Open and Distance Learning (ODL)
system has shown a tremendous growth during the last few decades due
to its unique feature of being a users' friendly system. In this system,
the students are free to learn at their own pace and convenience while
being away from the institution. This system came into existence with
the basic objective to provide wider access to higher education as the
conventional system was proving to be unable to cope with the ever-increasing
demand. ODL in recent times has thus emerged as an alternative mode
for higher education all over the world especially in developing countries
like India. In Indian scene, there are at present around 76 Distance
Learning Institutions (DLIs) and 10 Open Universities. With the advancement
of information technology several DLIs are providing admissions to a
large number of students in various programmes. A few years earlier,
DLIs were judged by the quality of the materials made available to the
learners. But in the changed scenario, emphasis is placed on the quality
of Student Support Services (SSS) extended by the DLIs as these have
been recognized as an integral and essential component of distance learning
system. These SSS guide the learners for self-study and serve as the
interface between the institution and the learner. Keeping in view the
importance of support system to distance learners, the present paper
has been devoted to the student support system operative in the Directorate
of Distance Education (DDE) of Maharshi Dayanand University (MDU), Rohtak
(Haryana) for the benefit of distance learners enrolled to pursue various
undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) programmes.
Maharshi Dayanand University
The Maharshi Dayanand University
was established in 1976 and initially started as residential university
for promoting study and research in Life Sciences. The character of
the university was soon changed to an "affiliaiting university".
From a modest beginning, presently the university has bloomed into one
of the largest universities in the country. It has in its fold 126 colleges
and institutes, which include Degree, Medical, Dental, Ayurvedic, Engineering,
and Education Colleges. Besides, it has 13 institutes of Science, Technology
and Management. On the campus, the university maintains 26 full fledged
teaching departments apart from one National Law College at Gurgaon
and one Post Graduate Regional Centre at Rewari. With this infrastructure,
the University has approximately 0.16 million students on its roll in
regular courses. Further, Directorate of Distance Education (DDE) is
imparting education to more than 48,000 students through its study centers.
Directorate of Distance Education
For the purpose of providing
quality education at the doorsteps and meeting the needs of students,
the MDU established B.Ed. correspondence cell in 1988, which was later
upgraded as Directorate of Correspondence Courses in 1990 and designated
it in 1992 as Directorate of Distance Education. The directorate provided
facilities for distance education (DE) initially at B.Ed. level. Encouraged
by the successful completion of the programme, the University has expanded
its programmes to offer conventional Undergraduate, Postgraduate Programmes
followed by Management, Law, Computer / IT programmes. At present out
of 21 programmes being offered by DDE, 12 are leading to postgraduate
degree, 6 are Bachelors degree and 3 courses are PG Diplomas. (Refer
to Exhibit: 1).
Exhibit - 1
PROGRAMMES OFFERED BY DDE
||Two Year Course
||Two Year Course
||Three Year Course
|Two Year Course
|5. M.A.(Social Sciences)
ii) Pol. Sciences
iv) Public Administration
|Two Year Course
||Two Year Course
|7. M.Sc. (Mathematics)
||Two Year Course
||Two Year Course
||One Year Course
i) Master's Degree in
Global Business Management
iii) PG Diploma in Labour
Law, Labour Welfare,& Personnel
Two Year Course
Two Year Course
One Year Course
i) M.Sc(Computer Science)
Postgraduate Diploma in
Postraduate Diploma in
|Two Year Course
One Year Course
One Year Course
As evident from Exhibit I, the
varied programmes offered by the Directorate range from conventional
to management and technical as per the needs of the area and employment
opportunities available now-a-days in the country. The salient features
of DDE's courses are that it not only caters to the needs of in-service
personnel, but also to those, who are working in remote areas or persons
who can not get higher education due to their personal reasons. The
popularity of DDE programmes of MDU among the students can be judged
from the enrolment figures of the session 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-2001
and 2001-2002 i.e. 16,779, 26,659, 36,689 and 48,938 respectively (Please
See Exhibit:2). The reasons for the popularity of its programmes have
been on account of carefully designed curriculum, teaching-learning
strategies, student support services (SSS) and examination system
Exhibit : 2
Students Strength For Session 1998-1999, 1999-2000, 2000-2001 &
||Name of Class
|PG Diploma in Labour Laws,
Labour Welfare & Personnel
|Master Degree in Global Business
|APGDCA - Ist Sem.
APGDCA -2nd Sem.
|APGDIT - Ist Sem.
APGDIT - 2nd Sem.
|M.Sc.(Comp.Sc.) Ist Sem
M.Sc.(Comp.Sc.) 2nd Sem
|M.Sc.(Comp. Sc.) Ist Sem
M.Sc.(Comp .Sc.) 2nd Sem
|B.CA Ist Sem
|Master Of Arts
||Political Science Previous
||Public Admn. Previous
The teaching - learning strategies
employed for effective dissipation of knowledge and mitigating the feeling
of isolation of distance learners include Printed Study material in
SIM format, Sunday and other holidays classes (40 days) at University
approved study centers, Personal Contact Programmes (PCP), Assignments,
Internal Tests and well established Labs which include the facility
of Video cassettes, E-mail, Internet, CD-Rom, practicals besides counselling
(F2F and telephone) by in-house faculty of DDE at headquarters and by
resource persons at respective study centers.
Student Support Services (SSS)
The main aim of distance education
(DE) is to promote self study or independent study among distance learners
in the absence of regular face-to-face (F2F) teaching. To achieve this,
every DLI extends support to its learners, which comprises of a cluster
of facilities and activities that are intended to make the teaching
- learning process easier and more interesting for the learners. All
these activities beyond the production and delivery of course material
assist in the progress of students in terms of learning, interacting
and effective communication (Simpson, 2000) and, therefore, the support
system may range from study centre counselling/tutorial support to administrative
problem solving (Rumble, 1992).
Two major sub-systems already
identified in DE to make distance learning more effective and also to
ensure the desired level of quality are Course Production and Student
Support Services (Refer to Figure: I).
Ist Sub System
Student Support Services
2nd Sub System
Fig 1:System Approach to DE
In fact the success
or failure and the overall corporate image of the DE Institution is
determined by the strength and weakness of the second major sub-system
i.e. Student Support Services (Kishore, 1998). The major responsibilities
that are being accomplished under SSS include:
- to create an environment conducive to Distance learning;
- to facilitate the Distance Learning Method;
- to motivate students to continue their education;
- to encourage socialization and to promote team work and team spirit
- to improve the educational standards of students.
Undoubtedly, the SSS play major
role in imparting quality education to distance learners but probably
the most difficult task is to manage it (Power et al, 2000). This is
because of the spatial separation of different units and facilities;
and the considerable diversity in the categories of personnel involved.
The management of these personnel to work in co-ordination requires
skill, tact and patience. And, thus, due emphasis is assign to these
factors while selecting SSS for distance learners in DDE at MDU.
SUPPORT ACTIVITIES IN THE DIRECTORATE
Student Support Model in the Directorate of MDU is a two tier system
- the headquarters and the study centers. This model is quite helpful
in providing effective support to its distance learners because of well-defined
functions and activities at headquarters based study center and at the
study centers situated in other affiliated institutions.
Student Support Services at Headquarter
based Study Centre
Most important services at headquarters are:
b) b) Academic,
c) c) Information Collection.
i) Publicising and Promoting DDE Programmes
For publicising and promoting DDE programmes both at the state as well
as at the national level, the Directorate Headquarter based study centre
disseminate information through Newspapers, Information Brochures, Network
of Study Centres and Individual guidance to the students by in-house
faculty of the DDE.
Admission to various programmes
is done by giving advertisement in the National Newspapers. Detailed
information is given in the advertisement e.g. regarding DDE programmes,
duration of each course, its eligibility, fees structure, List of study
centers, Last date of submission of application forms, date of commencement
of sessions and availability of Information Brochures/Prospectus along
with its cost.
In Information Brochure the students
get all the relevant information about the University, the Directorate
and other related details of the concerned programme i.e. about the
course, its fee structure and eligibility conditions, number of seats
for the programme, reservation criteria (if any), concession in prospectus
fees, entrance fees and tution fees,Entrance Test, Procedure for submission
of Application Form, Admission Schedule, Improtant instructions and
schedule of face to face (F2F) counselling in Personal Contact Programmes/40
days teaching, submission of assignments and term-end examination etc.
All these informations help the aspirants in getting admission to the
programme of their choice.
In programmes, where DDE does
not have Information Brochures e.g. in conventional UG&PG programmes,
students are provided with general instructions in which they are given
full details. These instructions are given to the students along with
Admission-cum-Examination Form at a very nominal cost through university
approved study centers at the time of admission.
ii) Creation of Study Centres
The headquarter establish and monitor all Study Centres situated in
affiliated institutions. These Study Centres are equipped with library
facilities and reading rooms.
iii) Registration of Students
Headquarters maintain the student record. Every student is registered
with the Directorate with a particular registration number. Every distance
learner is asked to do every correspondence with DDE by quoting his
or her enrolment number. In this way, the student profile is prepared.
iv) Looking after the admission
Faculty at Headquarter based study center play a major role in admission
procedures. Faculty prepares all the Information Brochures. Besides
this, committees are formed to look into the different activities i.e.
preparation of application-cum-examination forms, preparation of guidelines
for running DDE programmes smoothly and efficiently, preparation of
norms for creating Study Centres etc.
v) Distribution of Study material
Study material is provided to distance learners in B.Ed., B.L.I.Sc.
and computer/IT courses. Distribution of study material is done at headquarters
either by hand or by post. For assured delivery, the directorate adopted
the strategy of delivering the study material by hand to the students
at the time of admission and through study centers in computer/IT courses.
vi) Clear Cut Norms
Norms are prepared for establishing study centers both at undergraduate
and postgraduate levels.
vii) Personal Data Form
The headquarter study centre maintain a personal Data Form of its each
distance learner in which record about the PCP attendance, assignments
submitted and teaching practice completed is maintained.
viii) Enquiry-cum-Reception Centre
Since distance learners have to make a lot of queries about the admission,
the PCP, the examination, the assignments, internal tests, the Teaching
Practice etc, an Enquiry-cum-Reception Centre is there at headquarter
with telephone facilities to respond to the queries of the students.
An Introduction-cum-Orientation Programme is conducted by the Directorate's
Inhouse faculty in the beginning of each academic programme. Guidance
is also provided to the candidates after enquiring about the subject
combination at plus two and graduation levels. This type of orientation
and guidance given at the time of admission make the students aware
of the system, DDE programmes and make an assessment of their difficulties.
ii) Personal Support
Close personal support to each student by the faculty of DDE is provided.
Every faculty member has been assigned a specific programme and he/she
feel responsible for the progress of both the students as well as of
iii) Preparation of Guidelines
Faculty at headquarters prepares guidelines and instructions for all
the diplomas and degree programmes. These are provided to all the local
co-ordinators of study centres as well as to the applicants so as to
apprise them of the procedures of admission to different programmes
and to keep uniformity in standards.
iv) Meeting of Local Coordinators
Meeting of local co-ordinators of study centres are held at headquarters
so as to know their difficulties and to create a better liaison between
headquarters and study centres.
v) Preparation of Calender of
A calender of Academic Activities for the year in the beginning of each
session is made available to the distance learners in the beginning
of the courses.
vi) Preparation of Study Material
Course-team approach is used for preparation of study material by headquarters.
Self Instructional Module (SIM) is prepared in accordance with the scheme
of examination and syllabus duly approved by the Academic Council of
vii) Provision of Library Facilities
Good Library facilities at headquarters and study centres help the students
in preparation of their assignments. In case of necessity, students
are allowed to take books for two or three days during their Personal
Inhouse faculty at headquarters does limited but organised Interactive
F2F tutoring in small groups of students.
ix) Assistance in examinations
Headquarter Study Centre assist in examinations preparation. Roll numbers
and schedule of examination is sent to the students through study centres.
The University creates examination Centres.
x) Provision of facilities to
perform practical tasks
In few courses where labs are needed, headquarter arrange practical
in University established labs of the concerned subjects
i) Development of Student Profile:
Student profiles are maintained in the headquarter based Computer Centre.
Whenever students want any information from the Directorate, it is provided
immediately by seeing the personal record of the student from his/her
ii) Development of Expert Database:
It is prepared in order to do regular supervision of Study Centres.
By doing supervision, academic activities of the Study Centres are properly
looked in to.
iii) Sample checking of Assignments and Internal Tests:
In order to see whether Study Centres are doing justice to the students
in awarding marks in assignments and internal tests, a sample check
is done of assignments by the headquarter study centres.
Student Support Services at Study
The most important SSS, which are provided at the Study Centres, are:
a) To provide Application-cum-Examination Form along with General instructions
to the students at the time of admission.
b) To give guidance, advice and information about the programmes to
c) To check the eligibility of the students while collecting Application
Forms along with Fees.
d) To identify the counsellors.
e) To distribute course material.
f) To organise counselling as per the schedule given to the students
at the time of admission.
g) To provide library facilities to the learners.
h) To evaluate assignments and forward the grades to the headquarters.
i) To conduct term-end-examination.
j) To provide lab facilities for computer/IT programmes.
k) To provide grassroot feed back to headquarters.
l) To promote team work and team spirit.
m) To motivate students to continue their education
Open & Distance Learning (ODL) System is innovative in nature. It
relaxes entry qualifications, uses specially designed learning materials
and modern educational technologies, provides Student Support Services
(SSS) and applies advanced method of evaluation. If the learners are
not fully aware of this system before joining, they may find themselves
in an infamiliar situation. Thus, an attempt has been made in this paper
to make students aware of the distance education programmes and student
support services available at DDE of MDU. After reading this, distance
learner can get pre-admission guidance and counselling for proper selection
of the programme.
Kishore, S (1998) Student Support
and Quality Indicators in Distance Learning, Indian Journal of Open
Learning, 7(2), 205-212.
Power et al (2000) Quality in Distance Education, in Performance Indicates
in Distance Higher Education, Aravali, New Delhi.
Rumble, G (1992) The Management of Distance Learning System, Paris:
UNESCO and IIEP.
Simpson, O (2000) Supporting Student in Open and Distance Learning,
Kogan Page, London.