Communication Technology As facilitate to Higher Education

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Communication Technology

Ever since the industrial revolution began quickening the pace of technological  advancements,  forecasts have appeared  predicting a revolution in higher education that must surely transpire as a result of new technology (Entwistele, 1987). But the application of technology to university instruction has received only intermittent and nominal attention by university faculty and administration [Becker, ( 1986) and Tucker, ( 1985)]. In fact, the gap between actual and potential uses of the emerging technologies seems to be widening.

India has successfully developed one of the biggest higher education system in the world. The present form of informal higher education system granting degrees was started in British rule since 1781 by establishing Calcutta Madrasa. By 1857, there were 3 universities, 27 colleges with 5399 students. In 1947, these numbers rose to 19 Universities, 496 colleges and 2,41,369 students (Raza, 1991). Similarly, in India engineering education was started with the establishment of Engineering Institute at Bombay in 1824. In 1947, the first Engineering College was set up for training in civil engineering in Roorkee. At the time of independence, in the country, 28 degree level and 41 diploma level engineering institutions as well as 16 degree level and 20 diploma level technology institutions were providing the engineering and technology education (Kaur,2003).

In spite several constraints, India has witnessed a rapid growth of institutions of higher education and diversification in the areas of studies. Today, the higher education system in India comprises of355 universities and equivalent Institutes, which includes : General Universities; Science & Technology Uni verities; Open Universities; Agriculture Universities; Medical Universities; Language Universities and Women Universities. Besides these, there are universities focusing on Journalism, Law, Fine Arts, Planning and Architecture and other specialized areas of studies. These universities are single faculty or multi faculties; teaching or affiliating or teaching-cum­ affiliating; single campus or multi campus. Private sector has also now joined their hands in establishing colleges and universities under self financing scheme. Presently, there are more than I 8,000 colleges and more than 11 million students are enrolled for higher education.

It is interesting to note that the enrolment growth at higher education level is about 7% per annum but augmentation of infrastructure and other input facilities is not in the same proportion. This situation has shown adverse effect on the quality and standard of both teaching as well as research. Due to unemployment, explosion of knowledge and technologies, tough competition in the job market, etc., everyone wants to get higher education despite talks of delinking the degrees from the job.

In its democratic set-up, Indian Government has to cope with the ever increasing demands for higher education, but just by increasing the number of universities/colleges, it cannot fulfill their needs and ambitions of the society, Therefore, in place of age old conservative system of classroom teaching, one must give some serious thoughts to new alternative channels. It is essential for us to move with the time and introduce work-oriented, social ly relevant and inter-disciplinary courses particularly at the tertiary level of education. Besides this, independent study habits should also be encouraged.

It has been realized and recognized that distance education system can prove to be a most effective alternative channel to get the solution of above mentioned problems. It is found to be highly effective in equalizing and extending the opportunities of higher education in the developed countries. This system has also the greatest potential for integrating new technologies in the teaching-learning process.

At present, we have a wide range of technologies which can bring about a meaningful revolution, change and improvement in the teaching-learning processes. In developed countries many of them have been adopted and are assessed highly effective. All these technologies cannot be utilized in our country due to its specific features. India has the second largest population in the world and its area is of seventh largest. There are 5,76,000 villages as against 3,000 towns in the country. In addition to 14 languages recognised by the constitution, about 1600 regional dialects and vernaculars are spoken. About 40% of its population lives below the poverty line and is beyond the reach of mass media. To communicate with such a multilingual society, with its peculiar urban-rural, rich-poor and literate-illiterate backgrounds, it is not an easy job and poses the greatest challenge to the massmedia technologies in our country.

The expanding capacities of computer and microprocessors along with a concomitant reduction in their cost of acquisition or access, the appearance of interactive cable television systems, the advances in fiber optics that offer higher quality and lower cost transmission, tele-conferencing, and the staggering array of information technologies currently in place and projected; all of these developments have been receiving only)’ slight attention among, our institutions of higher learning.

Although, developing countries are not in a position to make use of all sophisticated innovations yet few of them. e.g., radio, television, audio/ video discs and cassettes, telephone and computer etc., can be used as a multi-media approach, for imparting higher education to bring out considerable changes in education system from the view of its quality, quantity, equality, economy and effectiveness. According to our needs and resources a more rational and practical approach should be adopted in the selection of communication technologies. The popular communication technologies available till now are–radio, television, audio/video cassettes and discs, micro computers, telephone, view-data system, cyclops and tele­ text. Each medium is an important topic for detailed discussion but here, emphasis has been given on the very popular communication technologies which are being used and can be used in future in the field of higher education.

1.  Radio

It is being extensively used as an educational medium in developing countries. All India Radio (AIR), through its 87 stations covers 90% of the geographical area and 96% of population. There are following major programme formats of radio.

Farm Radio Forum : Started i n 1941 in Canada as a radio discussion programme.

Lecture or Radio Talk : By academics without accompanying visuals or source material.

Interview/Discussion: By eminent experts on various topics of interest.

Source Material : In the form of talk, usually with comments from academics/specialists which could be a sound-recording of historic interest or dramatization or simply samples of spoken language to be analyses by the listeners.

Source Material Other than Talk: Such as music or environmental voice with comments.

Radio Vision: talk illustrated by some kinds of visuals e.g., printed diagrammed, pictures or glides etc.

Each of these six formats are useful for providing the basic of taxonomy of radio in distance education (Shah, 1986). [n our country the radio broadcast time is approximately 18 hours per day. More than 54% of the air time is for providing relaxation to the audience, about 23% of air time is for development programmes and 23% share goes to news broadcasts which are primarily political in nature. Th us, although it is widely accepted that radio may be helpful in generating the awareness as well as spreading the education among masses yet only a small fraction (3.2%) of total broadcast time is given to educational broadcasts.Neurath ( 1959,1960) studied its effect at Poona and found that Radio Farm Forum proved as an extremely successful agent for transmission of knowledge. Further Jain (1969), delivered a 25 minutes recorded broadcast talk on a topic to a group of adult farmers, followed it up with group discussion and succeeded in changing their beliefs and attitudes towards innovations.

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In 1956, UNESCO selected India for an unique experiment called “Radio Rural Forums Project.” Some of the developed countries like NewZealand and Australia, radio-tutorials and radio conferences can be used in India in higher education. The advantages of rad io over other media are that the programmes related to a course of study can be altered, brought up-to-date and improved with the demands of time. Dramatization, radio-symposia, discussions, educational quizzes, etc. can make the radio programme more effective. The general policy of AIR must be to provide more instructional and informational contents to the audience instead of pure entertainment. The arrival of T.V. in 1959 and flourishing of satellite T.V. channels came as a death blow to radio broadcasting. But again in 1999, govt. approved establishment of ISO private FM radio stations in 40 cities of India. Non­ govt. organizations, educational institutions besides these, a group of citizens are also allowed to establish community radio stations.

 

lGNOU has successfully established a dozen FM radio stations in different major cites of the country besides the metros. Educational programmes are being broadcasted in Hindi, English and regional languages/ dialects by local resource persons. Due to its moderate cost and wide accessibility, radio can be helpful to enhance the higher education in the rural or remote areas. Sweeney & Parlato (1982) concluded that radio plays an effective educational role both as a sole medium or in conjunction with print and group support. “Teaching mathmatics by radio to school children in primary classes in Nicaragua, enhanced their achievements significantly (Gaida and Seare, 1980). Similarly, a format which can bring entertainment, humor and instruction was measured highly effective in educating the audience about modem child care practices (Hostetlorl 976; Jamison & Mc Anamy, 1978). Educational radio can be most effective when supported by facilitaters e.g. group learning (Perraton 1978); group discussion/ dialogues (Moore 1983); feedback and use of multi-media (Sewart 1983). Further, Nwaerondu, et. al ( 1987) reported that there is no single ‘best format’ for utilizing educational radio.

2. Television

Television in India was started from September, 1959 by experimental project on Social Education but its significance was enormously raised from August 1, 1975 when the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) was launched. The success of SITE, Post SITE and INSAT IA & lB has further strengthened the potentiality of television .Today, about 70% population of our country has been covered by it. Thus, most of the parts of the country’s remote and rural areas have also been linked with the national main stream.

 Being an audio-visual medium, the effectiveness of T.V. has never been in question. In our country, the educational programme entitled ‘Country Wide Classroom’ with the help of lNSAT-IB through Doordarshan had also been started by U.G.C. from August 15, 1984. The telecasting time for these programmes was 12.45 P.M. to I :45 P.M. with repetition from 4.00 to 5.00

P.M.daily (except Sunday and other notified holidays). For its wide publicity and full utilization, all colleges those which were covered within the transmission range of Doordarshan Kendras, had been given the facility to purchase color T.V. sets with partial assistance from University Grants Commission .

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U.G.C. had also established four Educational Media Research Centres : EMRC (Jammia Millia Islamia, New Delhi; Gujarat University, Ahmedabad; Poona Univesity, Pune; and Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad) and four Audio-Visual Research Centres :AVRC (Osminia University; Roorkee University, Anna University and Jodhpur University). In I 980s 30% T.V. programmes, televised through INSAT-18 and Doordarshan Network, were being produced by these centers. Other programmes  were  loaned  from  various  countries  e.g.,  U.K.,  US.S.R .,

U.S.A., F.R.G., London, France, Poland, Japan, etc. but now most of the telecast programme are being prepared within the country. The proportion of the telecast programmes is higher from science discipline and still there is a need to prepare and produce quality programmes in sumanities and Social Sciences.

Here, in brief, the advantages and disadvantages of Educational Television Programmes (ETV) are discussed.

The specific value of T.V.telecasts varies according to the context in which it is used but there is no doubt that it provides unique resource material to distant learners. The knowledge about complex or expensive experiments, industrial processes, advanced technical equipments, field visits, microscopic observations, a wide range of social and inter-personal interaction, interviews with distinguished scientists, educationists, etc., can only be provided in easy, effective, and interesting form with the help of this innovation. It is acceptable that learning from telecast television programmes is a difficult process. Teachers require a lot of specific skills in using these telecast programmes for educational purpose. Thus, television programmes need to be structured in ways that will be helpful in developing such skills among teachers/trainees and students. The innovation of Celadon-a Canadian Video System is an important effort in this direction. It is a combination of cable

T.V. electronic black-board, fiber optics, and telephone, and thus converts a simple television set into a more powerful educational tool.

To make the ETV programmes more significant, some suggestions can be given:

·         The programmes televised by T.V. should be related to a definite curriculum.

·         A training should be given to University/College teachers to produce educational programmes for radio and T.V. Besides this, an expert group should also be formed in order to monitor and evaluate the radio/T.V. programmes to ensure continuous improvements.

·         Students and working adults should be actively encouraged to observe these programmes critically. Very little awareness was found among undergraduate students about these programmes (Agarwal, 1985). More structured programmes for different courses both for distance education as well as classroom oriented instructions need to be developed.

·         The scripts for instructions should be prepared by a team of multi­ skilled persons including-subject experts, media experts, educational technologists, editorial and administrative staff.

·         The existing teachers must be trained to use the satellite’ technologies. In further recruitment of teachers, the aptitude of making use of technology should be one of the important criteria along with the capacity to lecture and research. Besides this, electronic media facilities should be available with them.

·         The very basic objective, with which television entered in the India, was to give assistance in socio-economic development and act as a catalyst for providing information, education and entertainment, specially in rural and remote areas. But it has not fully succeeded to achieve this target. Commercialization of the medium has further accompanied in developing undesirable and unintended effect on rural lives. It needs to be checked.

3. Satellite and Cable

Satellite offers the prospects of universal television and radio coverage within a country, and the easy exchange or over spill of programmes from one country to another. Where there is also adequate terrestrial transmission, satellites can result in extra channels for both television and radio. In our country, the University Grants Commission and NCERT were broadcasting I 0 hours, and 8 hours per week educational programmes with the help of INSAT I B. In the beginning nearly 30% of the total programmes for higher education were prepared by UGC’s media centers and the remaining were loaned from foreign countries. But since January 2000, IGNOU in collaboration with MHRD and Prasar Bharti, launched a separate channel dedicated to educational programmes, known as Gyan Darshan (GD) and it is being broadcasted from EMPC (IGNOU), all seven days in a week, round the clock. Most the broadcast programmes are being prepared in the country.

The cable offers the possibility of a major expansion in the channels. Such an expansion could make more time available for educational programmes at more convenient times, allow ‘narrow casting’ in the form of programmes directed at quite small numbers and possibly reach potential students who are inaccessi ble by other means.

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Now it is being relayed by the cable operators in some cities for wider outreach, Within a short span of about 5 years, GD expanded into a bouquet of channels namely- GD I , GD2,GD3,Eklavya and is also completely digitized.

Satellite has the strong feature of being able to cover great distances. Conversely, cable can provide comprehensive webs for communication with in small geographic locations. Future potential for both technologies lies in their ability to carry video-audio and data transmissions simultaneously as well as their potential for two-way signal carriage which results interaction.

With the success of the INSAT based educational services, a need was felt ch a satellite dedicated particularly for education to all levels of modillion -from primary to higher, including technical, medical, agriculture, types of professional/ vocational education, etc. ISRO conceived the Edu.sat project which has already been launched on Sept.21st 2004 (details are discussed in a separate chapter).

4. Telephone

 Is medium has tremendous potential for providing two-way interaction the pupil and the teacher or between the learners themselves. Though, this technology is very useful when the students are scattered over vast areas or there is shortage of specialists yet its applicability is only feasible in countries where telephones are within the reach of every ordinary man and where its functioning is smooth, efficient and cost effective.

 

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Tele-Conferencing and Tele-Tutoring are some of the latest and significant innovations of telephone.

5. The Computer

Presently, computer aided instruction or learning is becoming increasingly popular all over the world. The computers may be classified as-Main Frame, and Macro Computers. The Government of India’s CLASS Project (Computer Literacy Aid for Secondary Schools), was likely to revolutionize teaching at the school level. A fully developed Computer Assisted Education System (CAES), can be used for correction and comments on students’ replies to multiple-choice questions. Th computer also checks and refers to the individual students’ earlier performances and achievements when similar questions were attempted. Encouraging and counseling comments based on the over all performance of the student could also be provided by the computer. However, in the beginning the use of computer was restricted only to the objective assignments of multiple choice type but now the scenario is totally charged with the emergence of different authoring tools and software’s.

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Besides this, the computer can perform very large number (about millions) of operations per second. Further, the access to any selected part of the data stored is also very fast and the required printed output can be seen on the screen. It can also be transmitted through telephone cables or through microwave and satellite communication media and delivered at the terminal with appropriate reception facilities. At present, the whole process of library e.g. book writing, publishing, storage and dissemination, etc., has radically changed with these new technologies of electronic storage devices, computers and communications, is a highly significant innovation in ‘the field of education, particularly in higher education.

6. Audio/Video Cassettes/Compact Discs

The material used on the radio/television can be supplied in the form of audio/video cassettes or CDs to the learners. These have the advantage over broadcasting programmes in respect of increased student’s control on the medium. Not only the student listens/watches to these CDs/cassettes when he wants  as often and with as many pauses or partial replays as necessary. The mass media aspects of breakfast television makes it difficult to design programmes which are appropriate for wide range of skills and abilities. Inevitability appropriate level hy replaying sections that move too quickly or by skipping forward over sections that are too slow.

Phonographic Records and Flexi discs are further developments of audio cassettes. Similarly, Video-Discs and Video-Text are also increasing the capacity of T.V. set. Video disc is a system similar to the long playing record except that it carries both audio and video through conventional T.V. set. The videodisc particularly, the optical disc has enormous storage capacity. A Video-Text system would be very useful in disseminating general information about courses and programmes available in any institution. Educational Film Strips and Films would also be very suitable and effective media for imparting higher education. Home Experiment Kit is a good innovation for students of science and technical courses. The kits developed by the British Open University, have proved to be a very effective.

 

In brief, the problems faced by higher education in India could only be effectively tackled by adopting modern technologies. But it is a point of consideration that any innovation that is sponsored and promoted in our country should be in view ofits relevance to our society and available infra­ structure facilities in our educational institutions. Due to various socio­ economic cultural and linguistic barriers it is not possible for us to use blindly all the technologies that are being used by the developed countries.

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