The University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued a series of notifications, the latest on March 31 this year, directing vice chancellors of universities to implement the choice-based credit transfer system (CBCS) and semester system from the academic year 2015-16. This move has set off ripples of concern among students of open and distance learning (ODL).
Since most ODL institutions do not follow the semester system, students of Delhi University’s School of Open Learning (SOL) feel their programmes would be devalued as their institute follows the annual mode. “CBCS will make things worse. We want the semester system to be scrapped. While regular college students as per CBCS can choose between core and foundation papers, SOL students are not allowed even the basic course choices. For instance, there is no BA Hindi (hons), BA history (hons) and BA sociology (hons) in SOL,” says Shahnawaz Jaman, member of the SOL Students’ Union.
Correspondence students fear that a FYUP-like situation may arise after the CBCS is implemented. “We have had the experience of FYUP which was introduced in regular colleges as a major reform. Similarly, it seems CBCS will not be implemented in SOL since there is no semester system in the institute. We demand immediate rollback of CBCS and the semester system from the university so that there is parity among higher educational institutions as envisaged in the National Education Policy,” he adds.
Jaman says that the syllabus which needs to be completed in 180 days in regular colleges, is taught just in eight days in SOL. “How is it possible to implement CBCS in such as scenario? If I want to opt for a course in history from St Stephen’s, would I be allowed to do so?” he asks.
Certain DU officials feel that SOL students would be adversely affected. “In Delhi University semesterisation led to disparity between regular courses and those offered in SOL. The disparity disallowed migration of interested SOL students to regular courses. Implementation of CBCS will only advance this disparity, leading to further devaluing of SOL degree,” says Abha Dev Habib, member of DU’s executive council.
As per guidelines, CBCS will allow students to choose from the prescribed courses (core, elective or minor or soft skill courses). It will provide a ‘cafeteria’ type approach in which the students can take courses of their choice, learn at their own pace, take up additional courses and acquire credits. The question, however, is: will the ODL students get the university/college of their choice? Currently, students are evaluated using the conventional system of marks or grades or both. However, the CBCS comes with its own challenges like different marking schemes, varying class sizes and fee.
Suggesting solutions, CS Dubey, director, SOL, says: “CBCS can be best utilised in the continuous evaluation system. All undergraduate courses in SOL are in the annual mode and we are developing a learning management system software on Moodle, an open source learning platform, so that a student has a system for a continuous assessment online.”
The UGC guidelines also do not address the implementation of the CBCS in ODL institutions. “Also, a recent Calcutta High Court judgment says that degrees awarded under the distance mode are not equivalent to conventional ones. This means that the CBCS would be inapplicable to distance education programmes,” says MM Ansari, member, UGC.
The problem extends to ODL students in other cities too. Mumbai University’s Institute of Distance and Open Learning (IDOL) is another example.
“For implementing CBCS, IDOL should be given academic autonomy. It would be challenging to implement the internal assignment scheme wherein 20% to 25% weightage is given to assignments. To get the assignments corrected by the teachers is another challenge,” says Dhaneswar Harichandan, director, IDOL.