A third of India's adult population is illiterate and just over one tenth of its children manage to finish high school. In a scenario such as this universalisation of education poses a daunting challenge for the nation. Attempts have to be made to reach out to the vast geographical spaces and infrastructure divide.
It is in this context that Open and Distance Learning (ODL) is being seen as a means for ushering in a revolution in delivery of quality education in a cost effective and need-based manner.
But availability of appropriate technology addresses only a part of the challenge as trained teachers and appropriate ICT content is in short supply.
India's ODL systems have not succeeded fully in taking advantage of the technological advancements. Further, a wide variety of technological tools like Direct to Home through Satellite, televisions, radio, mobile phones and the internet have failed to reach those learners who live in inaccessible or remote areas or who are at a disadvantage due to socio-economic reasons.
Around 1.50 lakh teachers are added every year into an already existing pool of 30 million. But there is no homogeneity in the geographical distribution of teachers and the biggest sufferers are the rural population who are deprived of best teaching practices.
Although the technological advancements in ICT have expanded the delivery modes of imparting teaching, the teachers have been left out of its purview. Majority of teachers are either not aware or are untrained in using the ICTs in their teaching. The education system needs to co-opt the teachers in to these multiple teaching modes.
The Indira Gandhi National Open University, set up in 1985, has made a visible intervention in this regard with the creation of a pool of master trainersto supplement the conventional teaching-learning methods with ICTs and satellite-based systems. Today IGNOU has the distinction of being the world's largest university and serves the educational aspirations of more than 1.8 million students in India and 35 countries abroad through its 21 Schools of Studies. In all these years, the IGNOU's focus has been on extending its reach to the doorsteps of the hitherto unreached.
The current issue of Digital Learning is an attempt to capture the essence of ODL and also its best practices. We have received immense support from the IGNOU in bringing out this colloective issues.