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10 MUST-haves for a Distance Learning Course

Last updated on: September 8, 2011 11:47 IST

10 MUST-haves for a Distance Learning Course

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Team Careers360
While pursuing distance education, the course is the only link between you and the preferred institute. Hence, it is very important to choose the right course and college. The following ten factors will help you zero in on the right college. Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

In this age driven by technology where time management is a crucial factor, taking a break from work to continue education can be a tough decision to make. Here comes the role of distance learning and education.

While these courses offer you the convenience of learning from the comfort of your den, it is important to ensure that the experience be a hassle-free one. Here are a few pointers you can consider before choosing a distance learning course and institute.

1. Quality of material

This is the primary source of knowledge for any programme offered through distance learning.

Fauzan Ali, a student of IMT-CDL, New Delhi, says, "We even have the entire library fully online." The material must be up-to-date and the periodicity of updation is a crucial factor you must consider.

IGNOU claims to thoroughly revise the entire curriculum every three years.

Availability of supplementary text books is also another factor one must look at before selecting an institution.

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Image: Availability of supplementary text books should also be considered

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2. Promptness in response

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This is one area where many private intuitions score distinctly.

Since they operate through innumerable study centres, the quality of response normally is better in these cases. The ease of admission process, query handling and effective counselling are factors one must look for while selecting a course.

The way the institution attempts to steer you towards a particular programme communicates a lot about the nature of the college.

If the counsellors are just interested in making you sign up for a course, be vary.

If a college/ study centre takes days to respond to an email, it is a sign of worse things to come when you actually enrol.

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Image: Ease of admission process, query handling and effective counselling are factors one must look for

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3. Ease of examination

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It is important that the university takes the responsibility and is fully involved in the evaluation process.

Moreover, examination schedules must be flexible and preferably online and on demand.

For Akansha Kumari, PR executive, online examinations are a big draw. "My schedule is dictated by client needs and it is impossible for me to sit through regimented exam schedules," she confesses.

Many more echo the same sentiments.

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Image: Examination schedules must be flexible and preferably online and on demand

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4. Online support

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This should be a major criterion in your decision making.

Many colleges offer entire course material online.

The Learning Management System (LMS) as these schools call it, must be easy to use, interactive and support live chats, query management and effective means to communicate.

Online submission facility for assignments and electronic marking, if available, would be very good value adds.

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Image: Online submission facility for assignments and electronic marking are value adds

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5. Student support

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More the merrier must be your mantra.

They must have online support for course materials, assignments and project work submissions, placement support, audio visual learning aids, and e-learning facilities.

A very robust Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) is essential for successful DL experience.

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Image: An Interactive Voice Response System is essential

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6. Access to study centre

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One should always look for study centres near one's place of work or residence.

Verify if the study centres have the required expertise and experience, in terms of faculty and resources.

Some study centres end up having more number of students than they can handle. So it is important to find out the ratio of students to counsellors at the centre.

The ideal ratio must be 60:1. Do not count part-time counsellors, they just may not be available when you need them.

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Image: Look for study centres near your place of work or residence

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7. Lab/ Library support

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This is especially important when the institution in question offers programmes like visual communication, science subjects, engineering courses or even hands on courses like fashion design, interiors etc.

The college must be able to demonstrate adequate facilities for practicals so that your course does not end up becoming purely theory-based.

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Image: College must be able to demonstrate adequate facilities for non-theory-based learning

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8. Quality of support faculty

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This is very difficult to assess at the time of admissions.

But still visit the study centres and interact with the faculty available.

Try to see their qualifications in the brochures. If there are senior students, make it a point to ask them.

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Image: Visit the study centres and interact with the faculty

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9. Approvals

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This is applicable only to professional programmes, which need further approval from respective agencies.

For example, an MBA needs the approval of AICTE, a BEd needs the approval of NCTE and so on. So look for relevant approvals.

In case of open universities this may not be applicable. But it does help if the institution conducts it in the full-time mode as well.

It will assure you that the university has the necessary expertise in delivering the relevant programme.

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Image: Look for relevant approvals

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10. Cost of the programme

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This is the clincher. Other things being equal always go for the cheaper option.

Finally employers treat all distance learning programmes almost on an equal footing.

Also please ask those who have passed out of the programme as to check for the delivery and quality of materials, level of customer support provided, quality of their doubt clearing services and their ability to conduct exams and deliver results on time.

One important issue that you must check is the study load (rigour) expected of you to qualify in the programme.

Some programmes have such a high level of rigour that, it almost needs full-time attention to qualify. Assess this scenario very carefully before you sign on the dotted line.

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Image: Always go for the cheaper option

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Other influencing factors

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Besides, the above, here are a few extra parameters you need to consider before choosing your course of study.

Recognition

According to a Government order dated 1st March 2005, all non-professional degrees offered by institutions approved by DEC are valid for jobs and higher education.

But this is applicable only to non-professional degrees.

Professional degrees

Medical degrees cannot be offered under distance learning mode. For most other programmes, approvals must be sought from respective regulatory agencies unless you are working in the same domain and do not conduct a professional degree in DL mode.

BEd recognition

Final approval rests with the NCTE. So examine if the institute you want to study is figuring in the list of approved institutions maintained by the NCTE.

BTech recognition

According to the GoI ruling, correspondence BTechs must not be recognised. But there is a case in the Delhi High Court and as on date the government's order is stayed.

Stay clear of the correspondence degrees until a final decision is taken.

Foreign University approval

Degrees from recognised open universities are recognised by most of the foreign universities.

If you are planning to study abroad, ask the college you intend to apply for the list of Indian universities recognised by it.

Also, check with the registrar of the Distance Education Institute you wish to apply if the degree awarded by it is recognised abroad.

Territorial jurisdiction

Distance learning programmes of any university can be pursued from any State of India. But State universities cannot open study centres outside their State. The issue is not yet resolved but would not affect your studies.

Choosing a school

Factors you ought to keep in mind while deciding on Distance Education Institutes (DEIs) are: qualified faculty, quality of study material, number of contact classes, provision for online learning and submission of project work and campus placement opportunity. Also to be kept in mind are relevant approvals and availability of good study centres.


Image: Do a reality check for the facilities offered by the college and check for relevant recognition

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