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Are ODL and online programmes relevant in job market


While National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has emphasised on increasing Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) through the use of technology and ICT, the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) has framed guidelines in 2021 for imparting education through Open and Distance Learning (ODL) and online mode to fulfil the objectives. Though the ODL and online courses have come as a ray of hope for the students, their relevance in the job market is still not confirmed.

The new guidelines would be applicable for standalone institutions, deemed-to-be-universities and universities for conducting courses in Management and allied areas, Computer Applications, Artificial Intelligence and Data Science in the Engineering and Technology domain, Logistics, and Travel and Tourism. The ODL and/or Online (ODL-Online) education mode of the programmes will be in line with the UGC (Open and Distance Learning Programmes and Online Programmes) Regulations, 2020, the AICTE said.

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Quality counts

“To make the programmes more quality-driven and ensure better employability, the institutions will have to fulfil minimum standards as approved by the AICTE,” says Rajive Kumar, member secretary, AICTE. “They will have to issue a self-declaration of fulfilling all the requirements including curricula, admissions, physical and instructional facilities, faculty and staff pattern, the quality of teaching-learning, examination for the award of diploma, post-diploma certificate, post-graduate certificate, postgraduate diploma and post graduate degree level programmes (as defined in the Approval Process Handbook),” Kumar adds.


Stamp of credibility


“We are not allowing BTech, MTech in ODL and online mode since they require substantial hands-on and lab components. ODL aims to help students pursue two degrees simultaneously-one online and another offline. While an institution can award a diploma in Data Science, they cannot award an MTech in Data Science though they can impart a Masters degree in Computer Application or Post Graduate Degree in Management in ODL and online mode,” Kumar says.

“In keeping with NEP 2020, the credits earned through these courses can be utilised by the students to earn other degrees and act as a stepping stone to further their career growth. It will also give institutions more flexibility and autonomy in the current scenario,” he adds. The courses, he says, will be accessible to students in the country’s remote corners and bring down the cost of education.


Value addition


Balvinder Shukla, vice chancellor, Amity University offering UG, PG programmes via ODL says, “ODL students need to overcome negative perceptions about the overall quality of their qualifications. Recruitment depends more on the learner’s level of skills and less on how the credits are earned (whether ODL or regular).”

Shukla also emphasises the need for various simulation-based robust labs to offer degree-level technical programmes in the virtual mode. “To begin with short-term technical courses relevant in the industry may be offered online.”

According to Manish Chugh, chief operations officer, Innosoft Solutions, UAE, the ODL and online courses can act as minor add-ons but not as mainstream qualifications. “The courses should also be structured keeping in mind the existing lacunas that do not allow 53% of our graduates to be employable.”

Chugh says the current change in learning systems was forced upon us due to the pandemic. It has not gone through an organic evolution and should be seen as a mitigation plan. “This has created a parallel ecosystem that needs to mature with technology and time.”





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