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Should you enrol your child in an online university like IGNOU?

Should you enrol your child in an online university like IGNOU?
For ages, education has looked just about the same. You have a teacher hunched over a board with chalk, scribbling and lecturing away to a group of students. The pupils are neatly gathered around in front of the teacher; the attentive ones typically seated at the front while the delinquents loiter around the back.

Then came the COVID-19 lockdowns, forcing institutes to render their educational services online. While the title of a ‘backbencher’ might have briefly disappeared due to the recent pandemic, the concept of distance learning has only found more credence in recent times.

The popularity of this new mode of education has exploded due to many reasons, such as its flexibility of class timings, accessibility for students living in remote regions, nationwide improvements in internet infrastructure, reduced social anxiety in students and more. But this also begs the question: are distance learning colleges like the Indira Gandhi National Open University worth it?
How valid are distance learning degrees?
Very much. In 2017-2018, the University Grants Commission — India’s main educational body regulating higher education — released a notification decreeing that degrees, diplomas or certificates awarded through open or distance modes are equivalent to those acquired through the traditional universities and institutions in the country. This means that these degrees can be used to pursue employment or further education as well.

However, it is also important to note that certain programmes that require hands-on training may not be available through open and distance learning. This includes some programmes in engineering, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture, physiotherapy, and a few other courses.
Are online degrees as valuable as traditional ones?
Yes, for the most part. On paper, online degrees hold the same value as offline ones, provided they come from institutes accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).

However, just like some degrees from some brick-and-mortar educational institutions might be more prestigious than others, the same applies to degrees from online institutes. The Ministry of Education has been considering adding a new category for open and distance universities under the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) to assess the quality of education among such colleges.

While the degrees might seem equivalent on paper, some concern that employers might discriminate against distance learning passouts. However, earlier studies have shown that most IGNOU graduates successfully landed a job soon after completing their course, and only a minimal number of candidates faced discriminatory behaviour from recruiters.

In addition, many notable personalities and IAS/IFS/IPS officers have completed several courses from online institutes, such as the former Indian Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor.
Are online universities cheaper?
Online institutes are far cheaper compared to traditional colleges, mostly due to the high costs of running a physical educational facility. For example, an online MBA degree currently costs 1.95 lakhs for the entire course from Amity University, while a single semester can cost almost 4 lakhs from their offline Business School.
What are some of the challenges of online learning?
While digital literacy and a stable access to reliable internet connection and technology might be the obvious challenges for online learners, retaining the motivation to attend classes and participate regularly in the curriculum is a lesser-known hurdle.

Additionally, since students miss out on face-to-face interactions with peers and professors, distance learners can end up feeling disconnected and lonely. Further, some students may find it challenging to access support services like counselling, tutoring, or academic advising in an online format, affecting their overall academic experience.
Which are some popular institutes offering accredited online and distance degrees?
Some renowned online universities include IGNOU, Manipal University, Amity University, VIT, NMIMS, JNU, Symbiosis, Mysore University and Jain University. The full list of UGC-accredited universities can be accessed here.


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