‘Distance Education’ ‘Close’ To You

Dr. S. Ganesan Regional Director, IGNOU

Both the wire-phone (land line) and wireless phone (mobile) are giving same audio signal for voice communication purpose. In similar manner, the regular colleges and distance education institutes provide learning experiences, (knowledge) for students. How can we say one mode is superior or inferior to other? Is it wise to differentiate? Let us try to understand the concept of Open and Distance Learning System.



One can easily define Correspondence Education as simple postal mode delivery of printed material to students from Correspondence Education Institute. It is one of the basic model of teaching at a distance. If the distance between the student and teacher/teaching institute is minimized through various communication technologies –Radio, TV, CD, Website, -it takes the upgraded form and called as Distance Education.
The regular college has certain rules and restrictions for students. If those restrictions are relaxed, then it becomes open for many aspects. One such restriction is entry age for college admission. Permitting all age groups is one of the relaxation in Open Learning System which all of us witness easily. The college can also offer open learning if it adopts more and more relaxations for conventional education procedures. Normally, the Distance Education mode is the most suitable mode to implement the openness in teaching-learning process. In other words, the open learning is a philosophy, whereas the Distance Education is a method for the same. There are few more terms, which are not exactly Distance Education, such as,
External Studies
Extra –moral System
Independent Study
Home Study
Off-Campus Studies
Proximate Education
Following are significant aspects of Distance Education:
• The learner is quasi-permanently separated from the teachers as well as peer-group throughout the duration of the learning process.
• A technological medium replaces the inter-personal communication of conventional (oral group-based) education.
• The teaching-learning process is institutionalized.
• Two-way communication is possible between both the student and the teacher.
• It is an industrialized form of teaching & learning
The popular definitions of Distance Education are given by Charles Wedeneyer (autonomy of the learner); Moore Michael (media use); Dohmen (self-learning); Peters (industrialized form); Borje Holmberg (Institution support).
In this modern world, the marriage invitation is issued to guests through various electronic platforms such as e-mail, face book, whatsapp, website, etc. even for next door neighbour, the invitation first reaches through communication technologies and then by-hand. Most of us prefer and accept such e-mode invitations without any criticism. Being so, the concept of Distance Education has also taken its place without any comparison with regular college education. That is why, even the UG/first degree course in Distance Education mode gets significant enrolment from fresh +2 pass-outs every year.
Distance between the Learner & the Teacher:
A classroom situation comprises 5 components:
1. The Teacher
2. The Learner
3. The Subject-matter
4. A communication system and
5. The classroom
This model of Teacher & Learner has a prestige which is the result of centuries of socially acceptable practice. But the invention of writing broke down the absolute monopoly of speech as the medium of communications. Printing allowed the same communication to be passed on at the same or differing time (s) over distances to as many receivers as one wanted. The telecommunications opened up hither to unknown possibilities of Teacher-Learner contacts.
The distance between teacher and learner gives scope for the learner to have the freedom to start, pace and stop his learning activities. The learner is not necessarily move away from his/her environment physical, socio cultural or geographical.
The media other than the spoken word, such as the printed work, audio-visuals, etc, are exploited for the benefits of both the teacher and the learner. The learning can be made more and more relevant to individual needs and it is the learning activity which becomes more significance than the teaching effort. The interactive element which is the main strength of face-to-face education can be taken to a higher level in Distance Education.
The actual distance between the learner and teacher/institution should not be measured in terms of the spatial distance between the two; but in terms of the degrees of dialogue and individualization. Thus, ‘distance’ is to be seen as a function of ‘dialogue’ and of ‘individualization’. That is to say, the higher the degree of ‘dialogue’ and ‘individualization’  the less distant the learner is from his/her teacher/institute, and the lower the degree of ‘dialogue’ and ‘individualization’, the more distant the learner is from his/her teacher/institute.
If we look at the physical distance of Port Blair College (JNRM) from Diglipur (North end) (or) Campbell Bay (South end) it is far away by 300-600 kms. Whereas, if we see IGNOU learner support centres which exists at Mayabunder (MGGC) and Campbell Bay (Coast Guard Public School), the distance will be 25-75 kms only. Being close to the learner, he/she can attend classes, submit assignment response sheets, and appear in university exams locally. In other words; ‘learner internationally, study locally’. The distance disappears in Open and Distance Learning System; thus, the Distance Education in close to everyone.
(The author is Regional Director of IGNOU, Regional Centre, Port Blair and can be reached at rcportblair@ignou.ac.in (M-8900936718)

Tuesday, 25 September, 2018