Impressed by success of Russian distance education (DE) system, Harold Wilson,
Prime Minister of United Kingdom recommended starting of DE in UK. Open University
of United Kingdom (UKOU) was established at Milton Keynes in 1969. Since then
there is a tremendous growth in distance teaching institutions; growth in print
and e-learning programs; increase in number of conferences, seminars, training
workshops; and growth in literature on DE. These developments have contributed
immensely towards the maturing of a strong and sustainable parallel system of
OPEN AND DISTANCE EDUCATION IN SOUTH ASIAN REGION
South Asian Region (SAR) comprises seven countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India,
Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka). Administrators and policy makers in
these countries have realized the potential of open and distance education (ODE)
as an easy and effective option, which can fulfill national educational goals
and learning needs of their populations. Inspired by success of UKOU, SAR countries
have adopted ODE model across sixteen open universities (OU) – one each
in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and 13 in India.
Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), founded at Islamabad in 1974, was the first
OU in SAR and second in the world after UKOU. In last three decades, it has
opened up new opportunities for millions, especially women and rural people.
Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL) was established at Nawala, Nugegoda in 1980,
integrating External Services Agency (ESA) and Sri Lanka Institute of Distance
Education (SEIDE). Bangladesh Open University (BOU) is the outcome of 40 years
of effort. Audio-Visual education Centre (AVEC) created in 1962 and School Broadcasting
Program (SOB) from 1978-80 were merged to create National Institute of Educational
Media and Technology (NIEMT) in 1983. Bangladesh Institute of Distance Education
(BIDE) was established in 1985 incorporating NIEMT in its fold. BOU was founded
at Gaizipur in 1992, and Bangladesh Institute of Distance Education (BIDE) merged
with it later.
In India, correspondence institutions started way back in 1962, on recommendations
of Dr. D. S. Kothari Committee, to reduce pressure on existing universities
and colleges. At present, there are 108 dual mode universities conducting both
on-campus and off-campus programs to provide a chance to underprivileged people
to pursue higher education through DE.
Andhra Pradesh Open University (APOU), established in 1982 at Hyderabad and
renamed as Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Open University (BRAOU), was the first State OU
in India. At national level, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)
was established in 1985. Since then, 11 OUs have been established.
- Vardhaman Mahavir Open University (VMOU) – Kota, Rajasthan (1987)
- Nalanda Open University (NOU) – Patna, Bihar (1987)
- Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU) – Nashik, Maharashtra
- Madhya Pradesh Bhoj Open University (MPBOU) – Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
- Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University (BAOU) – Ahmedabad, Gujarat (1994)
- Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) – Mysore, Karnataka (1996)
- Netaji Subhash Open University (NSOU) – Kolkota, West Bengal (1997)
- U. P. Rajarshi Tandon Open University (UPRTOU) – Allhabad, Uttar Pradesh
- Tamil Nadu Open University (TNOU) – Chennai, Tamil Nadu (2002)
- Pandit Sunderlal Sharma Open University (PSSOU) – Bilaspur, Chattisgarh
- Uttaranchal Open University (UOU) – Haldwani, Uttaranchal (2006)
IGNOU has national as well as international jurisdiction, but other OU only
have jurisdiction in their respective states. India also has National Institute
of Open Schooling for school education at a distance.
Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal do not have open universities but
run DE program in certain fields according to their requirements. In
Bhutan, the first and only DE program for in-service primary teachers
is conducted by National Institute of Education (NIE), Samtse since 1995. It
has now adopted information and communication technologies (ICT), and this has
already helped upgrade NIE’s internal networking; created a website to
allow students access information online; installed new software; provided supplementary
learning materials, tutorials, and academic counseling.
In Maldives, Atoll Education Centers conducts English Language
Course for adults through DE. Students’ queries are clarified through
teleconferencing. Realizing the potential of DE, Centre for Open Learning was
established at Maldives College of Higher Education in 1999.
Nepal government has taken help from several International
organizations to introduce DE. With assistance from USAID, Radio Education Teacher
Training Program was launched in 1978 by supplying more than 25,000 radios to
untrained, rural primary school teachers. British Council manages the Higher
Education Links Program on behalf of United Kingdom Department for International
Development (DFID). It contributes to sustainable development of Nepal by enhancing
research and training capacity of higher education institutions in Nepal through
DE. Hickling Corporation has examined the feasibility of establishing a Centre
for Open Learning / Distance Education in Nepal.
LIBRARIES WITHOUT WALLS: WEB-ENABLED LIBRARY SUPPORT
The phrase “Libraries without Walls” describes a library without
physical infrastructure such as library building, operational sections, reading
and stack rooms, circulation counter, furniture, equipment, collections in diverse
media, and so on. They are embedded into a virtual library and accessed through
Internet from any computer system – desktop or laptop. Advent of ICT has
brought about a dramatic transformation in all aspects of education including
library and information services (LIS). Books are no longer like bricks in the
walls of libraries; rather they have got converted into bits and bytes to create
libraries without walls.
Perusing through literature available on world-wide growth of ODE in last three
and a half decades, it is evident that librarians of DE institutions in UK,
USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong etc. have taken innovative initiatives
to outreach LIS for distance learners. These experiments have created virtual
library environments that render effective library support to users.
VIRTUAL LIBRARY SERVICES IN DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
UKOU has developed its electronic reference library for distance learners.
A guided tour of “Open Library at a Glance” introduces them to different
tools and information services available through “Open Libr@ry”
(OPAL). It has created a Reference Sources webpage and designed a database of
subjects and courses related websites called ROUTES (Resources for Open University
TEachers and Students).
They have also developed SAFARI, (Skills in
Accessing, Finding and Reviewing
Information), a free and interactive tutorial, available at
www.open.ac.uk/safari. It helps students to search for information using tools
such as databases, library catalogues and the Internet; identify literature
in their subject area; evaluate and organize information; and compile bibliographies.
They also have a Learner Support Team to assist them in using
Similarly, Athabasca University students can avail library facilities from
Digital Reading Room (DRR), a home-grown electronic reserve
since 2002. It is a gateway to library's databases and faculty’s teaching
material. It mostly has resources that do not need copyright permission and
handles all requests for document delivery and suggested readings from this
system. (Magusin and Kay: 2004)
Electronic Library at Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK)
provides in-campus facilities and a Remote Access Guide to library resources.
OUHK electronic reserve comprises e-journals, indexes and abstracts, dictionaries
and encyclopedias, directories and handbooks, e-news etc. accessed by active
students, staff, and part-time tutors. OUHK examination papers, reference materials,
electronic theses and dissertations can also be accessed. OUHK library catalogue
is available through both web and Telnet but latter requires Net Term or Simp
Term software. (http://www.lib.ouhk.edu.hk/)
Remote Referencing Help Desk project at University of Edinburgh
Library provides online browser chat to interact with a librarian while searching
a database (EDINA BIOSIS, BIDS ISI, BIDS EMBASE or MEDLINE)”. (http://www.remote.lib.ed.ac.uk)
Brigham Young University has created a portal for English
course students, which gives access to electronic resources and library services.
It has created course-specific library pages integrated with web-based courseware
ELITE project at University of Leicester incorporates a web-based
interface, chat reference service, and web forms for reference questions. (http://www.le.ac.uk/li/distance/eliteproject/project/elite.html).
There are number of such projects that were initiated and successfully implemented
to provide value-added library services for distance learners.
CURRENT SCENARIO OF LIS IN SOUTH ASIAN INSTITUTIONS
Proliferation of Internet has resulted in digital divide not only between developed
and developing countries, but also amongst developing countries based on their
socio-economic, linguistic and technological capabilities. The prerequisite
for DE in marginalized communities is telecommunication infrastructure. While
developed countries have resources in abundance, developing countries in South
Asian Region (SAR) face dilution of their resources to provide basic needs to
their huge populations. They are struggling hard to provide even basic library
services due to ICT constraints.
Libraries of AIOU, BOU and OUSL are hybrid libraries having collections of
different physical formats in varied media. Libraries at AIOU and BOU provide
services to teachers, research students and staff members. AIOU
library is not yet automated but BOU library operations have
been computerized and OPAC search is provided at the main library. They have
small core libraries at Regional Centers to outreach library support for distance
learners. Only OUSL library provides direct access to distance learners. It
operates as a network of libraries with main library at Nawala, four regional
libraries located in Colombo, Jaffna, Kandy and Matara and small libraries at
study centers. It has registered 25,000 members including 3000 distance learners
as regular members who are eligible to use main as well as regional centre libraries.
Distance learners have to pay a refundable deposit to borrow library books.
They have a Virtual Information Resource Centre having 15 terminals at main
library accessed through web OPAC. They are developing an online service for
university academic staff too. But there still remains a wide divide between
ICT rich and ICT poor countries.
Out of 13 Indian OUs, only IGNOU, BRAOU, KSOU, MPBOU, YCMOU and VMOU have well
equipped hybrid libraries with proper infrastructure and regular staff. They
have core libraries at Regional and/or Study Centers. Except KSOU library, all
libraries are computerized and provide LIS services through OPAC. Other seven
OUs are still in the process of developing their libraries.
Only KSOU enrolls all bona-fide students to avail library services on payment
of refundable deposit. Apart from reading and reference services, undergraduates
and postgraduates can borrow 2 books at a time. Every year 1500 students are
registered and 15,000 books are lent with 100 students visiting the library
each day. The library is best used during Personal Contact Programs, which is
an intensive period of full-time study and library work for students. Small
core libraries at study centers are mainly used by students and counselors.
The library plans to acquire information resources in varied media; introduce
scanning and photocopying facilities; facilitate Internet and e-mail services.
Library and Document Division (L&DD), IGNOU is a well-equipped
hybrid library having collections of physical formats in diverse non-print media
such as, electronic, magnetic, miniaturized microforms, optical, digital, and
virtual. It is the most resourceful DE information centre in India. L&DD
is a hierarchical system with Central Library at Headquarters followed by libraries
located at Regional Centers (RC) and Study Centers (SC). Central Library caters
to needs of academic, administrative and support staff at headquarters. RC looks
into requirements of staff, students, academic counselors and coordinators,
and SC meets student needs. The functioning and development of RCs and SCs is
coordinated by the central library.
Central Library uses LIBSYS, integrated Library Management software with various
modules for library housekeeping operations. Using LIBSYS Web OPAC, users can
search Library’s online catalogue by Author, Title, Subject and Keywords.
Apart from reading, referencing, lending and reprographic services, library
provides facilities for accessing information from CD, microforms, e-journals
and on-line indexing, abstracting and full-text databases.
L&DD is founder member of Developing Library Network (DELNET) which provides
browsing of Union Catalogues, inter-library loan and document delivery facilities
from libraries across the country. Through membership of INDEST Consortium,
it also provides access to various databases (ProQuest, ABI Inform, IEL Online
and MathSciNet). It subscribes to J-Gate e-portal that provides on-line full
text access to 59 e-journals, 2,500 free full text and over 12,000 indexing
/ abstracting journals, ProQuest Academic Research Library and EBSCO Academic
L&DD has an impressive website outlining collections, providing statistics
and services to IGNOU staff at headquarters. L&DD has undertaken number
of digitization initiatives. It has digitized question papers of all courses
and examinations from inception till 2005. Question papers from 1987-2000 are
available on CD from 2000 onwards are available on the website. Library has
also digitized all minutes of meetings of the Board of Management and Academic
Council for easy reference. (http://www.ignou.ac.in/divisions/library/index1.htm)
But despite all facilities and modern services and a new independent building
with adequate infrastructure, why cant the networked library system of IGNOU
outreach LIS services to RC and SC, and enroll distance learners as regular
members like KSOU and OUSL? Why can’t they be supplemented and complemented
by effective library support using ICT like UKOU and HKOU? After USA and Canada,
India has developed “Guidelines for Library Services to Distance Learners”,
so why cant IGNOU provide value-added library services for distance learners?
HOW CAN IGNOU MAKE THE FAR-FETCHED DREAM REAL?
IGNOU needs to have a full-fledged Regional and Study Centers Section at L&DD,
and assign the responsibility of planning and equipping the section with necessary
LIS resources to a Deputy / Assistant Librarian. The section can be developed
in consultation with faculty of different schools, Computer Division and Regional
Services Division. L&DD can:
- Provide remote access to under-utilized print, non-print and electronic
resources to RC and SC through the WAN.
- Issue IP-authenticated username and password to students to avoid misuse
and ensure they have seamless access to resources they need from home, office
- Design guided tour for users giving information regarding –
- Library gateway
- Media resources available for reference and borrowing
- Searching L&DD OPAC for relevant documents
- Accessing course materials and question papers
- Accessing e-journals and databases
- Requesting books from DELNET
- Applying for membership
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Seeking help and advice
- Build an electronic reserve from available bibliographical and full text
digitized resources (Self-Instructional Material (SIM) of various programs).
- Develop a resource portal comprising relevant chapters of books, articles
from journals and suggested readings in courses (postgraduate and research
programs) in consultation with faculty and taking copyright permissions. Care
should be taken to address logistic, commercial and legal challenges.
- Sign a MOU with Informatics (India) and DELNET to provide links to J-Gate
and access to DELNET’s Union Catalogues by students after making a payment.
- Access to subscribed databases through a mechanism of creating direct links,
and making payments for articles requested by users.
- Conduct online training for library staff at L&DD, RC, SC to respond
to queries of distance learners. They should have knowledge of programs conducted
by IGNOU; provide assistance to access information from OPAC and electronic
reserve; make policies regarding free or fee based library services; grant
remote access to various databases needing permission; adopt document delivery
policies of DELNET; and solve other problems of access to library resources.
- Create a Learner Support Cell to address queries during office hours and
mechanism to record messages after office hours for response next day. Learners
should be directed to answers for FAQs to avoid frustrations.
PROBLEMS IN PROVIDING VIRTUAL LIBRARY SERVICES
There are several hindrances and barriers in starting web-based services to
outreach value-added LIS.
- Institutional mindset, attitude and readiness;
- Lack of planning for IT and web-enabled access;
- Cooperation from teachers;
- Costs of developing infrastructure and its maintenance;
- Lack of technological support;
- Dominance of english language for web access;
- Lack of contents in regional languages;
- Poor reading habits of learners.
When faced with financial constraints, first to be slashed are library budgets.
Teachers sometimes feel that SIM developed by them is self-explanatory, self-motivating,
self-evaluating, self-learning, self-directed and self-contained, and so there
is no need for separate library resources. Students compare ODE courses with
those of correspondence institutions and want to get degrees without putting
Distance librarianship is a very challenging and exciting experience. Librarians
should reach out to needy learners and help them achieve success while deriving
satisfaction from performing their duties well. Let me quote Elizabeth J. Burge
(2002) who in her keynote address at the International Conference of Library
without Walls – 4, observed that S. R. Ranganathan “developed the
famous five laws of library Science for the context of his time”, ---
and while concluding her address, she mentioned the “five maxims for librarianship
in distance education” given below.
- “Clarify and conduct work in users’ terms (defined broadly)
- Build relationships (political, educational, informational, logistical)
- Value your intermediation as essential
- Reach past the technology tools to human conditions
- Grow tall from soil of a fine tradition, but avoid being root-bound.”
Brophy, Peter, Fisher, Shelag & Clarke, Zoe (eds.) (2002), Libraries without
Walls 4: The Delivery of Library Services to Distant Users, Facet Publishing,
Burge, Elizabeth J. “keynote Paper – Behind-the-scene Thinking:
Key Factors for Librarianship in Distance Education” in Library without
Walls 4: The Delivery of Library Services to Distant Users edited by Peter Brophy,
Shelag Fisher, & Zoe Clarke, Facet Publishing, London. pp. 7-15.
Jagannathan, Neela, Panda, Santosh, & Kanjilal, Uma (2004), Outreach Library
Services for Distance Learners, Viva Books, New Delhi.
Jamtsho, Sangay (1999), “Distance education for in-service teachers in
Bhutan”. Indian Journal of Open Learning, vol. 8, no. 1, pp.
Shareef, Ali Fawaz Kinshuk (2003), “A Computer-Based Distance Education
Model for Small Island States: A Case Study of Maldives”. Malaysian
Journal of Distance Education, vol. 5, no.2, pp. 1-13.
Magusin, Elaine and Kay Johnson (2004) "Collaborating on Electronic Course
Reserves to Support Student Success." In The Eleventh Off-Campus Library
Services Conference Proceedings: Scottsdale, Arizona, May 5 -7, 2004, edited
by Patrick B. Mahoney. Mount Pleasant, MI: Central Michigan University, pp.
189-195. Reprinted in Journal of Library Administration Vol. 41, no.
1/2, pp. 255-264
Watson, E. F. & Jagannathan, Neela (1997) Library Services to Distance Learners
in the Commonwealth: A Reader, Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver.
References – Websites