IGNOU: A Beacon of Distance Learning, Empowering Millions Globally

IGNOU, the world’s largest university, has approved UniGrad, a professionally run study center in Bahrain, to provide popular undergraduate and postgraduate programs, including B.Com, B.C.A., B.A., B.B.A., and M.Com. The university, founded in 1985, aims to raise the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) by offering top-notch instruction via the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) method. With over 4 million students in India, IGNOU serves over 4 million students through its network of 67 Regional Centers, 21 Schools of Studies, 20 abroad institutions, and more than 3,000 Learner Support Centers.

IGNOU offers numerous undergraduate, graduate, certificate, and doctorate programs, with over 300 faculty members, 230 academic staff members at the headquarters and regional centers, and over 35,000 academic counselors from traditional higher education institutions and professional associations. Students who fall within specific categories are eligible for scholarships offered by IGNOU, and they can also apply for scholarships that the Indian government offers. IGNOU also waives fees for students enrolled in its Certificate and Diploma in Agriculture programs, with a 50% fee reduction applied based on income or residence certificate.

Students at IGNOU host job fairs, skill-enhancement activities, and campus placement events coordinated by the Campus Placement Cell (CPC), helping close the gap between students and employers. IGNOU graduates have been hired by various businesses, with the number of students shortlisted for placements increasing by an astounding 9000% between 2017 and 2019.

Despite its mass-based, poorly resourced, and low-quality education, IGNOU has earned several accolades for the caliber of its course materials and student assistance.

IGNOU’s success is attributed to two main factors: limiting the number of courses provided and allowing key personnel to focus on the quality of education offered. The university offers 47 programs with over 500,000 students, allowing employees to dedicate a significant portion of their core academic time to research and course development. The highly decentralized IGNOU employs 21 directors of regional centers, 600 coordinators and assistants, 19,000 academic counselors, and around a thousand administrative employees.

Continuous supervision, assistance, and training are essential for IGNOU’s success. Full-time employees typically spend a lot of time creating classes, conducting research, choosing, preparing, and managing part-time instructors, and ensuring quality in instruction through research and continuous marking moderation. To ensure quality, IGNOU offers face-to-face orientation seminars, continuous satellite assistance, a comprehensive resource package, and continuous observation.

Almost all functions, except final administration and course quality, have been transferred to regional centers to manage the vast company within an equally large nation. Additional devolution of teaching is made to subregional centers, all of which are connected to the center by satellite and computer. The building resembles a huge pyramid, with headquarters in Delhi, 21 Centers for Regionalization, 380+/- Study Centers, 252 regular centers, 19 accredited centers, and 100 Centers Particular to the Program.

IGNOU is a unique educational institution that blends high-tech and low-tech, order and chaos, much like India. However, it also incorporates practicality through its use of satellite technology and online learning. The institution acknowledges the importance of student participation and interaction but may not be suitable for implementing many of these concepts into practice.

IGNOU’s courses are heavily instructional and discipline-based, emphasizing fundamental knowledge before engaging in meaningful discussions. Satellite video conferencing serves as a platform for excellent instructors and subject matter experts to provide lectures to students. However, it is rarely used for student questions, and the primary mode of distribution is print.

The curriculum revolves on a standard ninety-six credit, three-year degree, with each credit equivalent to thirty hours of study time for students. A degree typically consists of twelve modules, each worth eight credits, or 2,880 hours of study time. IGNOU offers all of its official courses in English, despite Indian society being bilingual.

IGNOU offers a surprising degree of openness and flexibility given its size. Students can apply to IGNOU 365 days a year, and admissions are processed through regional centers and sent to headquarters on an hourly basis. The examination system is transparent, with students volunteering to write when they feel ready, scheduled exams held twice a year at regional centers, and ‘on-demand’ exams available only on Sundays at regional centers.

Foreign students are increasingly taking exams online, with some writing exams in Washington under supervision. However, IGNOU is extremely conservative in other respects, justified by the need to preserve quality. Most exam question types must assess 50% of the “objective” knowledge test, 25% of students’ self-expression skills, and 25% of the learner’s capacity to apply knowledge.

The academic audit, required for every course at least once every six years, evaluates the quality of the course based on how well assessment practices align with the course objectives and how the subject is developing. There is never a shortage of assessors from outside the university.

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