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Distance education! And the winner is...

A survey helps identify your best options if you are not too inclined to attend regular college reports B Mahesh Sarma

education Updated: Aug 12, 2010 10:56 IST
B Mahesh Sarma

It is final. Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), the leviathan with 2.8 million students, retains the pole position in India’s first ever objective rating of Distance Learning Institutes. It accounts for a massive 30 per cent of the total enrolment in the country. Nimesh Chandra, Head of Research of the magazine Careers360, spearheaded the huge exercise that involved collating data on all the existing DL institutions, visits to some select universities, study centres and interviews with stake holders (see methodology for more details). But the scenario is so bleak, that even then we could get enrolment data for only 114 out of the 176 institutions. India has a long way to go in ensuring comparable data availability.



The ranking project involved examining 30 top institutions under three broad domains, namely, Reach & Resources, learning and Experience, and Results & Efficiency. The results were amazing. The top ten was populated by five open universities, three private players and two dual mode state level universities.



It is the sectoral ranks that open up the field further. For example IGNOU, which convincingly tops the overall ranking, goes down to 15 places in the results category, informing us that it has a tremendous potential for increasing its pass percentage and customer service. Mumbai University, or Symbiosis for example, presents a contrasting picture. They score a lowly 27 and 20 respectively in resources-committed rank, but provide an amazing learning experience where they score 3rd and 6th, respectively. In other words, some have invested heavily in hardware and study centres, while some have focussed on technology exclusively. Very few have scored consistently across categories, showing that the sector needs substantial investments and strategic thinking. And that is the way forward.



Methodology

The Universe for Open and Distance Learning Institutes (ODLIs) in India comprises 249 institutes, out of which 176 institutes are currently offering Distance Education Programmes. Given the nature of operations of ODLIs and the lack of adequate data with the Distance Education Council (DEC) as also in the public domain, shortlisting of 50 institutions was done based on student enrolment data. The logic being the popularity of the institutions, on the basis of their admissions. Careers360 then sent letters to these 50 institutions with a questionnaire and also requested data from the DEC. Based on the responses received from the institute as well as the data supplied by DEC and in- house research, 30 institutes were finally chosen for ranking purpose. Further, visits were made to the all the institutes that responded as well as to select study centres of others to build a robust database based on input-process-output methodology. The input primarily looked at the reach, infrastructure and diversity of the institutions in providing distance education. The process emphasised on the quality of resources and delivery mechanism, while output focused on the performance of the institute in facilitating the trained student in getting a better prospect.



The parameters and the weights are as follows: