Distance Learning- a new avenue to higher education
Dr. M. Shamsher Ali
In the modern education system, Distance Education has turned out to be a paradigm shift in education with the development of information and communication technology. The dimension of the classroom has been extended up to the farthest horizon conceivable. As is known, Distance Education brings the teachers to the students rather than the students to the teachers. In a country like ours where the ratio of qualified teachers to students is awfully low, Distance Education is indeed a pro student phenomenon.
Distance Education provides a strategy to give a second chance to those who have missed the opportunity to enter higher education or those graduates who wish to reeducate themselves. Till a few years ago, the ingredients of Distance Education were suitably developed text materials, Audio-Video cassettes, limited public broadcasting and face-to-face tuition, once a week. In the recent past, however, Distance Education has undergone a technological transformation.
Now text materials are posted on the website and students a far-off places can download those from the computer. The students are given CD's containing lectures given by eminent scholars on the subject. The students can interact with the teachers via e-mail and telephone. This system has been used in the advanced countries for quite sometime. Fortunately, however, in Bangladesh, this system has already been introduced. For example, Southeast University has been following the WEB, CD and E-Mail based approach for Distance Education for more than two years side-by-side with its Campus mode. More than 45% of the enrolled students avail themselves of Distance Education in different subjects.
In the early 90's when the Bangladesh Open University was set up, these technologies could not be used as WWW (World Wide Web) was not in place. Now, with the spread of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) facilities in different towns of the country, Distance Education has acquired a strong momentum. The clienteles of Distance Education form an interesting spectrum of young and adult students: Doctors, Engineers, Army Personnel, Bureaucrats are all participating at this program. And the gender balance is also very interesting. Thus, as has been emphasized in a recent meeting of UGC authorities and World Bank experts, and also the expert groups of this study "Distance Education is a supplementary and complimentary effort not confined to Open Universities alone, but an educational technology to be adopted, adapted and combined with face-to-face lecturing/interactions at all institutions of higher education." At the present moment, the public universities lag behind in this area because of resource constraints, but they should also catch up with the technological devices being used by some of the private universities for providing widespread education throughout the country at relatively reduced cost preserving, at the same time, the quality of education. This quality is especially ensured in view of the fact that the teachers providing Distance Education are constantly watched in their CD's for the correctness of theory, facts, and data as well as for the clarity of their expositions. In fact, teachers in Distance Education write on a national or even on a global blackboard, rather than on a classroom blackboard. Distance Education can therefore provide a tremendous potential for the training of teachers, a potential that could be used for the development of skills of teachers serving under the National university of Bangladesh.
The writer is a renowned Physicist and Educationist, at present working as Vice Chancellor of Southeast University.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006