Distance learning schools offer ‘more relevant’ courses

By Anuradha Shukla,IANS,

New Delhi : A simple degree or a normal two-year advance course is passe. Educational institutions have designed tailor-made, industry-specific courses in areas like real estate management and carbon credit to lure students to distance education.

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“Today a three-year regular degree or general management degree is not enough. The youth are going for jobs that can ensure employment for them,” said Anand Sudarshan, chief executive of education services provider Manipal Education.

“There are areas like stock markets, carbon credit business, real estate, mall management, aviation and hospitality, which require focussed education and training,” Sudarshan told IANS in an interview. “So, rather than traditional courses, we design sector-specific streams in consultation with industry to make the lessons more relevant,” he said, adding Manipal’s own distance education segment was growing at 35 percent annually as a result.

The practice is now being emulated by traditional distance learning institutes like the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), which accounts for 30 percent of the country’s total number of distance learning students.

In collaboration with Financial Technologies that set up the multi-commodity futures exchange MCX, IGNOU has started a one-year postgraduate diploma in financial market practices through its distance education programme.

“We require specialised courses in today’s context,” said IGNOU vice chancellor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, adding that some of the courses offered were under tie-ups with professional bodies like the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants.

According to Sudarshan, only 11 percent of the students in India get higher education compared to 60 percent in developed nations. “Distance education can provide an important alternative.”

As per industry estimates, some two million students are enrolled under the different distance education programmes in the country and the numbers are expected to go up by 50 percent over the next three years.

This is the reason behind premier educational bodies like Indian Institutes of Management, Delhi University and Bangalore’s National Law School of India starting separate courses for distance education.

Along with theories, online instructions and learning centres, a substantial part of the course offered by these institutions comprises practical training programmes and internships, exposing students to specific sectors.

Manipal, for example, has launched EduNxt, a new distant learning course that includes mentoring, virtual classrooms, simulation, interactive content, recorded presentations, shared browsing and access to over one million online books and journals.

For this, the group, which has 300,000 registered students under the distance learning programme at 610 centres in India and overseas, has collaborations with the global software giant Microsoft, telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and netbook OEM.

“We have also tied up with prominent business houses so that the knowledge is not just theoretical but practical,” Sudarshan added.