Column : End the distance learning apartheid
Manish Sabharwal & Paresh Vora
A few years ago the celebrations in Japan for the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics to a person of Japanese birth who lived in the US were cut short by his statement that he could not have done the work that won him the prize if he had stayed on in his home country. As the world recognises the pioneering work of MIT professor Anant Agarwal’s edX in using technology to challenge the traditional model of higher education, we must remember that edX would not be allowed to be set up in India because of regulatory cholesterol.
On November 1 last year, the Distance Education Council—India’s regulator for higher education delivered outside traditional classrooms—reinforced its dated regime by issuing a circular imposing territorial restrictions on online and distance learning (ODL) providers, restricting the simultaneous pursuit of two degrees by any student, and requiring distance courses to equalise the admission criteria and duration for distance courses with equivalent classroom delivery.
Rapid advancement in technology like ubiquitous broadband, cloud computing and social networking is combining with a hyperinflation in traditional college costs (America’s college debt of $1 trillion is its largest source of consumer debt), to trigger a Cambrian explosion of online higher education providers.
edX, a not-for-profit Harvard-MIT joint venture, recently received $60 million in funding to put their educational material online—17% of students in its offered Harvard course in
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