The concept of distance learning or education or open universities has caught the imagination of the educationists throughout the world. This system is expected to provide education to the masses, particularly in developing countries at their door steps.
Distance education has come to stay as an alternative to the formal system of education. The latter has certain limitations Young people who could not afford to enter a college or a university had no alternative to fulfil their desire to get a higher education. The dropouts from colleges and universities had no future. The working people, in spite of their desire to improve their qualification, could not do so.
Thus, education by mail, started by Delhi University in 1962, came as a boon to such people. They found in it an opportunity to pursue higher education. The physically handicapped, housewives and working people desirous of improving their job prospects, found in this system, a second chance to fulfil their ambitions. The success of this experiment encouraged other universities to set up Directorates of Correspondence Courses and Continuing Education.
To begin with, the philosophy of distance education was not that of openness. It was merely an extension of the formal system with all its rigidities except compulsory attendance. The system was mainly designed to absorb the surplus candidates in the colleges.
Further, it attracted the dropouts of the formal system since the same courses were offered in formal and distance education systems. Certain factors led to a change in objectives and expectations These were: population growth, prohibitive cost education, etc. Consequently, the idea of open education took place.
The first to do so was the Andhra Pradesh University in 1982. The inception of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in 1985 is a mile-stone in providing education to the masses. These universities offer an opportunity
IGNOU has set up centres for the convenience of its candidates countrywide. Lessons by experts are available on the Doordarshan. The experiment has proved a tremendous success and has been much acclaimed by the elocutionists.
India has ambitious plans of developing a network of open universities with IGNOU at the top. The open universities system is trying to impart quality education by planning lessons carefully, preparing audio-visual lessons, opening study-centres etc.
They are going to be more flexible in their course content. Bold experiments are being tried by making use of labs of regular college on holidays and Sundays. More and more courses are being offered and students are enrolling themselves enthusiastically to improve their skills and qualifications.