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Best options in open learning

Established by the West Bengal Act XIX of 1997, Netaji Subhas Open University (NSOU), was set up with an objective to spread higher education throughout the state and “reach the unreached” with quality education in the open distance learning (ODL) mode.

education Updated: Jun 19, 2012 13:58 IST

Kolkata

Name of Institute: Netaji Subhas open university

Established by the West Bengal Act XIX of 1997, Netaji Subhas Open University (NSOU), was set up with an objective to spread higher education throughout the state and “reach the unreached” with quality education in the open distance learning (ODL) mode.

It is the sole state open university of West Bengal and the largest one in India recognised by the University Grants Commission and Distance Education Council of India. In 2006, the University received the Excellence in Distance Education Award (EDEA) for institutional achievement conferred by Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Vancouver, Canada. The University is also a member of the Association of India Universities (AIU), New Delhi, The Association of Asian Open University (AAOU), Malaysia and The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), United Kingdom. With nearly 2,50,000 students enrolled, NSOU has achieved a mega university status.

The university provides higher education through the distance learning mode in the language of the state, ie Bengali, and makes education affordable to the disadvantaged.

Netaji Subhas Open University offers various programmes like undergraduate (three years), postgraduate (two years), postgraduate diploma (one year), diploma (one year), certificate (six months) and vocational programmes (six months, one year and two years). At present the University conducts 77 courses. There are two second degree programmes. These include bachelors in library science (BLIS, one year) and B Ed (special education) for two years.

Recently, three Village Knowledge Centres (VKC) have been set up at the Shanti Devi Vidyaniketan, Plassey, Nadia, Nari Siksha Samiti, Jhargram, Paschim Medinipur, and at the Anjali Social Welfare Research Foundation, Panskura, Purba Medinipur, in collaboration with non-government organisations for providing free computer and internet access to students.

Alum notes
From howrah to a five-figure salary

Hailing from a poor family in Howrah, Ashis K Halder always had the will power to work hard and excel in every sphere of life. Soon after completing Class 12, he decided to take up a job to support his family. From 1986 to 1993, he worked in a non-banking financial institute as a field supervisor and gained experience in funding machinery and consumer durables. While earning to make ends meet was important, so was the need to educate himself further. It was then that he decided to enroll in a BCom course offered by the Netaji Subhas Open University. “I would work during weekdays and attend classes conducted by the university over the weekends.

The teachers were extremely helpful and would help out even late at night,” Halder says, adding “they understood that you needed to work as well as study and one could approach them anytime one wanted.”

Asked if a distance learning qualification can be a handicap in procuring a good job, he says, “Job prospects are as bright as for those with regular degrees in related fields. Even a distance learning qualification is a valid degree. It ultimately depends on the capability and the will power of the student.”

Interestingly, Halder got his first big break after completing his BCom from the university. It was in 1993 that he got an interview call for a job as an area accountant with a leading fertilisers firm. He was later promoted as logistics officer with the responsibility to monitor 19 districts in the state. He is currently working as an officer, internal audit for the same company and earning a five-figure salary.

As told to Vandana Ramnani

What’s on offer

Contact programmes
Under the ODL system, it is not mandatory to attend face-to-face classroom sessions for students. The University organises contact programme for all the courses at the designated study centres for the benefit of the students. For the vocational courses, the University has made it compulsory to attend practical classes.

Material available
The University is headquartered at 1, Woodburn Park, Kolkata, and has a regional centre at Kalyani. It has a wide network of 120 study centres located all over West Bengal. The students can get admitted at the study centre nearest to their residence. The self-learning course material is distributed to students through the study centres of their choice. The university also organises counselling programmes (face-to-face teaching) for the students at these study centres. The evaluation process is in dual mode, one is continuous evaluation and the other is term-end examination. The students are awarded degrees on the basis of these two examinations.

Programmes offered
Number of undergraduate programmes - 13 (Bengali, English, history, political science, sociology, public administration, commerce, mathematics, geography, botany, zoology, physics and chemistry professional courses:

Undergraduate and postgraduate level - three (BCA, BLIS, specialisation in BEd for the physically challenged) Vocational courses:

Number of courses - 30. These include both certificate, diploma and postgraduate diploma courses. These are pre-primary teachers training, tailoring and dress designing, psychological counselling, travel and tourism, hospital front office management, taxation etc The university has also launched job-oriented and skilling programmes in the current session. These include diploma in safety skills and security management, diploma/certificate in automobiles, diploma in refrigeration and air-conditioning, diploma/certificate in plastic moulding and post diploma programmes in export-import management and operational skills and disaster management.

Exam centres
The study centres are the examination centres of the university. The students of one study centre write their final exam in other centres and not their regular one.

Admissions
The University publishes the admission notification in reputed dailies before the admission process begins. All the relevant information is made available on the University’s website: www.wbnsou.ac.in. Students can submit their admission form online.

Fees - approx
The fees are moderate. Being a state-sponsored open university, it cannot charge high fees.

Moving on from here
The degree holders of the university get jobs in both the government as well as in the private sector. The existing workforce gets an opportunity to upgrade their skills by enrolling in courses at the university. The institute thus provides vertical mobility for the employed. There have been instances where students have been promoted in their companies after completing a course at the university. The private sector gets to hire skilled workforce directly from the institute without having to spend much time and effort in their training.

Straight from the head
The digital information revolution has opened up new vistas, altering how knowledge is shared. In this scenario, ODL is one of the rapidly growing medium of imparting education, Professor SS Sarkar, NSOU, Kolkata

Allahabad

Name of Institute:
UP Rajarshi Tandon Open University

It is the only university in Uttar Pradesh with a jurisdiction over the entire state of 20 crore people. What’s more, being based in a Hindi-speaking region, it offers most of its 96 courses in the Hindi medium. “So, our university is a special attraction for Hindi-speaking students,” says AK Bakhshi, vice-chancellor, Rajarshi Tandon Open University (UPRTOU). Set up in 1999, it now has about 55,000 enrolees in various programmes totalling 96.

“UP’s socio-cultural background finds focus in some of our courses. For example, popular courses in Hindi medium such as postgraduate diploma in journalism and mass communication and master’s in journalism deal to a great extent with the contribution of UP in the freedom struggle and national development,” he elaborates. Students from all over India are welcome at the university.

Spread over 15 acres, the varsity complex is divided into a main campus; an academic block and a residential block (coming up soon). The campus is Wi-Fi-enabled. Since it’s an open university, student counselling services are offered at 456 study centres across UP. Full-time and part-time teachers are engaged in course preparation, delivery and counselling. “A number of highly-qualified teachers working in UG and PG colleges and universities in the state help this university in conducting counselling classes in different study centres on a part-time basis,” says Bakhshi. “Several good books have been published by members of our faculty who are also involved in writing, editing etc of self-learning material (SLM) prepared by UPRTOU and guide research scholars, participating in conferences,” he adds.

Lectures of eminent persons on CDs, library, reading room and e-library facilities, computer lab, audio-visual lab, Gyan Vani and Edusat programmes are available.

Alum notes
I learned everything about computers

Information technology is important in diverse fields today. I realised that since I was not well-versed in computers, I was lagging behind my colleagues in the medical field (I am a neurosurgeon at Kamala Nehru Memorial Hospital in Allahabad). There would be colleagues working on their laptops so one would feel left out. So, I thought I needed to hone my computing skills. However, I didn’t — and even now don’t — have much time at my disposal to pursue a regular course in computer science.

There were training institutes conducting courses in this discipline but their class schedules didn’t suit me. So, some years ago, I decided to enrol for a diploma in computers at UP Rajarshi Tandon Open University in Allahabad.

There were students from different sectors like management who were pursuing the course. The curriculum was good. I studied and learned how to work on my computer at home. If you had a doubt regarding your lessons, you could go to the study centres, though I never had to because I had my friends who knew the subject. On the university campus, too, they provide student support.

The university used to organise contact classes in the evenings twice a week. I attended a few of those.

Though the course was of a duration of one year, it took me two years to finish. That’s because at the time of my final examination, I had to go to the United States of America to attend a conference. Therefore, I took my diploma examination next year.

I think if someone is looking for a course, and they don’t have enough time to do a full-time, join the open university. It allows you to study at your pace. It’s flexible. I don’t know what’s happening now, but in my time, the fee was nominal.

As told to Rahat Bano

What’s on offer

Contact programmes
Contact programmes in the form of counselling classes are held at study centres in the middle of every semester, generally in October-November for odd semesters and in February-March for even semesters.

Material available
The varsity provides printed self-learning material (SLM) prepared by it and Ignou. Lectures of eminent persons on CDs, and Gyan Vani and Edusat programmes etc are available too. “Our vision is to integrate ICT with distance education in the future to enhance the quality of education imparted. A lot of efforts are also being made at the national level under NMEICT to develop e-learning material for various undergraduate and postgraduate courses,” says AK Bakhshi, vice-chancellor, UPRTOU, referring to the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology.

Bachelor’s in arts, science, commerce, tourism, business administration and computer application in addition to BEd, BEd (special education), BLib. “We had MPhil and PhD courses in several subjects earlier. Now we are going to restart these courses in the coming session in accordance with new UGC guidelines for open universities,” informs Bakhshi.

Exam centres
The programmes are offered through more than 450 study centres (three to five in each district), controlled by five regional centres at Gorakhpur, Allahabad and Varanasi for the eastern region, Lucknow for the central region and Bareilly for the western region. At present, exams are held at 91 exam centres, some of which are in Allahabad, Mainpuri, Varanasi, Aligarh, Agra, Ballia, Pratabhgarh, Kanpur, Farukhabad.

Admissions
From the academic session 2012-13, UPRTOU is starting admissions anytime of the year. For the July intake, aspirants can enrol any time from February 16 to September 15 and for the January session, from September 16 to February 15. Application forms will be available from July 16, 2012 onwards.

Fees - Approx
The annual fees for bachelors’ courses range from Rs. 2,600 to Rs. 9,400, including charges for self-learning material and examinations etc.

Moving on from here
“Some of our graduates opt for masters’ courses in our university or elsewhere to pursue their higher studies. We also have an effective placement cell of the university,” says Bakhshi.

Straight from the head
The philosophy of UPRTOU can be summarised by 3As — anytime, anyone and anywhere. We are now going to implement the AAA concept — admission for anyone, anytime, anywhere, A K Bakhshi, Vice Chancellor, Rajarshi Tandon Open University