How good are online instructors?

Open universities are changing the face of higher education in India. Instead of admitting only a select few into each class, they allow virtually all Indian students the chance to earn a degree.

With open admission policies and a wide variety of degree programs available, these universities often rely on online coursework to maximise the number of students they serve. While online classes are convenient, some may question the quality of the education and the instructors. Fortunately, everything points to online instructors being just as competent and credible as those teaching in traditional university classrooms.

The rise of online education in India

According to Professor Asha Kanwar, open universities can trace their roots back to correspondence education offered as early as the 1830s. However, it wasn’t until the University of South Africa began its distance education program in 1946 did the modern era of open universities really begin. India began embracing the concept in the 1980s, most notably when Parliament created the Indira Gandhi National Open University in 1985. Today, the IGNOU serves 4 million students from 37 countries.

Quality education, world-class instructors

Although located in India, open universities such as IGNOU are competing against colleges worldwide for students. That means their curriculum must not only be convenient, but also high quality. The Distance Education Council (DEC) was established in 1991 to oversee open and distance learning institutions across the country.

Under DEC guidelines, open universities must have a system in place for lesson plans to be created and delivered by industry experts. As a result, instructors who teach online generally hold doctoral degrees and have extensive industry experience.

For example, Professor MK Salooja is the Director of the School of Agriculture in the IGNOU. He holds a PhD in dairy science and technology as well as four diplomas in agricultural specialties. His experience includes positions at the Rajasthan Agricultural University and the PSS Central Institute of Vocational Education, including work as a senior research of?cer with the Indian Planning Commission.

Similarly, many of the professors at the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University have long careers that span both academia and the professional world. Professor Chakrapani Ghanta is the head of the Department of Sociology and holds a PhD from Osmania University. He has presented 42 papers at national seminars, has held fellowships in the USA and India and is a recipient of the All India Sociological Association Gold Medal.

Don’t underestimate distance professors

Open universities make it easy for millions of Indian students to access higher education. However, don’t mistake easy access for easy coursework. The curricula at these schools are carefully crafted, and the instructors often have deep experience teaching in multiple education formats.

Students concerned about the quality of instructors at open universities have only to look at the C.V.s of university professors to see the breadth and depth of their experience. Many were instructors at traditional colleges and universities before moving to distance learning.

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