New Delhi: Taking education to the marginalised and disadvantaged people of the society through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) will soon become easier with use of mobile handsets for education delivery.
The concept is novel, when the call is democratising education. Even as a number of ICTs have been pressed into services in the country for the same goal, expert educators and mobile services providers rightly think, it is always advantageous to boost the existing ICTs with an additional line of service for education delivery at the learners' best reach.
Keeping this in view, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and Communications & Manufacturing Association of India (CMAI) will jointly convene a round-table conference on November 4, 2008 at the SCOPE Complex at Lodhi Road, New Delhi
Experts from industries of communications technologies, telecom equipment manufacturers, government organisations and universities will discuss in the conference about various strategies which will be timely and handy for the communities of students and learners of the country.
This conference may also create new genre of thought-process conducive to fulfill the country's ongoing 11th Five-Year Plan motto, 'Education for All', at, as IGNOU Vice Chancellor Professor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai explains, "easily accessible, affordable and relevant to lives modes".
The IGNOU's eGyankosh, a world-class national digital repository, won the World Summit Award (WSA), popularly known as Manthan Award 2008, for best e-content development in the e-education category. The award is given every year for excellence by the WSA's India chapter, Digital Empowerment Foundation.
The citation read: "There is hardly any example of any university in India which uses all possible media tools and applications to reach out to those who want to be educated. The IGNOU is an example which uses print, radio, TV, Web/Internet to reach out to the masses. After having deployed various TV channels, EduSat, Community Radio, IGNOU is at task through eGyankosh to utilize digital media to the best of its possibility. Through these multifarious technological interventions, the IGNOU is putting maximum efforts in extending its reach beyond the borders of the country and facilitate international students. What is laudable is the IGNOU's continuous pursuit in providing higher and quality education using digital tools and technologies and reaching out to the unreached."
The IGNOU, during last two-three years, has taken a number of epochal steps to exploit the facilities of ICTs, by bringing the Edusat to the capital in its own hub. Initiatives have been taken for use IPTV, Broadband, and exiting telecom services for delivery of education.
Yet at certain points of the country or other, the reach was often faltered due to various woes, which are but natural to a plural society working in a developing economy. The reach generated by Mobile phone is hoped to become fool-proof.
The capacity building of the learners, the disadvantaged women and marginalised population will be rather easy by help of Mobile Value-Added Services (MVAS) or M-Education. If not otherwise, the MVAS can end up in becoming the largest carrier of education from the IGNOU.
The Conference, therefore, aims to address the following:
(i) Rural connectivity for capacity building of students and learners,
(ii) Identification of other cost-effective communication technologies for education delivery best suited for distance education.
The EduSat, dedicated to IGNOU, at present has a network of 134 Satellite Internet Terminals (SITs). These are at Rashtrapati Bhawan (02), North-East Region (21), J&K Region (04), Other States (91), State Open Universities (10), Regional Committee of NCTE (05) and Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration (01).
These apart, for Rajiv Gandhi Elementary Education Network, the EduSat services are available at Hub in Jabalpur, MP, Daily two-hour long transmission through Gyan Darshan terminals, solar-powered Receive Only Terminals (ROTs), in Sidhi (MP) about 850 ROTs, and 50 ROTs each in Chhattisgarh and UP and Bihar districts.
The EduSat has become an effective opportunity for IGNOU to cover areas Gyan Darshan channels earlier could not reach. Currently Gyan Darshan, through transmission in C band on the INSAT 3C, is also available on the DTH platform of Doordarshan DD Direct Plus.
Audio-visual aids to teachers and learners' trainers for seamless education is possible through the EduSat today, with advantage of teleconferencing, e-conferencing and telephony. Gyan Vani, which heralded the ICT movement in IGNOU, has become an important value-addition now.
The Round-Table Conference with the CMAI is another, yet bolder, step to effectively reach the target learners communities. It is also a strong step to effectively fulfill the vision of democratising quality higher education in India.
Considering the Government of India's target of 500 millions of telecom network connectivity by 2010, the Indian domestic telecom outreach has grown to be the world's second after China's. Current monthly growth is eight (8) to nine (9) millions.
The CMAI is looking forward to building up on the opportunities which this New Medium of M-Education has created by providing IGNOU content of study material.
A conglomerate of mobile phone service providers, experts, manufacturers of mobile phone handsets, the CMAI has high fidelity players in mobile telephony such as ACL Wireless, Active Media, Air2Web, AOL Mobile, Cellebrum, Cellnext, HungamaMobile, IMIMobile, Indistimes Mobile, Jataayu, Mauj, Mobile365, One97, OnMobile, Phoneytunes, Roamware.
In search of new genre of communications, these organisations have reached worldwide reputation in producing advanced telephony services, such as mobile TV and video, full-motion videos, wireless teleconferencing, multi-player online games, and commerce through mobile elephony (M-commerce).
These players have brought into service the third generation (3G) mobile phone technology superseding the 2.5G. The 3G technology is based on standards of International Telecommunication Union family which regulates international radio and telecommunications. Naturally, with the 3G as a carrier of contents, the education delivery is expected to be holistic.
When connectivity is combined with the contents of study material, access to education can become massive. The access to course content and class-room dissemination of lessons also can be developed into providing and taking of examination papers through the mobile telephony.
This scope meets the IGNOU concept, which Professor Pillai elaborates, as, "You study at your own pace, from home, have access to the most advanced learning infrastructure and at the end of your course, have corporates waiting with dream job offers."
Says CMAI, "A new paradigm in providing M-education and thereby covering far-flung areas in the country and assist to bridge the physical distances using wireless technology, make mobile phones a great leveller in the society."
Through handsets, several contents can be easily accessed wherever are you and whenever you want. A number of tests can be immediately identified as under: Besides reaching out to the rural marginalised people, a number of competitive tests -- namely, CAT, JEE, GATE, GMAT, SAT, TOEFL among a slew of others -- can be taken.