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64th IFLA General Conference
August 16 - August 21, 1998
Code Number: 019-123-E
Division Number: VII.
Professional Group: Education and Training
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 123.
Simultaneous Interpretation: No
Migrating to the electronic learning environment: prospects for LIS distance learners in India
Faculty of Library and Information Science
Indira Gandhi National Open University
New Delhi, India
In India distance education system is being considered as the most viable method of overcoming the problems faced in developing competent human resource. Distance mode of teaching is gradually evolving as an important component of LIS education in India. The courses offered by the Open Universities in the country are quite innovative and involving multi-media packages for teaching and learning. The latest trend is towards delivery of courses through electronics networks. The Indian Training and Education Network for Development (INTEND) is being set up to impart education through distance mode. The network will be used for value added services such as, e-mail, down loading of lectures/notes from the hub station to remote classes, provision of internet services through gateways, library services, video conferencing etc. The network will be also utilised for on-line registration and evaluation purposes. As a part of INTEND the OPENET is being set up to connect all the open universities and the distance teaching institutions in the country. The INTEND once implemented will bring about revolutionary changes in the education and training through distance mode in India.
The paper looks into the prospects of providing LIS education to distance learners in an electronic network environment and addresses some of the issues related to its provision in India.
Distance education system is gradually emerging as the most viable method of overcoming the problems faced in developing competent human resource. It is no longer looked upon as an alternate system of education, meant for repairing the shortcomings of the traditional educational system of a country at a particular stage of development. The distance education programs with its quality of flexibility has a great potential to adapt to the changing needs of the society. The rapid advancement of computer and communication technologies has given us a broader range of options for distance learning. The new electronic environment has greatly affected the whole concept of distance education and newer concepts viz. University of the World, Electronic University, Virtual University etc. are emerging at a fast pace. As a tool for teaching and learning, electronic networks are the most cost-effective and quickest method of communication with the distance learners. Technological innovations have brought about a tremendous change in the whole education process. It has led to a paradigm shift from teacher based education to a learner based education system. The emphasis is not on the self learning process. In this situation the teacher's role is also changing from a pedagogic approach to a facilitative one.
Developments in the electronic networking frontier has changed the whole dimension of the distance education system. This has brought a shift from the 'just in cast education' to 'just in time education' system. Internet, another cost-effective solution of reaching out to the learners at a distance, is gaining ground throughout the world. It is acting as a catalyst for change in the education process. It has taken education beyond the classroom and lecture hall into a new era of networked and collaborative learning .
LIS EDUCATION THROUGH DISTANCE MODE: INDIAN SCENARIO
In India LIS courses are offered at different levels. Presently there are seventy-nine universities offering BLIS, sixty-seven universities offering MLIS and around thirty-two universities offering PhD programs in India. Certificate and diploma level courses are offered by the library associations, polytechnics, etc. Apart from these conventional courses there are associateship courses in Information Science by Indian National Scientific Documentation Centre (INSDOC), New Delhi and in Documentation and Information Science by Documentation Research and Training Centre (DRTC), Bangalore . Courses offered by the correspondence directorates are generally based on print material. Some of these institutions are providing short term contact classes as well. The courses offered by the open universities on the other hand are quite innovative. They use multi-media packages for teaching and learning. Most of these institutions are using self-instructional course materials, audio and video cassettes, radio and television broadcasting, and counselling sessions. Apart from these facilities, the Indira Gandhi National Open University is using video conferencing on a regular basis.
Special mention needs to be made about the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). It is a national university set up by the act of parliament in 1985. Apart from being a university, it also functions as an apex body for all the distance education systems in the country by coordinating and determining standards in distance education. IGNOU is presently offering BLIS and MLIS programs. It is planning to launch the PhD program within a year's time.
Distance mode of teaching is gradually evolving as an important component of LIS education in India. Proper utilisation of educational technology for imparting LIS courses can produce better results. As we find a shift towards network based learning systems it has become essential to consider the utilisation of such developments in imparting LIS education to distance learners in India.
DEVELOPMENTS IN NETWORK LEARNING ENVIRONMENT IN INDIA
The Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) has opened great vistas to the role of radio and television for mass education in India. The use of teleconferencing facility for distance teaching is also spreading at a fast pace. IGNOU with the cooperation of the India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has set up the Training and Development Communication Channel (TDCC) on extended C-band with one way video and two way audio teleconferencing facility. The TECC has a nation wide reach of around 250 nodes or reception centres. The facility is being utilised for education and training to wide range of learners viz. students of IGNOU and All India Management Association (AIMA), short term in service education of engineering teachers, open school tutors, women and rural masses.
The Committee for utilising Satellite Communication System for Distance Education Network appointed by the Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development has come up with a proposal of setting up of 'Indian Training and Education Network for Development' (INTEND) . The network will be used for value added services such as, e-mail, down loading of lectures/lessons from the hub station to remote classes, provision of Internet services through gateways, library services, video conferencing etc. The network will be also utilised for on-line registration and evaluation purposes. The implementation of the INTEND is planned in two phases, spreading over the next ten years. As a part of the INTEND project the open and distance education system in India has decided to set up the Open Education Network (OPENET). The OPENET is envisaged to be a network of physical, intellectual and academic resources of all the open and distance education institutions in the country. The technical system of INTEND-OPENET will comprise:
- National hub centre at Indira Gandhi National Open University at New Delhi
- Regional hubs in the State Open universities and state capitals
- V-SAT's of varying capabilities in universities, regional centres, study centres and other partner institutions.
The Teaching-end studios will be located in the National and the Regional Hub Centres. The learning-end will be connected with the VSATs. ISRO has promised to dedicate one Extended C-Band Transponder of the INSAT system fro the OPENET/INTEND system. In the first phase the backbone comprising the national hub and 100 sites in the towns will be developed. In the second phase the regional hubs will be strengthened by extending the outreach to 500 district centres, 5000 block centres and 100,000 village clusters. To fully realise the potential of the OPENET/INTEND system, there is a proposal to set up a virtual R & D institution called National Open Institute for Knowledge Technologies (NOI-KT). The NOI-KT will link the human resources and expertise through wire and web in creation and utilisation of the knowledge resources. The OPENET/INTEND once implemented will bring about revolutionary changes in the education and training through distance mode in India. With the development of education and training through the OPENET/INTEND, India will be able to implement the concepts of 'Education for All' and 'Learning without Frontiers' proposed by UNESCO.
FUTURE PROSPECTS FOR LIS DISTANCE LEARNERS IN INDIA
The 'virtual university' mediated across the Internet is already a reality in advanced countries and it is gradually being adopted in developing countries like India. Increasingly, academic activities are taking place in a new educational space created by the local and global networks.  The on-line distance education system carries more learning advantages than the print based or face to face learning systems. The advantages of the network based learning systems are that:
- It facilitates self-learning according to the learners need, at his or her convenient time and pace.
- Electronic publication of course material is cheaper and faster.
- It facilitates faster, cheaper and loss free delivery of the learning material.
- It promotes better peer group and the teacher student interactivity.
- Faster updating of learning material is possible according to the changing needs of the society.
The advantages of the networked based learning makes it pertinent for the educators to think seriously about its adoption for imparting LIS education in the country. A quick review of the LIS education system in the country reveals that the curriculum for most of the courses have not been able to keep pace with the latest developments in the information technology and the information handling procedures. The provision of continuing professional education program is another area, where the activities are limited and sporadic in nature. The growth of the information sector has given rise to an extensive demand for information professionals in the country. The LIS education system has not been able to effectively cater to the need for the emerging market of the information professionals. As a result professionals from the other fields, viz. computers, communication sciences, management etc. are having an upper hand in the information profession. Unless immediate steps are taken to solve these problems, the profession may face extinction in the future. The network based teaching and learning system can solve these problems to a great extent. Network based education system provides a great degree of flexibility to the curriculum designers. It gives a scope to redesign and reorient the curriculum as and when required according to the needs of the society. continuing Professional Education is another area which could be addressed effectively through the network based education system.
With the INTEND/OPENET project in anvil, the distance education system will get a great boost in the country. It has paved a way for the LIS educators to migrate gradually to the electronic teaching environment. For effective implementation of the network based LIS education, it is however, necessary to address the following issues:
- Changing the learning culture: migrating to the electronic learning environment calls for a change in the attitude of the learners. The learners need to be trained in handling of the new media. It is essential that they learn the network skills of downloading of learning materials, interacting with the teachers and peer group through e-mail, chat sessions and video conferencing, on-line submission of assignments and examination etc.
- Training of teachers: Teachers need to upgrade their skills in developing and delivering the course content through networks. This necessitates major training program for the LIS teachers in Web page designing, multimedia courseware production, HTML document preparation etc. Unless the teachers are adept with these technologies, effective implementation of the network based education may not be possible.
- Courseware/software development: Network learning does not refer to just putting the learning material on the network. The material should be relevant, interactive, user friendly and able to facilitate the self learning process. To make network learning a worthwhile solution, it is essential that emphasis is given to the development of relevant courseware/software. This is the area where trained manpower is required with the knowledge and skills both in software development as well as in Library and Information Science aspects.
- Emphasis on collaboration: To provide quality education through networks, collaboration seems to be the ultimate solution. This can help in avoiding duplication of efforts and unnecessary wastage of funds. Shared courses, shared material and shared teaching are some of the ways of collaboration which can help in providing relevant courses to the learners.
- Equal access to technology: It must be assured that the learners have equal access to the learning material provided on the net, irrespective of where they live or placed. Equitable distribution of the technology and necessary infra-structural facility must be ensured, with more emphasis to the remote areas of the country.
The fact that distance education can play a major role in providing LIS education in India is being gradually realised and efforts are on to develop quality education system through distance mode. Distance education system requires use of technology which are cheap, reliable, easy to use and multifunctional, that can be found in nearly every house. In this context the network based learning seems to be the most cost effective solution. Adoption of network based teaching and learning can solve major problems faced in the provision of LIS education. The implementation of the INTEND/OPENET project is expected to give a new direction to the distance education system in the country. It has, therefore, become essential on the part of LIS distance educators to think seriously about migrating to the electronic based learning environment. The IGNOU being a premier institution in the field of LIS distance education in the country, must play a major role in this direction. Collaborating with other distance teaching institutions in the country IGNOU must pave the way for network based LIS education system in India.