THE ROLE OF STUDY CENTERS IN THE DISTANCE EDUCATION SYSTEM.
(1) INTRUDUCTION -:
It is a waste of time to compare Distance Education System (DES) with the Convention Education System (CES). It is proved fact that DES is cost effective than that of CES. It can cater to millions of learners irrespective of places of residence. It allows them to learn at their own place and pace. The lessons are written in the self-instructional mode. Audio-Video medias are used to establish the rapport between the learner and the teacher. Yet the feeling of isolation remains intense. Therefore human support is given establishing Study Centers at the root level of the distance education system. Every Open University in India has established its three-tire infrastructure as (1) Headquarter (2) Regional Centers, and (3) Study Centers. Study Center Management is one of the sections at the Headquarter to control, guide and monitor the Study Centers of the University.
(2) FUNCTIONAL FLOW CHART -:
Functional flow chart attached herewith as appendix -1 will throw the light on this point.
(3) ROLE OF THE STUDY CENTERS -:
These Study centers play following vital roles in meeting the academic needs of the learner and administration needs of the University.
(1) It is an agent between University and Learners.
(2) It manages local resources for some Lectures.
(3) It communicates University plans and procedures to society.
(4) It motivates the learners for better and effective learning especially in contact cum counselling sessions.
(5) It also provides Reference Library to the learners.
(6) It provides, if needed, Laboratory practices to the learner.
(7) Audio – Visual facilities are specially provided as an aid to the counselling as well as for self-learning.
(8) It arranges seminars and workshops.
(9) It registers the students and delivers the study materials.
(10) It arranges the assessment of Home Test, Class Test and conducts the end examination.
(4) STAFFING RELATED FUNCTION -:
Staffing related functions at the Study Centers is attached herewith as appendix -2.
The functions given here are the expected functions to be carried out by the Study Centers and the Staffworking there. No Open Universities, in India, provided permanent staff at the root level i.e. at Study Centres. This system is based on dependent model. The staff working there is only nominally trained. There is no control over the staff working at study centers. Therefore, the purpose of establishing Study Centers in distance education set up doesn’t fulfil completely.
(5) RESEARCHES -:
Many researches in this field also brought our notice towards these types of problems.
(1) G. Laxma Reddy and Banothlal (1996) ‘Assessment of delivery system of an Open University profession courses’, in ‘Dynamics of Distance Education’, brought forth the findings pertaining to the contact cum Counselling sessions are given below.
i) 60% of the students were not satisfied with the quality of the classes.
ii) 75% of the students complained about frequent disturbances in the schedule of the classes and the rest gave the personal problems as reasons for not attending the classes.
iii) 80% of the students indicated that the number of classes are not sufficient to complete the course and suggested that they may be increased.
(2) Reddy V.R. (1994) ‘Learner attitudes and suggestions in distance education’, in Distance Education : An interface, Hydrabad : BRAOU brought forth the findings as below.
82 out of 92 stated that contact classes were very much useful to them. Majority of learners felt that all was not well with the contact classes. They suggested that the number of contact classes should be increased. The duration of the contact classes should be reduced from 2 hours to 1 hour.
(3) Rather H.C.S. (1991) A Critical Evaluation of the System Adopted for Management of Teaching and Learning in the Existing Correspondence Institutes on India. Project Report Submitted to National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi brought forth the findings as below.
Not more than 50 percent students were not satisfied with the functioning and facilities extended at the study centers.
The distance learners with permission of College Principals can use the existing Library Services in the University/College. But most of the time the contact programs are held on Sundays when it is holiday to the College library.
These researches draw our attentiontowards the functioning of the study centers especially towards the contact classes that is considered the main function of the study center. It is true that many students complain against the functioning of the study centers, the behaviour of the staff working there, their availability and sincerity, and so on.
Therefore, it is necessary to conduct the research on this issue.
(6) CAUSES THAT AFFECT THE STUDY CENTERS.
Let us think at the root of these complaints where we find the probable causes that effect the functioning of Study Centers.
i) The Head of the Institution/ College feel that they will be given regular grant like the conventional Colleges for carrying out this activity. And when they come to know that there is no grant for this purpose they don’t provide their attention towards running these Study Centers as per the norms laid down for the purpose.
ii) Not enough training is given to the teachers to be a counsellor. They use lecture methods in the classes instead of counselling.
iii) Teachers do this activity as an addition to their daily work and demand an attractive remuneration as they work on holidays.
iv) The Heads of the Institution/College feel that Study Centers at colleges will lower the strength of their regular students.
v) The Head of the Institutions/Colleges need one innovative activity carried out through their colleges. Therefore they open the Study Centers at their Colleges, and compel the staff to work there. The staff, perhaps, be working unwillingly.
vi) There would be a clash between the regular work of the staff and the work of the Study Centers. In that case Management offers no co-operation to the staff working at the Study Centers.
vii)The queries of non-academic nature are more than that of academic nature. The Study Centers have not received proper information to fulfil them.
There may be a lot of other causes where the research is required to find out them accurately. Up till now distance educationalists have given much stress on developing the system of distance education. It requires today raise the quality in every part of the system.
(7) REMEDIES -:
Once the causes are identified properly, one should try to find out the remedies. Following are some of the remedies suggested to solve these types of problems.
(i) Clear-cut understanding should be given to the Heads of the Institution that the University should not give them any grant.
(ii) Various types of training are necessary to be given to the different level of staff working at the study center. It should be provided to them regularly after one-year interval.
(iii) Program wise costing should be made and without raising the fees of the students remuneration to the counsellors should be fixed. It is better to convey the Counselors that it is an extra activity, which will enrich the bio-data and fulfil the social obligations. Everything is not counted in money. One gets the mental satisfaction working in distance education set up. It may not be acquired with the attractive salary in the convention system of education.
(iv) The learners at the study centers are differ from that of Convention education. It will not affect the strength of the regular students. Therefore, this misunderstanding should be cleared.
(v) While allotting a study center, meeting should be held with the staff at the colleges and their opinion should be sought. When the staff is taken into confidence, they will work willingly.
(vi) It is but natural that the Regular/college work of the staff should not suffer. Activity chart should take care of this.
(vii) The University must provide necessary information to the study centers in time pertaining to the registration, delivery of books, examinations and so on.
(viii) If possible, one part time assistant, skilled in operating the computer, may be appointed on every Study Center He will work there for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening; and for whole day on Sundays and on holidays.
(ix) Every study center should be so equipped that it needs to work as a ‘Resources Center’. Now a days every center needs a computer with necessary software and the internet. It will work as information receiver, information storage and information display/ distribution. Even if the learner may not have time to visualize the telecast of his interest or attend a counselling session of some course due to engagements elsewhere, the center has to manage the recording of that telecast and to make available it to the learner at his study center, at a time of his own choiceand convenience.
(x) Various cultural programs should be organized at the Study Cetners like gathering, sports, welcoming ceremonies to the newer and farewell ceremony to the out goers etc.
(8) CONCLUSION -
Study Centers are the backbone of the distance education set-up. Unless and until they are functioning independently, it remains challenge to the staff to make the centers work properly.
(1) Pawar K. B., Panda Santosh, and Bhalla Veena (2000) Performance Indicators in Distance Higher Education Aravali Books International (P) Ltd, New Delhi 110020.
(2) Panda S. K., Satyanarayan P, and Sharma R.C. (1996) Open and Distance Education Research, Analysis and Annotation Indian Distance Education Association, ISBN 81 – 900611-0-0.
(3) Shanmugum M and Murli Manohar K (Nov.1996) Dynamics of Distance Education, Idea, ISBN 81-900611-5-1.
(4) Gandhe S.K., Datt Ruddar and Mitra Sushmita (1996) Open Learning Systems in India, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi.
(5) Koul B.N., Singh Bakhshish and Ansari N.M. (1988) -: Studies in Distance Education, Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi.
APPENDIX – 1.
STAFFING RELATED FUNCTIONS OF A STUDY CENTRE.
(Selection and duties of Study Centre Personnel)
Study centres of the Open University will be established in colleges or institutions with the approval of the respective managements. The authority and responsibility for managing and running the study center shall vest with the Principal of the college or the head of the institution. The functionaries of the study center are as given under -:
1. Head of the study center.
2. Coordinator of the study center.
3. Teacher -counselors, and
4. Administrative staff.
1} Head of the Study Center -:
Principal of the College or the Head of the Institution where study center has been established shall be the Head of study center. The main functions of the Head of the study center are as given under.
i) To establish the Advisory Committee of the study center and to convene the meeting of the Advisory Committee, at least once in every six months.
ii) To advise and direct the study center Co-ordinator for the smooth functioning of the study center.
iii) To see whether the functioning of the study center is as per directions and regulations of the University.
iv) To keep a liaison with local educational institutions and to consult local educationists for smooth functioning of the academic programmes of the study center.
v) To appoint the academic and non-academic staff and to make the necessary changes, as and when required, and to get appointments or changes there in approved by the University authorities.
vi) To supervise the administrative functioning of the study center.
vii) To supervise the finances and to maintain the financial discipline of the study center.
viii) To under take any work relating to the study center and assigned by the University.
2) Co-ordinator of the Study Center.
The head of the study center shall appoint coordinator of the study center. He is the key person of the study center looking after the day-to-day activities of the study center. He has to consult the Head of the study center for major decisions.
In fact, he has to play five different roles at the study center. They are of a Manager, Supervisor, Organizer, Coordinator and if possible, of a teacher counselor. The main functions of the coordinator are given as under.
i) To conduct the administration of the study center in consultation with the Head of the study center.
ii) To appoint the teacher-counselors for engaging contact sessions in consultation with the Head of the study center.
iii) To plan the timetable of the contact-sessions and to see whether the contact-sessions are being engaged by the teacher-counselors as per timetable.
iv) To maintain and get repaired the equipments of the study center from time to time so that they are in order.
v) To protect the property of the study center, if any.
vi) To supervise the disbursement of the study -tests to the students and to maintain their record.
vii)To make the audio-video tapers available to teacher-counselors and students.
viii) To maintain the attendance record of the students.
ix) To assist the University for planning the conduct of class-tests and end examinations.
x) To maintain the records of class-tests, home-tests and the end examinations.
xi) To keep a constant contact with the University and to obtain information about plans of the University.
xii)To attend the workshops, seminars or meetings organized by the University.
xiii) To inform the teacher-counselors and the students about the plans and developments of the University.
3) Teacher-counselors at the Study Center -:
Coordinator of the study center shall appoint the teacher-counselors for different courses in consultation with the Head of the study center.
University shall obtain the bio-data of the prospective teacher-counselors from the study center. For each course the study center will suggest two-three names of teachers who would work as teacher counselors. Head of the study center and the co-ordinator shall submit these forms to the members of the selection committee to be appointed by the Vic-Chancellor. This committee will scrutinize the bio-data of prospective counselors for each course and shall accord approval to a counselor or counselors for a given course. University will issue an appointment order to such approved counselors in due course of time.
The University will decide qualifications of the teacher-counselors after considering the norms lay down by U.G.C. and such other apex bodies.
Functions of the teacher-counselors.
Main functions of the teacher-counselors are given as under:
i) To organize contact-sessions by adopting methods like discussion, question-answers, use of audio or videotapes, etc.
ii) To assist the coordinator for the conduct of class-tests.
iii) To correct the answer-books of class-tests and home-tests.
iv) To fill in the evaluation sheets for the performance of class tests and home tests and to handover them to the coordinator of the study center in a given time.
v) To inform the students about open education, distance education and latest developments in it.
vi) To solve the academic problems of the students and to advise them to refer useful books and references.
vii) To help the students for developing study skills.
viii) To submit the plan of contact sessions to the coordinator and to execute it.
ix) To study the study-texts and the audio-video tapes concerning them and plan for a given contact session.
x) To maintain the record of attendance of students in contact sessions and Handover it to the coordinator.
xi) To record the reactions of students about the learning material and the academic programmes of the University.
xii) To assist the study center coordinator as and when required.
5) Administrative Staff -:
Administrative staff in a given study center consists of part time clerks, part time peons and a sweeper. The functions of the clerks working in the study center are given as under -:
i) To maintain the office and the filing system of the study center.
ii) To bring the contents of the mail to the notice of the co-ordinator.
iii) To maintain the records of demand drafts, postal orders and cheques and deposit them in the bank.
iv) To notify the circulars received from the University.
v) To assist the Coordinator in maintaining different, records of the study center.
To assist the Coordinator for the smooth conduct of the class tests and end examinations.
Functions of the peon -:
Functions of the peon are given as under -:
i) To collect the mail from the postman.
ii) To assist the clerk in storing and disbursing the study-texts.
iii) To make the audio-video tapes available to the students.
iv) To assist the clerk in maintaining the office.
v) To work on errand as directed by the Coordinator or the Clerk.
vi) To assist the Coordinator for the smooth conduct of class tests and end examinations.
vii) To perform any official work assigned by the Coordinator or the clerk.