Distance learning: Obtaining online degrees

2014-04-05

Republica National Daily

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Studying is no longer confined to schools, colleges and universities. Broadened systems and distant learning are also available today. 

It takes people away from the traditional methods of teaching and learning. Degrees, certificates and diplomas are now obtainable through studying with the help of the Internet. Accessible around the world, Internet-based facility has enabled people to juggle work and study. 

There are a good number of accredited institutions and universities running online programs in different parts of the world. In Nepal, the British Council and the International Center for Academics – College of Distance Education and Online Studies (ICA), two well known institutions, are such places of learning.

“On behalf of various universities and authorized UK bodies, The British Council administers examinations and organizes all stages of exam administration, from initiating contact with exam boards, registration, conducting exams to forwarding exam papers. It guides the students of the programs available in different universities in the UK,” said Bhawana Syangden, projects officer at British Council, Nepal.

The information and help can be an asset to students who want to pursue online education.

Students are encouraged to attend the counseling classes about distance learning which requires registration beforehand. Some of the institutions the British Council represents are: The Open University, The University of London, The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), The Royal College of Physicians (MRCP), The Royal College of Pediatrics & Child Health (MRCPC), and The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (MRCS).

The application process is similar to normal procedures. Students can apply online. However, the deadlines differ according to the courses. There is a variety of subjects to choose from, be it Science, Humanities, or Commerce. The degrees earned are globally accepted. Information on the mode of payment and the required eligibility can be obtained from the official websites of the educational bodies mentioned above.
Although the British Council gives sufficient information on the courses available, it does not hold classes. Students accepted by the international institutions must study on their own.

This is different with the ICA.

Established in 1997, the International Center for Academics – College of Distance Education & Online Studies (ICA), Gyaneshwor, has been providing distance education in Nepal. Approved by the Ministry of Education, Thamel, the college has been a partner institution of the Indira Gandhi Association of Open Universities (IGNOU) since 2002. IGNOU is the largest open university with centers in 33 countries affiliated to it.

As the solo member of the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) in Nepal, ICA caters for IGNOU’s Master Degree Programs, Bachelors Degree Programs, Post-Graduate Diploma Programs, Diploma Programs, and Certificate Programs in 41 diverse areas of Management, Humanities and Social Sciences, Tourism, Computer Science, Journalism, Mass Communication, Rural Development, and Health Science.

IGNOU’s degrees are also accepted internationally. In Nepal, they are recognized by Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University, and the University Grants Commission (UGS).

“The course of study is very flexible. Students need to fulfill certain academic requirements to join the classes. The requirements differ according to the courses. Classes are not held on daily basis, and only one counseling session is offered every Saturday,” says Amit Giri, ICA’s assistant coordinator. “99 % of the students are professionals, balancing their work and study,” he added.

ICA has a fully equipped laboratory and a well facilitated library. Self-instructed study materials are provided to the students. All the important information on examinations, admissions, registration, assignments and counseling classes are circulated via SMS.

Raksha Sharma, a teacher at Brihaspati Vidya Sadan, and also an ICA student, said, “I’m a Bachelor’s student here, and the organization is very cooperative and well facilitated. The study is very time-manageable. The counseling classes help us connect, queries are answered. This is very helpful.”

According to ICA brochures, the academic session has been divided into two categories. The January cycle is from January to June, and the July cycle is from July to December. Under the supervision of the Embassy of India in Kathmandu, IGNOU conducts examinations through ICA in Kathmandu and Dharan. 

Distance education is very time-effective. Study can be completed at home, and working students don’t need to resign their jobs to study abroad.

Most people join online degrees because they can manage work and study simultaneously. Moreover, and financially too, studying online is convenient and affordable.
But it has its drawbacks, too. Students may lose focus. There are not strict regulations to be followed, and studying is optional.