After 13 years, BU wakes up to revamp distance learning syllabus

But don't expect quality study materials, resource persons caution

After thirteen long years, Bangalore University (BU) is finally revising the syllabus and study material for its distance education courses. It has come after the varsity faced strong criticism for the poor quality of study materials and delay in dispatching them to students.

With a Rs two-crore budget, BU’s Directorate of Correspondence Courses and Distance Education is currently in the midst of revamping books for as many as 62 papers in various subjects. Its director, B R Niranjan, said the preparations began six months ago and recently a two-day orientation was given to resource persons hired for overhauling the study material.

So pathetic has been the university’s response to the changing times that the syllabus in some subjects has not been revised ever since the directorate was established.

Hectic preparations aside, those involved in the process have cautioned against expecting better quality curriculum as there are several flaws in the manner the elaborate exercise is being conducted. The orientation has done nothing to streamline the activity, said a resource person monitoring the work for one of the teams.

He explained on the condition of anonymity, “I am not optimistic as the initiative is being done in an ad hoc manner. The problem is not with the directorate but with the top administration in the university. People fail to differentiate between study material and local guides.” He further said the university had not yet found coordinators for many subjects due to poor advertisement.

In other cases, coordinators are looking for editors and those who could write lessons for the material. A team working on revision for one paper includes a coordinator, people writing the lessons and editors who put it together. At least five people are involved in bringing out one book.

There are two faces to this, the resource person said. “On the one hand, some university professors who lack expertise have been using this as an opportunity to make money. They subcontract writing of lessons to their students. On the other hand, some coordinators have been desperately approaching colleges in search of professors willing to write lessons.”

The university pays Rs 4,000 for writing one unit (about 20 pages) for undergraduate courses and Rs 6,000 for postgraduate courses.
What’s more, for many papers in distance education, the syllabus of two semester exams (for regular courses) is being crammed into one annual exam whereas no classes are conducted.

Books delayed

The books were supposed to be ready by November-end and used this academic year. But it but might drag on until January, Niranjan conceded. “Some submitted lessons do not met our criteria,” he said. But resource persons in the team doubt if the material would be ready for use this year at all.

Meanwhile, fewer students have enrolled this academic year. “To attract students, we need to ensure quality, conduct examinations on time and give results on time. Unless we set that right, not many students will be willing to pursue the course.”

‘Exams will be on time’

Distance education examination of BU would be conducted on time without giving scope for irregularities, B R Niranjan, who heads the Directorate of Correspondence Courses and Distance Education, said. The exams are to begin on December 9.

To strengthen monitoring, the directorate is likely to introduce live streaming of the exam in all centres. “CCTV cameras are already in place. It does not require extra infrastructure to set up live streaming. We hope to make the exams transparent and free from irregularities,” Niranjan added.

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