ICT & The Future of Distance Education

V. Venugopal REDDY

Since the beginning of the previous century institutions offering distance education have employed a variety of technological platforms to support interactions between teachers and learners and among learners separated by distance, time or both. The convergence of powerful computers with telecommunications technologies, over the past three decades has precipitated a fundamental shift in human history: the so called Information or Knowledge Revolution in the last decade of the previous century. Technological developments in Digitization and Telecommunication have led to fundamental changes in the production, storage and dissemination of materials and information. The focus in the information age or knowledge era is on these new digital information and communication technologies (lCTs). These are proving to be more powerful than previous technologies because of their ability to integrate multiple media into simple educational applications, interactivity, flexibility of use and connectivity. Not only text but a full range, of media including graphics, speech, sounds, still and moving pictures can all be stored and conveyed. It is 'now possible to combine elements of all these components in a single package (i.e. multimedia) instead of using a variety of components such as printed text, audio/video cassette, broadcasting, etc. (i.e. multiple media). Education seems unlikely to escape the influence of such significant technological developments especially as the cost of access to ICTs continues to fall. The number of institutions adopting ICTs and introducing online courses has been growing. Undoubtedly this is leading to the ascendance of distance education as a popular mode of education being adopted by both distance teaching institutions as well as conventional institutions offering campus bound face to face education. It can be said that the adoption of ICTs has opened up new fundamentally different options for higher education both in how to run the business of higher education as well as in methodologies of teaching and learning. More institutions are involved in distance education today than at any other time in history. Distance education has truly moved to the centre stage today.

KEYWORDS: Distance Education, India, ICT, Multimedia, Communication Technologies, Distance Teaching, Higher Education