Information technology, open resources key to higher education: experts


New Delhi : Providing access to quality higher education opportunities across India is possible only if emphasis is laid on open education with thrust on information communication technology (ICT), experts said Friday.

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A two-day symposium on “Open Education Resources for Network Enabled Education”, organised by the country’s largest open university, the Indira Gandhi National Open University, concluded with a consensus among experts to push for an action plan based on National Knowledge Commission (NKC) recommendations.

Experts from the field of education and information technology, including NKC chairman Sam Pitroda, Human Resource Development (HRD) Joint Secretary N.K. Sinha, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) S. Vijay Kumar, IGNOU vice-chancellor V. Rajashekharan Pillai and others participated in the symposium.

MIT professor Vijay Kumar and Pune University’s former vice-chancellor Ashok Kaloskar highlighted important aspects of the action plan drafted at the end of the conference.

“There are two basic aspects that need to be addressed. One that higher education courses be available with easy access in any field through open educational resources (OER) for free. The other that the direct access to educational content and teachers has to be improved through ICT, which in turn, will kill red tape,” Kaloskar said.

Kaloskar added that the HRD ministry was “eager about the prospects of open education resource models for higher education.”

“We feel that technically enabled open education, as not just an education agenda for the rest but in a central way to provide scaled access to quality education is most important for India now,” Vijay Kumar said.

The action plan aims at addressing five main issues in a fresh higher education model. This includes thrust on enhancing ICT infrastructure including education via TV and radio as well as internet, “addressing legal constraints” for education content, “interoperability” of educational content and creating and maintaining sound database and “ensuring that there is flexible framework to identify quality open resources.”

In addition, the action plan also hopes to address qualms about certification of such learning programmes by developing an integrated credit bank system to which established institutions can map curriculum as well as pushing for a “sound enabling national level policy”.

Pitroda noted the NKC was established to build capacity to develop knowledge, and it covered literacy, libraries, translation, affirmative action and knowledge networks in almost all areas, while Pillai held that “enhancing the reach of education was the main aim.”

“The deliberations on OER will facilitate these aspects of open access in light of the NKC recommendations, which have also facilitated the initiation of the national mission of education through ICTs so far,” he said.