As in other parts of the world, in India today there are many universities and learning institutions that offer distance learning. Distance learning can have many advantages over traditional methods of earning a degree. In India, it carries the same main benefit as it does in other parts of the world: because the students don’t have to live near a physical classroom, they can pick and choose between institutions, and learn without having to leave home. This is very convenient, particularly for students who live in rural areas where there aren’t any universities nearby. For these people, attending a university or other institution would previously have meant travelling a long way every day or relocating, which in some cases would have been too difficult.
Options for distance learning
Today, ‘distance learning’ is normally synonymous with ‘online learning’. There are at least 14 accredited open universities in India at present that offer exclusively this kind of instruction, including the Indira Gandhi National Open University, the Dr B.R. Ambedkar Open University, and the Madhya Pradesh Bhoj Open University. Open universities in India are regulated by the Distance Education Council of India (DEC), which acts to maintain standards in this industry.
Along with open universities, there are also an even greater number of correspondence course institutes run by conventional universities. Both open universities and conventional universities offer degree courses at undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels, and they also offer diploma level qualifications as well.
Popular distance degrees in India
While it is possible to obtain an online qualification in just about any discipline, there are of course some qualifications that are more popular than others, and some that simply can’t be taught via distance learning. Most popular are courses in finance (though this may be changing given recent events), business (including MBAs), and commerce. All of these can be effectively taught via the distance learning method. Some courses that require a lot of hands-on instruction, for example medicine and some lab-based sciences, are not appropriate for teaching by distance learning.
Alongside convenience, another big benefit of distance learning is that it is cost-effective to provide and to partake in. It is cheaper for universities and institutions to provide, as they don’t need large buildings in which to hold classes, and they are able to pass these savings on to the students by offering courses for less than the cost of attending traditional classes. Also, students are able to save on transportation, food, and accommodation costs by studying from home. If they are working, they have the option to continue working and study at night, or at another time that suits them, allowing them to maintain an income while they study.
Distance learning is already a popular education option in India today. As the economy grows, the need for higher eduction increases, and access to the internet becomes even more widespread, it is likely to become even more popular. If this serves to increase the participation in higher education by people, particularly young people, then it can only be a positive for this rapidly developing country.