Editorial Articles

Volume-48, 29 February - 06 March 2020

IGNOU: Providing learner- centric Distance Education

Dr. Vikas Singhal and

Dr. Ranjita Panda



The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), established by an Act of Parliament in 1985, has continuously striven to build an inclusive knowledge society through inclusive education. It has major contribution in increasing the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) by offering high-quality teaching through the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) mode through its wide network of Regional Centre and Learner Support Centres throughout the country.

Mandate, vision and mission of the University:

IGNOU began by offering two academic programmes in 1987, i.e., Diploma in Management (DIM) and Diploma in Distance Education (DDE) with strength of 4,528 students. Today, it serves the educational aspirations of more than 3 million students in India and other countries. The mandate of the University is to provide access to higher education to all segments of the society; offer high-quality, innovative and need-based programmes at different levels, to all those who require them; reach out to the disadvantaged by offering programmes in all parts of the country at affordable costs; and promote, coordinate and regulate the standards of education offered through open and distance learning in the country. The vision of IGNOU reads: “The Indira Gandhi National Open University, the National Resource Centre for Open and Distance Learning, with international recognition and presence, shall provide seamless access to sustainable and learner-centric quality education, skill-upgradation and training to all by using innovative technologies and methodologies and ensuring convergence of existing systems for large-scale human resource development, required for promoting integrated national development and global understanding.”

To advance frontiers of knowledge and promote its dissemination through sustainable Open and Distance Learning systems, seamlessly accessible to all, including those hitherto unreached, from among whom the leaders and innovators of tomorrow will emerge, the University shall:

  • Strengthen the development of the National Resource Centre as a proactive role model for high-quality and learner-centric Open and Distance Learning system;
  • Share professional capabilities and resources to improve standards of distance education in the country;
  • Develop networks, using emerging technologies and methods, with global reach for effective programme delivery;
  • Provide an intelligent and flexible system of education to meet the challenges of access and equity, and work towards development of a knowledge society;
  • Forge convergence of all systems and work for seamless education across national boundaries to develop global collaboration and partnership;
  • Take education to the hitherto unreached and promote community participation for local development through life-coping skills;
  • Provide specific need-based education and training opportunities for continuous professional development and skill upgradation to in-service professionals; and Strive towards continuous development of methods and strategies for research and development for generation of knowledge in frontier areas, including Open and Distance Learning.

Over the years, IGNOU, with its diverse programmes, low cost and a wide network, has succeeded to fulfill the country’s expectations of providing education to the marginalized sections of society. Free of cost education is being provided to all jail inmates across the country. A large number of SC/ST students have been admitted to various programmes of the University. At present, under SCSP/TSP grant unemployed SC/ST learners, who are not taking benefit of fee exemption/reimbursement from any other source/agency, may submit one admission form without programme fee at the online admission portal. For list of such programmes and other details learner may visit the IGNOU website. The University has been mandated to reach out to the marginalized sections of our society. The major steps envisaged to attract learners from the disadvantaged groups taken by the University:

  • Enhancing access by spreading the network of study centres from the district level to the block level;
  • Networking with SOUs and CCIs and using ICT in a proactive way in difficult terrain and inaccessible regions;
  • Strengthening the University's presence in the North-East, Jharkhand, Uttaranchal, Chhattisgarh, Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput region in Orissa, Jaisalmer and Barmer in Rajasthan and other low-literacy regions;
  • Conducting special drives to enroll marginalized groups (Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, differently-abled, women learners) in the niche-market programmes.
  • Using emerging and innovative technologies to provide access and opportunities to the differently-abled, tribals and women by cloning the best practices from successful models;
  • Entering collaborations with national agencies and NGOs to increase the outreach of its programmes.
  • Instituting special scholarships, stipends and fee waiver schemes with Government and other funding agencies to enable disadvantaged groups to pursue IGNOU programmes.

Uniqueness in Jurisdiction, network, organizational structure, and flexibility for learners:

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) have jurisdiction over the whole of India and to the Study Centres outside India and hence has established a wide network of 56 Regional Centres (RC), 11 Recognized Regional Centres (RRC) (i.e., 6 IGNOU-Army RRC, 4 IGNOU-Navy RRC 1 IGNOU-Assam Rifles RRC) and nearly 3000 Learner Support Centres (LSCs) across the country. The vast network of RCs and LSCs extends the outreach of IGNOU to the hitherto deprived rural, remote, socially and physically disadvantaged segments of population, providing them access to quality and cost-effective higher education in a flexible manner.

With a view to develop interdisciplinary programmes, the University operates through its 21 Schools of Studies viz., humanities, social sciences, sciences, education, continuing education, engineering and technology, management studies, health sciences, computer and information sciences, agriculture, law, journalism, gender and development studies, tourism, interdisciplinary studies, social work, vocational studies, extension and development studies, foreign languages, translation studies and performing and visual arts. Besides the University has many divisions to support various student-related operations viz., Student Registration Division (SRD), Material Production & Distribution Division (MPDD), Regional Services Division (RSD), Student Evaluation Division (SED), and International Division (ID). There are also established Student Service Cell (SSC), Electronic Media Production Centre (EMPC), National Centre for Disability Studies (NCDS), Centre for Internal Quality Assurance (CIQA), Centre for Online Education (COE) and Campus Placement Cell (CPC), which look after the specialized assigned activities.

In the tradition of Open Learning, IGNOU provides considerable flexibility in entry qualification, place, pace and duration of study to students.

  • The entry qualification for admission in any programme offered by the IGNOU are relaxed within the necessary ambit of the statutory bodies
  • The learner may choose any place (any LSC/ RC which is activated for that programme) for the student support services, he/ she may submit choice to appear in term end exam from any IGNOU exam centre throughout India.
  • The learner may study at his/ her pace as per his/ her convenience, the learner may study at any time of day or night, slowly or at a fast pace can complete a programme in minimum duration (as per statutory guidelines) or in maximum duration (as provided by the IGNOU).
  • One of the most important aspect of studying with IGNOU is that the learner are facilitated for change of their regional centre/ study centre to any recognized IGNOU regional centre/ study centre free of cost, if they wish so or in case they get transferred to other place within India.
  • A Master degree programme of 2 years duration can be completed in 5 years, Bachelor's degree programme (i.e., BA/ B.Com./ B.Sc.) of three years duration can be completed in six years, a certificate of 6-months can be completed in 2 years and a diploma of 1 year can be completed in 3-4 years, if the student is unable to complete the same in minimum duration due to certain unavoidable reasons.

Total Quality Management and Effective Student-Support Services:

Effective student-support services are an important pre-requisite for improving completion rate; reducing drop-out rate; providing sustainable, quality education; and enhancing the credibility of the system. The University has taken several steps for making the support services effective, which are listed below:

  • Evolve a more efficient database management system;
  • Sharing of courses and credit exemption/ transfer-leading to award of composite degrees;
  • Further strengthen links with public and private institutions and NGOs engaged in education and training.
  • All the Study Centres and Regional Centres are well equipped with adequate ICT equipment and other infrastructure to connect them with the Headquarters for prompt data transmission and retrieval, information sharing and redressal of learner difficulties.; provide an opportunity for greater interaction with learners; reduce response time in admission, distribution of material and declaration of results;
  • A state of art self learning materials (self instructional materials) is provided to all the learners, which is prepared by a team of best subject experts in the field. The University has a provision to provide soft copy of the self-learning material in place of printed material. A learner opting for the soft copy will be given a discount of 15% in the Programme Fee. The Option to this effect has to be indicated by the learners while filling in the Online Admission Form. Such learners will not be given printed self-learning material.
  • Increase use of interactive technology-mediated coun-selling and induction programmes; from the current session IGNOU is offering three online certificate programmes through online mode viz., Certificate in Russian Language (CRUL), Certificate in Arabic Language (CAL), and Certificate in Tourism Studies (CTS).
  • IGNOU is providing learner support from eminent expert and faculties in various subject areas through Gyan Darshan, Gyan Vani and five channels of SWAYAM PRABHA.
  • IGNOU operates a 24-hour educational TV channel Gyan Darshan and a radio-cooperative Gyan Vani. There is provision for two-way tele-conferencing, interactive radio counselling, and for relaying educational programmes through local FM radio stations.

The University shall strive to develop a national network using emerging technologies to meet the challenges of access and equity. The thrust will be on strengthening online delivery of education and establishment of community-based multi-purpose tele-learning centres for ICT-enabled education and training. Web-based methods can supplement the teaching and learning processes for professional, need-based, vocational and other academic programmes.

(The authors are associated with IGNOU Regional Centre New Delhi. e-mail: vsinghal@ ignou.in)

Views expressed are personal.

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