Distance learning is a course that time forgot. Most students aren’t aware of its existence, news articles don’t talk about it and mainstream University discourse doesn’t cover it. This article focuses on the basics of distance learning and talks about whether this kind of a long-distance relationship is really actually worth it.
The pandemic has created an abyss where the classroom used to exist. As college campuses are reclaimed by their original owners – dogs, cats, and birds, students bustling out of classes with totes in their hands and gossip on their tongues, are nowhere to be seen. Lectures and tutorials shifting online this semester, the online campus as they call it has become the norm. Video calls on unstable internet connections have become the means to bring stability to your interactions with your friends and teachers. With assignments being “turned in” online, and google classroom features of “raise hand” being used to substitute physical gestures, a lot has changed in the past seven months.
But what if I was to tell you- that there has always been a group of students who have always used online mediums to do college even before the Pandemic? Students that practice remote learning or distance learning belong to this category.
Process of Distance Learning at DU
The headquarters of the distance learning course at DU is the School of Open Learning (SOL), which is located at the North Campus. School of Open learning offers courses UG and PG through distance learning. Postgraduate courses are in M.A (Hindi, History, Political Science and Sanskrit) and M.Com (Commerce). Undergraduate courses are in B. A (pass), B.A (Hons) (English and Political Science), B.Com, and B.Com (Hons). There is no difference in the course curriculum followed by the School of Open learning and other colleges of the University of Delhi.
Under Academic activities, students are provided with study material and contact programmes. The mode of instruction is primarily through well prepared printed course material which is distributed at the time of admission or by mail to all the enrolled students. Personal contact programmes are conducted at various study centres run by the School. There are also availability hours assigned to each professor, where they must be available to every student of that course in case they want to come and interact with the teachers on campus.
Admission happens through careful selection by an entrance test. The examination is conducted by the University of Delhi and happens online or by physically going to college. The School of Open Learning also has an E- Cell and a Placement Cell.
Cost-Efficient and Time-Saving – The Benefits of Distance Learning
Distance Learning is often seen as extremely beneficial for those who want to study at universities abroad, but don’t have the money for accommodation. It is a cost-efficient option since you have to pay lesser for a distance learning course as opposed to an offline course- since you aren’t experiencing the campus, or even having regular interactions with your teachers. However some universities, like DU, also allow you to access their campus facilities like libraries, etc. Students affiliated to the SOL have access to its E-resources and the Physical libraries.
The other advantage of distance learning is for the people who might have social anxiety. This allows you to learn and grow without having to interact with too many people. A student, pursuing a Master’s Degree in Yoga from Uttarakhand Open University says “I am not socially confident, thus distance learning was a great escape for me. However, I also feel that if I had gone to a proper college, I would have gotten rid of my social anxiety. I would have been forced to interact with newer people. But I am happy that I didn’t have to become uncomfortable and do all this.”
There is a gender angle to it as well. In a patriarchal set up like India, women need to take on the burden of household chores, thus going to college is not a lucrative option for many. Women are also married off early and thus unable to attend full-time college because of other responsibilities. They can use the option of distance learning as a bargain between attending physical college and not attending college at all.
Trapped in your comfort Zone- The Disadvantages of Distance Learning
As much as it seems appealing, being in your own comfort zone is a major disadvantage to the growth of a person. Going to college is all about interacting with different people who have diverse ideologies and values. You might not always agree with such people, but that’s the essence of college life. You are provided with a buffet of personalities and activities, which you can choose to imbibe or give up. In a distance learning course, you probably do not have any other space to experience varied identities and activities. Personally, if I had never gone to college, I would not have become interested in nature or the environment. That only happened when I joined the Nature Club at college and met this inspiring senior who made me passionate about environmental issues. This wouldn’t have been possible in a distance learning course.
The other disadvantage is that you miss out on the quintessential campus life. Saiyam, pursuing his Bachelors’ degree in English from the School of Open Learning, when asked about how he feels missing out on campus life says, “It’s almost impossible to be part of any fest or societies when you are doing open learning. You can’t join competitions as groups, but you can join them individually. It’s hard to call open learning experience since literally, nothing is going on. It’s also hard to keep yourself updated about events at DU since you aren’t going there every day.”
Judging from a conversation I have with a student from SOL, it seems like a paper town. The SOL website for DU boasts of an E- Cell and a Placement Cell but hasn’t listed down the activities these societies do. Similarly, the website mentions a schedule for the availability of teachers at the Institute, however, students say that they haven’t had interactions with their teachers even once. Saiyamsays “I don’t even know if there are supposed to be teachers for my course.” Similarly, there seems to be a lot of ambiguity about the semester system. According to the academic calendar, there are supposed to be two semesters but Saiyam claims they only had one semester, and that too with online open-book exams.
Apart from some issues, distance learning seems to be a lucrative option for people who have busy schedules and other hobbies.
But will Distance Learning suit you? Ultimately that’s a decision you have to take.
Feature mage credits: Knowledgehunt- Clipart Distance Learning