The need for speed

The President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam recently announced a vision plan that envisaged an empowered science and technology base by 2015 saying that there is a need to energise our university system and enable it to respond to the pressures of the market, so that it can retain and attract talent. A proposal of the government too was announced to set up several institutes of science, technology and IT in various parts of the country as part of its efforts to revitalise the higher education system. The National Knowledge Commission has also in its first report laid emphasis on the need to invest in education at this level of the knowledge pyramid. Although elearning has all potential in Indian higher education sector, adoption has been slow and will need major awareness and marketing efforts.

The interest in distance education is growing very rapidly in India and is expected to double up in the next decade. In the last decade the number of open universities have gone up to 12 and the institutions providing correspondence courses crossed 100 mark. Indira Gandhi national Open University, New Delhi, the apex body to coordinate and monitor the distance education system in India has more than 7,50,000 students with extremely varied profiles, spread throughout the country.

There exists an immense opportunity for institutions to establish new forms of electronic collaborations. The emergence of Internet and its combination with EDUSAT and communication and computer technology has opened opportunities to provide learning on demand and learner centred. The emergence of broadband and mobile Internet service in India makes it feasible to create a cluster of an institution with study center located in far flung areas which can further be connected in the another cluster to form a grid. In addition Wireless in Local Loop,Direct to Home satellite communication technologies are also becoming available.A combination of satellite communication technologies and grid Internet connectivity can be used by the institution for effective delivery system.

Distance education is still a new phenomenon in the newly transitioned economies like Mongolia, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. Due to reverse economic and social conditions of developed countries, countries like Bangladesh are yet to establish a reliable e-Learning system or institution. There needs to be a supporting mindset for the adoption of e-Learning as well as keep up with the global trend.

This issue examines e-Learning as a tool for promotion of higher education in Indian as well as in the global context. We are glad to introduce a dedicated space for the higher education community every month, with this special edition on e-Learning in higher education.