Admission time is almost over. Some of you may not have cracked the entrance tests or crossed the hurdles of high cut-offs despite your genuine efforts. And you certainly don’t want to loitering about in the campus. Don’t lose heart. Distance learning is here to help you get your desired career.
Why Distance Learning Programs?
Distance learning programs are offered to students of all age groups, at all levels. There is widest range of careers to start off any time at any level and you can go as high as you like.
Variety of Courses and Subjects
The types of courses and subjects you can take in distance learning degree programs are diverse. Any subject you want to study can be found in the vast variety of online degree subjects offered through eLearning. You can take elementary school programs that focus on science or math or take university courses and obtain an undergraduate and/or graduate degree without ever having to step into a classroom. If your preference is language, you can learn to read, write and speak the language of your choice or even become a translation specialist through a distance learning program. Those who dream of having an engineering degree on the master level can choose from a variety of online masters in engineering degree programs with specialization.
Location is Not A Problem
You can enroll in a distance education program no matter where you are. Various types of distance learning programs are available, depending on your circumstances and personal preferences. You can choose a strictly online program which only requires that you have internet access to complete the program.
There are courses that do not require you to buy a single textbook because all of the text is found online through the website of the school. There are correspondence distances learning programs that allow you to mail your work to your instructors and complete a degree at whatever online degree level you desire. Option is there of courses that deliver live interactive lectures on your computer in real time. All of this is done from your own home, office or anywhere you are.
Online and Traditional Programs at par
There may be a few employers who have personal opinion that distance learner’s degree inferior to the regular one. But that is not a point to bother about. In fact there is no difference between your online or distance learning program and any accredited regular program. The accreditation for distance and regular programs are just the same. You are not missing out on much when you take an online degree program.
Poor vs Good quality
The thought that distance education is for those ‘poor folks’ who couldn’t make it to the ‘real’ system is no more there. It was viewed as a ‘second class’ system with poor quality of teaching, with poor teaching materials and for poor students. But recent innovations in the mode of deliveries of teaching and learning have made significant steps to address the quality as well as the distance dimension of teaching and learning.
Web conferencing, videoconferencing, educational television, instructional television and the concept of “Social Learning” has been introduced in ODL discourse and practice. Social learning denotes creation of an online environment which is focused on engagement, interaction and communication.
Use of Learning Management Systems and Web Conferencing Systems, among others is supportive of this shift in more social and collaborative approach to learning.
At a time when globalization and economic growth is demanding highly and adequately trained human resources in a wide variety of knowledge and skill sets, learning new knowledge and skills in the same profession has become imperative to succeed and even remain ‘employable’.
Therefore, the growing future requirements for educating and re-educating human resources in all countries can best be met through distance education. New knowledge can be harnessed regularly; it can be done by students who do not have to leave their work, family or habitats; it can be accessed relatively inexpensively; most qualified and specialist teachers and resource persons can be involved in teaching.
There is no reason to lose hope as distance education offers a number of opportunities for a good career. We need to examine if the professional courses other than the conventional ones, are being fruitful. For example the thrust on commerce is seen as students from other streams are also opting to become chartered accountants (CA) and cost and work accountants (CWA) instead of opting for biotechnology or biochemistry.
1. Study from wherever YOU want
Online degree programs give you the freedom to study wherever you want. Study from home, office, or while traveling. There is no need for relocating or commuting. With an Internet access, the world is your classroom.
2. Study whenever YOU want
The flexible schedules allow you to study on you own pace. You can access course materials such as videotaped lectures, course notes, research materials, electronic discussion boards, chat rooms, class assignments, and exams, whenever you want and when it’s convenient for you, day or night.
3. A Degree according to Your Needs
Students can complete their education while keeping their jobs, family responsibilities, or personal commitments.
4. Get Someone Else to Pay for It
With increasing popularity of online education, many employers are offering to pay part or all of students’ tuition making online degrees even more attractive for students by.
5. Earn Your Degrees Faster
Most often, many online degrees can be earned quicker than the traditional campus counterparts due to the accelerated programs at all online degree levels.
6. Building New Skills
Completing an online degree also helps builds skills in self-motivation, responsibility, and time management, as well as writing skills.
7. Apply Immediately What You Have Learned
More frequently, online degrees are specialized, with coursework geared toward specific career training. The programs are industry-current and relevant for their careers. Furthermore, studying under professional instructors with education and experience in the field, students can apply their new knowledge immediately at work place.
KEY POINTS BEFORE YOU OPT FOR A COURSE OR INSTITUTION
Recognition: Check if the Institution, degree is approved by DEC and are valid for jobs and higher education.
Professional degrees: Some professional degrees like Medical cannot be offered under distance learning mode. For most other programmes, approvals must be sought from respective regulatory agencies.
B.Ed recognition: Final approval rests with the NCTE. So examine if the institute you want to study is figuring in the list of approved institutions maintained by the NCTE.
B Tech recognition: According to the rules correspondence B.Tech must not be recognized.
Foreign University approval: Degrees from recognized open universities are recognized by most of the foreign universities. If you are planning to study abroad, ask the college you intend to apply for the list of Indian universities recognized by it. Also, check with the registrar of the Distance Education Institute you wish to apply if the degree awarded by it is recognized abroad.
Territorial jurisdiction: Distance learning programmes of any university can be pursued from any State of India. But State universities cannot open study centers outside their State. The issue is not yet resolved but would not affect your studies.
Choosing a school: Factors you ought to keep in mind while deciding on Distance Education Institutes (DEIs) are: qualified faculty, quality of study material, number of contact classes, provision for online learning and submission of project work and campus placement opportunity. Also to be kept in mind are relevant approvals and availability of good study centers
Quality of material: This is the primary source of knowledge for any programme offered through distance learning. The material must be up-to-date and the periodicity of updation is a crucial factor you must consider. IGNOU claims to thoroughly revise the entire curriculum every three years. Availability of supplementary text books is also another factor one must look at before selecting an institution.
Promptness in response: This is one area where many private intuitions score distinctly. Since they operate through innumerable study centers, the quality of response normally is better in these cases. The ease of admission process, query handling and effective counseling are factors one must look for while selecting a course.
Ease of examination: It is important that the university takes the responsibility and is fully involved in the evaluation process. Moreover, examination schedules must be flexible and preferably online and on demand.
Online support: This should be a major criterion in your decision making. Many colleges offer entire course material online. The Learning Management System (LMS) as it is called, must be easy to use, interactive and support live chats, query management and effective means to communicate. Online submission facility for assignments and electronic marking, if available, would be very good value adds.
Student support: More the merrier must be your mantra. They must have Online support for course materials, assignments and project work submissions, placement support, audio visual learning aids, and e-learning facilities. A very robust Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) is essential for successful DL experience.
Access to study centre: One should always look for study centers near one’s place of work or residence. Verify if the study centers have the required expertise and experience, in terms of faculty and resources. Some study centers end up having more number of students than they can handle. So it is important to find out the ratio of students to counselors at the centre. The ideal ratio must be 60:1. Do not count part-time counselors; they just may not be available when you need them.
Lab/ Library support: This is especially important when the institution in question offers programmes like visual communication, science subjects, engineering courses or even hands on courses like fashion design, interiors etc. The college must be able to demonstrate adequate facilities for practicals so that your course does not end up becoming purely theory-based.
Quality of support faculty: This is very difficult to assess at the time of admissions. But still visit the study centres and interact with the faculty available. Try to see their qualifications in the brochures. If there are senior students make it a point to ask them.
Approvals: This is applicable only to professional programmes, which need further approval from respective agencies. For example, an MBA needs the approval of AICTE, a BEd needs the approval of NCTE and so on. So look for relevant approvals. In case of open universities this may not be applicable. But it does help if the institution conducts it in the full-time mode as well. It will assure you that the university has the necessary expertise in delivering the relevant programme.
Cost of the programme: Other things being equal always go for the cheaper option. Finally employers treat all distance learning programmes almost on an equal footing. One important issue that you must check is the study load (rigour) expected of you to qualify in the programme. Some programmes have such a high level of rigour that, it almost needs full-time attention to qualify. Assess this scenario very carefully before you sign on the dotted line.
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