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UGC decision to approve online courses from universities

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In a move, that would revolutionize the higher education sector, University Grants Commission (UGC), has decided to approve the regulations which permits online courses in non-technical disciplines. UGC’s landmark decision comes after the rising popularity among college students for online and distance learning. Before moving into the rules, let us look at the regulations.

What are the regulations?

  1. Higher Educational Institutions can offer Certificate, Diploma and Degree Programmes in full-fledged online mode in only those disciplines in which it has already been offering the same or similar Programmes /Courses at graduation level in regular mode (of classroom teaching) or in Open and Distance Learning mode and from which at least one batch has been graduated and approved by the statutory councils, as applicable. Online Programmes requiring Practical/ Laboratory Courses as a curricular requirement shall not be permitted.
  2. The Examinations shall be conducted in proctored mode and in conformity with any norms for such examinations stipulated by the commission. The online learning shall have minimum four quadrants: video lectures, e- content, self-assessment and discussion forum to clarify doubts.
  3. The Higher Educational Institutions will be eligible to offer Online Programmes if they have been in existence for at least five years and are accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) with a valid minimum score of 3.26 on a 4-point scale; and should be in the top-100 in overall category in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) for at least two years in the previous three years. However, NAAC and NIRF conditions shall not be applicable to existing government Open Universities till NAAC or similar accreditation system or NIRF are made available.
  4. Aadhaar and Passport shall be used to authenticate the Indian and foreign students respectively for all online interactions including teaching-learning and examinations.
  5. The learners' engagement will be monitored via participation in asynchronous / synchronous discussions, assignment activity and Programme involvement. The analytics of Learning Management System shall be used for ensuring the learner’s participation at least for 2 hours every fortnight.
  6. Overall Regulations provide enabling provisions for maintaining sanctity of admissions, teaching-learning, examination, authenticity of the learner and mandatory disclosure of Programme-wise information such as duration, start & end dates, fee, number of students, name of students with identifier, results, on HEI website/public domain.

Comparing online and traditional education

Online education and its traditional have both pros and cons, so it’s important for the university, academic department and students understand what to expect before they step foot inside or log into the classroom.

Advantages

One of the major benefits of online courses is that they provide access to students who never had the opportunity and have interest to take classes. One of the target demographics for online courses is that aspirants who have dropped out of the college, flexible course structure, interest to learn new subjects. Online courses offer not just access to the resource, but offer the opportunity to those who are very interested and passion for it. Besides, many top students, who undergo an online course would never have a negative effect on their grade point average. Another major benefit is that they offer flexibility to the student, which is a good option for those who have already the personal commitments with family and work. Online classes will reschedule the schedule—and allow them to log into an online course at a time that works best for them, which is opposite to attend a lecture at a specific time.

Disadvantages

Some of the cons include inability to express their thoughts, feelings or opinions in writing. Many a times, discussion posts and chats, even emails could be misunderstood as there are no visual cues, from the student. Despite, the flexibility, students must read a lot from textbooks and other educational resources in order to make sure that they don’t miss vital information. Moreover, it is difficult to form a real connection with their peers. For lower performing students, online courses could pose a real challenge, as they could drop out or trade off the tracks due to distractions.

Online education can undermine the value of university professors. Most often the teachers could be reduced to being a just as a guide. Such a lower or downgraded status could give no credit to the teachers, could push them to accept an unstable position or temporary position. The university could also employ most of their faculty as temporary staff. Besides,the internet could create an illusion that all information is available and accessible to anyone at any time and could undermine the need for educational experts. These online courses could also lead to separate teaching from research, which can lead to the lesser groundwork of research. In terms of social setup, it could lead to lack of social interactions with students, colleagues and friends. So students pursuing online education needed to be advised and taught on how to access, analyze, measure, criticize, synthesize and communicate knowledge from different perspectives and disciplines.

Conclusion

In this age of internet, people are flooded with information and news, which often lead to a distracted living. Many people crash their vehicle while text messaging and parents ignore their children while answering the mobile. So we must think whether we really want a generation of students to take college classes on their laptops as they play games and check their Facebook status updates. So, online learning can be part of a learning process of a course but it should be decided on the learning ability of the students. One could also propose, blending online learning with experiential active learning in the classroom. This could be a promising learning model. The traditional face to face lectures can be replaced by individual e-learning. Individual e-learning can become more motivated by combining it with virtual classroom activities. Such learning combinations can very effective. But finally, universities or higher education institutes must insist the students perform some self-evaluation including personal choice, learning ability before enrolment.

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