Distance Learning in India – The History

Distance Learning in India - The Past

Distance Learning in India – The History

Distance Learning in India [The History]

What is Distance Education ?

Distance education is traditionally defined as, any educational or learning procedure in which the guide and the student are separated geographically. There is no interaction between students. Distance education also known as distance learning or distributed learning, or remote education, has now existed for ages. It involves acquiring information from methods other then the traditional way of gaining knowledge – attending institutions.

Present-day distance learning in India is influenced a lot by computer, mobile and electronics technology. The technology has now made it possible for the guide and student to connect almost immediately. Study resources can be delivered instantly through computers, satellites, internet, cable television, interactive video etc.

Distance Learning

History of Distance Learning – Global

Correspondence education, the initial form of distance education, developed in the mid-nineteenth century in Europe and then spread to the United States and so on.

Initially Distance Learning in India used the finest technology available at that time, the postal system, to open educational prospects to people who wanted to study but were not able to attend traditional schools. People who gained most from correspondence education were women, professional people, physical disabled, and individuals who lived in areas where schools didn’t exist.

Isaac Pitman, a British is attributed to pioneering the concept of “distance education”. He started by teaching shorthand via correspondence in 1840. Students were asked to copy passages from Bible and send them for grading via the new penny post system.

In, American the distance education began in 1874 at Illinois Wesleyan University where bachelor and graduate degrees could be obtained without being actually present in the classes. The Chautauqua movement in the year 1882 gave the much required thrust to correspondence education. Correspondence education became quite famous by 1900 and problems of excellence and fair practice came with the popularity. The National Home Study Council (NHSC) was formed in 1926 in part to deal with such issues.

History of Distance Learning in India.

Distance Learning in India for higher education in India was initiated in the form of Correspondence Courses in 1962, in response to the ever- increasing demand for higher education which could not be met by the conventional system. The Delhi University established a School of Correspondence Courses and Continuing Education in 1962. Encouraged by the success, the Education Commission (1964-66) recommended the expansion of correspondence education for various purposes. Consequently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) formulated guidelines for introducing correspondence courses in Indian Universities. Three more Institutes of Correspondence Studies were established in the late sixties. Twenty one more universities introduced correspondence programmes during the seventies. In the early eighties seven more universities started institutes of cor- respondences studies. At present there are 45 universities including four deemed universities offering correspondence programmes in the country.

Strong Foundation.

The establishment of the open university in the United Kingdom, in 1969 encouraged several countries to deliberate on the new concept and its potential in making higher education more accessible, flexible and innovative. India was one of those countries which examined the possibility of establishing an open university in the early seventies. This influenced a few universities like University of Mysore and Andhra University to adopt open admission policies in the mid seventies by relaxing formal qualifications for entry to undergraduate and post- graduate courses. This seemingly minor innovation provided impetus to efforts towards greater access to higher education for larger segments of the population especially those adults who could not complete school education.

Distance Education

Andhra Pradesh government gave a lead to the country by setting up the Andhra Pradesh Open University (now renamed as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University) at Hyderabad in 1982. In 1985, the Govt. of India, through an Act of Parliament established the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) which is responsible for determining and maintaining standards of distance education and bringing about coordination among all distance education institutes including the open universities all over the country in addition to functioning as University for open learning and distance education programmes.

Concrete Structure.

The establishment of IGNOU at New Delhi in 1985 has proved to be a significant milestone in the development of Distance Learning in India. It provides a central Organisation for guiding and coordinating the activities of all distance education institutes and state open universities in the country. It has popularized the concept of open learning system resulting in the establishment of three more state open universities in the late eighties viz. – Kota Open University in Kota (Rajasthan), Yashwant Rao Chavan Maharashtra Open University at Nasik (Maharashtra) and Nalanda Open University at Patna (Bihar). States of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have also established Open Universities recently.

Number’s Game.

From just a handful of students in 1962-63 the enrollment in correspondence courses rose to about 65,000 students in 1975-76. During the last fifteen years the annual growth rate of enrollment in open universities and the institutes of correspondence studies attached to conventional universities has been appreciably higher than in the conventional universities and in 1990-91 it was approximately 600,000. The proportion of students enrolled in distance education has steadily increased from 2.6% of the enrollment in higher education in 1975-76 to 11.5% in 1990-91. During 1992-93 the enrollment for Distance Learning in India programmes was over eight lakhs.

Distance Learning in India – Equality, Education for all.

India, after independence, has made a great advancement in its education system. Initially education was accessible only to the high profile class of India, and a lot of poor & middle class Indians remained unlettered. There was an immense pressure on various state governments by common men to initiate more & more institutes, colleges and universities. This pressure has led to rapid growth of higher education in our country. But the sad thing is that this progression is more quantitative than qualitative, all because of the high demand. Therefore, an alternative methodology was required in order to ensure quality education & success. And distance education is one such alternative.

Distance Learning in India was embraced by many good universities to meet the ever increasing expectations of those student who had deficient means to pursue higher education through regular manner. And hence, distance education in India has become very popular today. There were a lot of limitations in the formal system of education, which a lot of students are not able to undertake. And hence they are getting attracted towards distance learning mode of education. Convenient education, study from home, more quality & less expensive, earning while learning are some of the popular advantages of distance education. And this is the reason it is growing with a great pace in India.

Technology in Distance Education.

Distance education went through a major change after the invention of radio in the 1920s and the arrival of television in the 1940s. Distance education is increasingly using combinations of different technologies to improve communication between teachers and students. In 1900, after the arrival of computer, distance education took a big leap. Now the teachers and students can converse sitting face-to-face.

Distance Education in India

The student may receive information via satellite, microwave, or fiber optic cable, television (broadcast, cable or Instructional Television Fixed Services (ITFS), video cassette or disk, telephone – audio conferencing bridge or direct phone line, audio cassette, printed materials – text, study guide, or handout, computer – modem or floppy disk, and compressed video. Recent rapid development of technology has resulted in systems that are powerful, flexible, and increasingly affordable. The base of available information technology resources is increasing with dramatic speed. Much has been learned about connecting various forms of technology into systems, so that the ability to link systems is growing. Most distance learning systems are hybrids, combining several technologies, such as satellite, ITFS, microwave, cable, fiber optic, and computer connections.

Students from business and university level have used the conferencing technique known as one-way video/two-way audio where pictures from television are transmitted to particular sites, people can reply to the newscaster via telephone. Television pictures can also be broadcast in two directions at the same time through telephone lines, so that teachers and students at one place can see and hear teachers and students in other places. There are various types of technologies that are used in distance education:

  • Telephone
  • Television
  • Videoconferencing
  • Web Conferencing
  • E-mail
  • Message Board Forums
  • Print Materials
  • Voice Mail/fax
  • Videocassette
  • Mobile
  • Cloud
  • VR

Various Other Names for Distance Education in India.

  • Open Learning
  • Virtual Education
  • Extension Courses
  • Distance Learning
  • Correspondence Courses
  • Correspondence Education

Need and Importance of Distance Education.

Rapid growth of education

With the advancement of education and technology, it is almost impossible to incorporate new/ innovative changes through formal education in India. Know More


This unexpected growth rate of population in India has reduced the chances for formal education to educate each & every student.

Know More
Geographical limitations

Many students who are living in places which are geographically isolated finds difficult to take education through regular classes.

Know More
Qualification improvement

Distance education provides opportunities to students who want to improve their qualification during their present jobs.

Desire to work & study

Being capable of earning while learning is the most attractive advantage of distance education in India that’s on a growth.

Education for all ages

Distance education can used by people of all ages. Right from current students, working professionals, homemakers and more.

Financial Circumstances

Distance education is important in India, due to financial & family responsibilities of many of the India students. Know More

Faster Promotion

By getting educated through distance, the present employees can improve their qualification.

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Flexibility factor

Education with flexibility is only possible in the case of distance learning. Any time is good to learn and get educated. Know More

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Noble Institute of Education Society, Bangalore – Case Study for Distance Learning.

For instance a mere 15 years since its inception, Noble Institute of Education Society  has carved a niche for itself among the premier educational institutions in the country. The University has been a pioneer in Distance Education and the recipient of the Excellence in Education award conferred by the Brands Academy in 2014.

NIES, Bangalore is a premier distance education institute in India that has more 50,000 students with extremely varied profiles, spread throughout the length and breadth of the country. The University has an efficient and effective networking of 37 Accreditation and over 28 Awards, from all over India and overseas partner institutions. As an Educational Institution, NIES has come a long way since 2002, having crossed national boundaries providing higher education as well as assisting other developing countries in this regard.

Challenges for Distance Learning in India.

Challenges which faced the early users of distance education are still with us today. If distance education is to play a greater role in improving the quality of education, it will require expanded technology; more linkages between schools, higher education, and the private sector; and more teachers who use technology well. Teachers must be involved in planning the systems, trained to use the tools they provide, and given the flexibility to revise their teaching. Connections have been established across geographic, instructional, and institutional boundaries which provide opportunities for collaboration and resource sharing among many groups In the pooling of students and teachers, distance learning reconfigures the classroom which no longer is bounded by the physical space of the school, district, state or nation.

Distance Education University

The key to success in distance learning is the teacher. If the teacher is good, the technology can become almost transparent. No technology can overcome poor teaching which is actually exacerbated in distance education applications. When skilled teachers are involved, enthusiasm, expertise, and creative use of the media can enrich students beyond the four walls of their classroom.

Teachers need training in the system’s technical aspects and in the educational applications of the technology. Areas for assistance include the amount of time needed to prepare and teach courses, how to establish and maintain effective communication with students, strategies for adding visual components to audio courses, ways to increase interaction between students and faculty, planning and management of organizational details, and strategies for group cohesion and student motivation.

Similarly most universities of India also impart distance education to meet the growing demand. There is a rapid increase in the number of institutes offering distance education due to its advantages to the learners and the teachers too. Since distance is no longer an impediment to pursue a course and complete them as most universities have study and examination centers in many cities, the interest in Distance Education is growing very rapidly in India and is expected to double up in the next decade.

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