In the traditional scenario, the process of choosing the right University is fairly effortless where most students use online research to compare and select colleges and courses basis their interest and higher-secondary board results. However the dynamics of academic planning is completely divergent for an online learner who aspires to study off the campus, writes Shantanu Rooj, Founder & CEO, and Uditendu Bose, Vice President, SchoolGuru Eduserve Private Limited.
For today’s online learners, many considerations have to be taken to account. Right from the bona fide status of the University to licensing, permissions, accessibility, flexibility, fee structure and course portfolio, are all key deciding factors for students. Additionally the learning system, evaluation mechanism and the infrastructure of the University are significant decision drivers when it comes to selecting their ideal courses.
Three key legs of consideration for candidates while making a choice of online courses and colleges are:
Licensing and permissions: It is absolutely mandatory for universities providing online education to have proper accreditation by the UGC. One can easily validate the status of the University on the UGC website which lists all the Universities allowed to offer such courses. Candidates must carefully inspect this as any degree minus UGC validation is not considered for either government jobs or for admissions into higher education courses.
Moreover, colleges providing online learning/ distance education need to have a defined jurisdiction within which they have to carry their examinations. However, students of other regions may take admission in any university as long as they are willing to travel to the nearest examination centre. Candidates must note that UGC permits only Universities with a NAAC ranking of 3.25 and above (out of 4) to provide online learning courses. Additionally these Universities should also feature among the top 100 universities by NIRF.
Robust infrastructure and processes: Strong digital and physical infrastructure should be key elements for candidates while selecting colleges. Universities must have suitable number of accessible examination centres equipped with proper assessment facilities. They should ensure that students receive valid mark sheets and results timely. Additionally, UGC mandates all digital learning entities to have proper technological infrastructure with a dedicated portal/mobile app providing learning material to students on time.
There must be an unique user id and password provided to all students, using which they can access the wide pool of learning materials, tutorials, assessment papers, discussion forums, progress tracking systems and so on. The enrolment process from application to KYC verification, fee clearance and other necessary process should be easily accessible online. Call centres should be set up to provide students with required support so they don’t have to physically travel to Universities when they face issues.
Assisting students, connecting degrees, creating employment: Universities must have a robust support structure and issues resolution system for students. Such a system is conducive to the growth of students. Beyond this, skill training is also imperative in the case of e-learning. UGC has mandated all distance learning Universities to provide additional employment skills which will enhance the employability quotient of candidates and also connect them to the right jobs. Online education providers must have functional placement cells which are effectively assisting the students to connect to the right jobs. Before on-boarding a University, check out for past placement trends, frequency of placement opportunities, stature of organizations participating in the hiring process etc!
Higher education ecosystem in India as well many countries worldwide is at a challenging phase fighting the trinity of cost, quality and scale. To combat this and create a large scale learning framework, online education today with the convergence of technology, onsite training and new-age educative methods are a must. The speed at which industrial revolution is taking place and job demands are changing, it is imperative for the education system in India to evolve and undergo revolutionary change to stay relevant.