From this academic session, universities likely to offer online degree courses
From this academic session, universities and higher educational institutions are likely to offer graduate, post graduate and diploma programmes online, with the University Grants Commission (UGC) all set to approve draft regulations for the online delivery of such programmes.
According to people familiar with the matter, these draft regulations will be tabled in the meeting of the commission to be held on Thursday.
Under the draft UGC (Online Education) Regulations, 2018, any higher education institution will be able to apply to offer such online programmes if they have been in existence for at least five years and are accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, with a minimum score of 3.26 on a 4-point scale to maintain quality. At the same time, they should have been in the top-100 in the overall category in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) for at least two years in the previous three years. “However, this will not be applicable to Open Universities till NAAC or similar accreditation system or NIRF are made available for open universities,” the draft regulations add.
The institutions can offer online programmes in those disciplines in which it is already offering the same/similar programmes in regular or open and distance learning. “The delivery of the programme will be through the SWAYAM portal of the government under which online courses are offered,” the draft regulations add.
Once the draft regulations are approved by the Commission, the UGC will start accepting applications for starting these courses by July.
Institutions will be able to offer online degrees in all fields, except engineering, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture and physiotherapy.
At present, the commission does not recognise any course offered solely through the online mode. A student can get a degree by enrolling in a university and attending classes or through a distancing-learning module. From last year, the government has allowed universities to offer 20% of their course material through the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platform called Swayam. Currently, degrees obtained exclusively through an online programme are not recognised.
A number of private universities do offer online degrees but not many students opt for them as they are not recognised by UGC.
The initiative gains significance as it will allow many students and working professionals to undertake courses and degree programmes which will help the country improve its overall Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in higher education. India aims to attain a GER of 30% by 2020 from the current 25.2%.
“World over, online degrees and courses are offered by colleges and they have gained respectability. Students will not be required to attend classes but will take e-tutorials to help them understand the concepts,” said a senior government official.
Apart from the actual programme delivery, components such as the counselling and admissions process, and fee payment will also be provide online.
“Online courses must be conducted truly online in the sense that registration, two-way video streaming for content learning and student interaction, availability of quality online content, assessment and certification all activities must be online,” said SS Mantha, former chairman of All India Council for Technical Education.
“This needs high end technology to prevent proxy students. If all this is done, and wherever required , if hands-on skills are imparted, then online education will have the potential to raise the GER,” Mantha added.