resources: that shall contain: Related Links, Open Content on Internet, Case Studies, An ecdotalin formation, Historical development of the subject, Articles and

Quadrant-IV is Self-Assessment : that shall contain: MCQ, Problems, Quizzes, Assignments andsolutions, Discussion forum topics and setting up the FAQ, Clarifications on general misconceptions.

The ‘National MOOCs Coordinator’ (NMC) a Nation level agency designated under the Regulations, for coordinating the production of the online courses and for overseeing their quality shall identify the Institutions, which desire to offer online courses in the forthcoming semester on SWAYAM Platform. The Institution keeping in view their academic requirements, decide upon the courses, which it shall permit for credit transfer.

However, there are some limitations on an Institution offering course on SWAYAM Platform. The Institution has to show that there is non-availability of suitable teaching staff for running a particular course in the Institution or the facilities for offering the elective papers (courses), sought for by the students are not on offer in the Institution, but are available on the SWAYAM platform and also that the courses offered on SWAYAM would supplement the teaching-learning process in the Institution. In any case, the Institution has to ensure that the physical facilities like Laboratories, computer facilities, library etc, essential for pursuing the courses shall be made available free and in adequate measure by the parent institution. The parent institution must also designate a course coordinator/facilitator to guide the students throughout the course and to facilitate/conduct the Lab/Practical sessions/examinations.

mooc3Every student, aspiring to have credit transfer through MOOC Courses, would be required to register for the MOOCs for that course/paper. Their performance would be evaluated by a host institution and the PI shall be responsible for evaluating the students registered for the MOOCs course launched by him/her. The evaluation should be based on predefined norms and parameters and shall be based on a comprehensive evaluation throughout the length and breadth of course based on specified instruments like discussions, forums, quizzes, assignments, sessional examinations and final examination.

The Regulation, though paves route for online learning, but surprisingly it leaves discretion with the PI to decide on the mode of conducting the final examination, which may also be pen and paper method.

After conduct of the examination and completion of the evaluation, the PI through the host institution shall award marks/grade as per the evaluation scheme and communicate to the students and parent institution, which shall incorporate the marks/grade obtained by the student, in the marks sheet of the student that counts for final award of the degree with the proviso that the programs in which Lab/Practical Component is involved, the parent institution will evaluate the students for the practical/Lab component and accordingly incorporate these marks/grade in the overall marks/grade.

The parent Institution shall give the equivalent credit weightage to the students for the credits earned through online learning courses through SWAYAM platform in the credit plan of the program for the purpose of credit mobility.

UGC has also asked the Universities to amend their Ordinances, Rules, Regulations etc., to incorporate provisions of these Regulations for the purpose of seamless Integration of MOOCs and also has warned them from refusing any student for credit mobility for the courses earned through MOOCs.

UGC shall notify a Standing committee to resolve any issues that may arise in the implementation of these regulations during the transition period of three years.

EduLegaL View:

No doubt it is a good start! and a great leap for wider access to higher education.

But, I think the slowly the “centralized” system of e-learning has to give way for independent online hosting of courses also.

Today there is no regulation in the country, which empowers an Institution to conduct online learning. The proposed Distance Education Council of India Bill makes provision for the same. It is required that regulation should be in place obviously with prescribed standards to allow Institutions to conduct online course, and not just enabling credit transfer.

Ravi Bhardwaj

 

No Examination Centre outside State for Distance Education Institutes: UGC

UGC2UGC has now issued a circular that a Distance Education Institute cannot conduct Examination outside the State of their location or beyond their territorial jurisdiction.

UGC, taking cognizance of the fact that some Institutions / Universities / Institutions Deemed to be Universities are conducting examinations for their Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programmes outside the State of their location or beyond their territorial jurisdiction, in violation of UGC policy on ODL norms and territorial jurisdiction.

UGC feels that such practice of conducting examination outside is wholly illegal and have asked the Institutes to stop setting up examination centres and conducting exams outside the State of their locationexam-centre2
or beyond their territorial jurisdiction.

Edulegal View:

I feel this circular is against the ethos of open and distance learning. What is the harm if one State based Distance Education University, though not operating outside the state, for the convenience of students outside the state, conducts examinations for them outside the state.

Does this circular mean that, a student residing in Punjab but enrolled in a Distance Education University based in UP has to travel all through to UP to give examination, then what is the benefit of open and distance learning?

I can understand that a Distance Education University should not have franchise centres outside the state, that is alright, but why ban examination centres, what is the justification, what are we going to achieve ?

Are we trying to restrict the choice available to a student, because a distance learning student would generally not like to travel distances only for examination purposes. Are we trying to create monopoly or geographical restriction in education sector ?

Ravi Bhardwaj

Read the Notification:

UGC Notice on Examination Centre for Distance Education Institutes

 

 

UGC snubs MHRD by re-imposing ban on technical distance education degrees

UGC2

UGC has undone a great policy initiative taken by MHRD to recognize technical education obtained distance education by re-imposing the ban on such degrees and has cautioned by way of Public Notice that no institution is permitted to offer Diploma, Bachelor or Masters level programme under ODL mode in Engineering and Technology.

In a big departure from its earlier stand, the Centre has notified in July 25, 2015 Notification that degrees, diplomas and certificates granted by universities through open and distance-learning mode of education for programmes including technical education would now be considered valid for Government Employment.

MHRD

The path breaking approach of MHRD was consistent with recommendation of Madhav Menon Committee, which had advocated that recognition of technical education qualification from distance education mode is consistent with National Policy of Education and should be allowed by using Study Learning Material for theory component, face-to-face / e-learning for interaction and compulsory practical component for development of requisite skill. Regular face-to-face counselling sessions during weekends should be used for clarification and removal of doubts. Laboratory experiments could be conducted in AICTE recognized colleges taking into account the physical infrastructure and human resource required for the purpose.

DEB

Now the present notice issued by UGC, which has come as a big shock, ignores not only the recommendation of the Madhav Menon Committee but also the Notification issued by MHRD and is actually repetitive of the earlier approach of UGC and AICTE, which has always followed a policy of not approving B.Tech, M.Tech, courses in distance mode, but have only recognising MBA / MCA Qualifications from Distance Education Mode.

UGC has turned the tide termed offering such courses by Institutions to be “misleading” and in “gross violation” of the policy regarding offering programmes in Open and Distance Learning Mode. It also clarified that it has not recognized any Institution to offer distance Programme in technical education and such qualification, acquired by a student shall not be eligible for employment in Government Services or for pursuing higher studies.

The proposed Distance Education Council Bill, 2014 also makes provisions for technical education within the scope of Distance Education and the proposed Council has representations from AICTE and other technical / professional regulators.

EduLegaL View

Higher Education in our country has experienced substantial growth however has failed to scale upto the required strengths more so because it is highly dependent on conventional education, which is highly capital-intensive.

The need of the hour is to develop an alternative mode of education to supplement the conventional education system, through policy initiatives to facilitate the expansion of higher education sector for the fulfillment of aspirations of those who are deprived of pursuing it for whatever reason and recognising the qualifications earned through distance education for employability is certainly one of such policy initiatives.

UGC’s Notice is a step backwards and works against the aspirations.

But the larger picture is, WHAT IS A CONFUSION BETWEEN TWO APEX AGENCIES, MHRD and UGC ?

Statutory Councils not in support of pursuing two degrees simultaneously

UGC2

University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued a Notice dated 15th January 2016 stating that its consultations related to allowing students to pursue two degrees simultaneously has not received a positive response and hence the possibility of allowing a student to pursue two degrees has hit a road block.

Earlier, in year 2012, a Committee headed by Mr. Fuqran Kamar, Vice-Chancellor, Central University of Hyderabad, Mr. Manoj Kumar Mishra, Vice Chancellor, University of Lucknow and Prof. Sudhanshu Bhushan, NUEPA, New Delhi had recommended that students enrolled in a regular degree course should be allowed to pursue an additional degree simultaneously under open or distance education mode from the same or different university. However, students should not be allowed to undertake two regular degrees at the same time, the committee had held.

The Committee had also recommended that students enrolled in a regular degree course should be allowed to pursue an additional one Certificate/Diploma/ Post Graduate Diploma in regular or distance mode, from the same or different university.

The Committee was not in favour of allowing two degree programmes under regular mode simultaneously as it may create logistic, administrative and academic problems.

The University Grants Commission finally at a meeting on July 31, 2013 decided to accept its Committee’s recommendations on permitting pursuit of an additional degree programme, in the manner as aforesaid.

However, recently, UGC has notified that it had sought the comments of statutory councils on the issue of allowing pursuing two degrees simultaneously, but the responses of the Statutory Council was not encouraging. UGC has therefore directed the Institutions that they shall conduct their programmes in accordance with the First Degree and Master Degree Regulations, 2003 prescribed by the UGC and also follow the norms and parameters prescribed by the Statutory Council concerned, wherever relevant.

EduLegaL View:

The recent notice, without any clarity on the earlier Resolution has added to confusion for academic governance.

Pursuing two courses simultaneously allows a student to do value addition to him and enhance his knowledge and skill. It also adds to the prospect to his employability.

Not allowing pursuing two degree programmes in name of “logistic, administrative and academic problems” is a weak response to the growing demands of the students and such issues can easily be addressed.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

Distance Education Certifications now valid for Government Employment

In a big departure from its earlier stand, the Centre has notified in July 25 Notification that degrees, diplomas and certificates granted by universities through open and distance-learning mode of education for programmes including technical education would now be considered valid for Government Employment.

Earlier, all the concerned regulators MHRD, UGC and AICTE had barred universities and other higher-educational institutions from offering diploma, bachelors and postgraduate courses in engineering and technology other than MBA and MCA through distance-learning. In fact some State / State Open Universities were seriously reprimanded by UGC / DEB for imparting technical education through Distance Education Mode.

However, Madhav Menon Committee had advocated that recognition of technical education qualification from distance education mode is consistent with National Policy of Education and should be allowed by using Study Learning Material for theory component, face-to-face / e-learning for interaction and compulsory practical component for development of requisite skill. Regular face-to-face counselling sessions during weekends should be used for clarification and removal of doubts. Laboratory experiments could be conducted in AICTE recognized colleges taking into account the physical infrastructure and human resource required for the purpose.

Higher Education in our country has experienced substantial growth however has failed to scale upto the required strengths more so because it is highly dependent on conventional education, which is highly capital-intensive. The need of the hour is to develop an alternative mode of education to supplement the conventional education system, through policy initiatives to facilitate the expansion of higher education sector for the fulfillment of aspirations of those who are deprived of pursuing it for whatever reason and recognising the qualifications earned through distance education for employability is certainly one of such policy initiatives.

The Notification reads as under:

“The central government hereby notifies that all the degrees/diplomas/certificates including technical education degrees and diplomas awarded through open and distance learning mode of education by the universities established by an Act of Parliament or state legislature, institutions deemed to be universities under section 3 of the UGC Act 1956 and Institution of National Importance declared under an Act of Parliament stand automatically recognised for the purpose of employment to posts and services under the central government provided they have been approved by the UGC”

The proposed Distance Education Council Bill, 2014 also makes provisions for technical education within the scope of Distance Education and the proposed Council has representations from AICTE and other technical / professional regulators.

Notification – Recognition of ODL mode degrees for the purpose of employment under Central Government

EduLegal View:

This is a big step towards encouragement of distance education in the country and so also to alleviate doubts relating to the recognition of distance education qualification. It is also consistent with National Policy of Education, as present rigid entry requirements to formal courses restricting the access of a large segment of people to technical and managerial education is restricting the GER and therefore programmes through open and distance- learning processes, including use of the mass media should be encouraged and one of the means of encouragement is to recognise the qualifications earned through distance education mode.

MHRD proposes an independent regulatory authority – Distance Education Council of India (DECI) for Open and Distance Learning (ODL) education

MHRD has proposed establishment of an Independent Regulatory Authority – Distance Education Council of India for Open and Distance Education System in the country.

Earlier, Distance Education Council, was created under statute 28 of Indira Gandhi National Open University Act, 1985, which engaged granting recognition and laying down standards for Distance and Open Education in the Country. Later, Distance Education Council was dissolved and all the functions of Distance Education Council was transferred to University Grants Commission.

The University Grants Commission, thereafter notified draft rules for laying down standards for conducting distance and open education courses in the Country. UGC approved those Regulations and forwarded the same to MHRD about a year ago. Since then there was a status quo in the matter and there was no legislative framework governing Distance and Open Education system in the Country.

Now, MHRD has published a Draft Bill, under the name of The Distance Education Council of India Bill, 2014, which provides for the establishment of The Distance Education Council of India for the promotion and coordination of the Distance Education System in the field of higher education and for the determination and regulation of standards.

In our country, this has been tradition, under the umbrella of UGC, there exists various councils for different streams of education. Like for Technical Education, we have All India Council for Technical Education, for Legal Education, we have Bar Council of India, for education in Pharmacy, we have Pharmacy Council of India. The proposed Distance Education Council of India, though long awaited is step in continuation of the tradition.

Section 3 of the proposed Bill provides for creation of Distance Education Council of India. This Council shall be a 18 Member Council having representation from Government, IGNOU, various statutory councils like AICTE, BCI, INC etc., and other experts in different fields.

Section 15 of the Bill, deals with Powers and Functions of the Council. The primary function of the Council is promotion, coordination and determination of standards of the distance education system relating to higher education. The proposed Council will lay down norms, guidelines and standards for offering various programmes of higher education through distance education system and prescribe physical and infrastructural facilities, staffing pattern and staff qualifications required for such programmes. It will also grant recognition to programmes of higher education offered through distance education system within the country and/or outside.

For the first time, online programmes are also sought to be regulated and the Council will have the power to lay down norms, guidelines and standards for regulating and monitoring online programmes. It will also regulate the collaboration between foreign education providers and Indian higher education institutions.

The proposed Council will also have the power to regulate free structure of an Institute and it will develop guidelines for charging fees by higher education institutions imparting distance education so that fee is commensurate and not exorbitant to recover the cost of development of the programme.

The Council also has powers u/s 18 to withdraw recognition if a higher education institution having recognition to offer distance education programme has contravened any of the provision of this Act.

The proposed bill takes a strong leap for protection of students and provides for stern measures, if any Institution offers or gives admission to students through misleading or wrongful information, which can be refund of fees, confiscation of illegal gain and penalty of Rs. 50 Lakhs.

EduLegaL View:

Distance Education has really suffered in the country for want of a proper legislative framework. We can also say that this absence has also led to immense erosion in quality of the delivery. With a vision of ever increasing GER, we have to promote distance education system.

But all these have been going on for last so many years. Let this step reach its destination, at the earliest.

DER AYE LEKIN DURUSUT AYE!!!

mail@edulegal.in