The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) scheme of providing University Education opportunities to maximum number of eligible students by making optimal utilisation of the existing infrastructure and intellectual capabilities of the best affiliated and autonomous colleges through the open university and distance education systems proved to be a successful and sustainable intervention for enhancing the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in higher education in the country, said Prof. V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, VC, IGNOU. “The 'Convergence Scheme', as we call it, is a partnership between the nation-wide collegiate education system and IGNOU for sharing academic resources, for enhancing the quality and quantity of education delivery. During the last three years, 20,798 Graduates and 17,080 Post-Graduates completed the programmes successfully. The Scheme has an enrollment of over 7,000 learners in the Bachelor's Preparatory Programme, thus enabling school dropouts to get back into the mainstream of higher education,” he adds. The 480 colleges that participated in the scheme represent the best in the country. Some of them are Colleges of Excellence identified by the University Grants Commission. The Colleges lent the services of about 5,000 teachers without conflict to their regular work. Classrooms, computer lab, library and laboratory facilities were given to these additionally admitted students in extra hours on working days and during weekends and holidays. The students under this scheme get the complete set of study material from IGNOU. The College is given freedom to increase the number of teaching hours depending upon the nature of the course and the requirements of the students. The students also get a campus feel and fair opportunity to interact with the regular students and teachers in the college. They also participate in extra-curricular, social and cultural activities in the college campus. Assessment, evaluation and result declaration are in the IGNOU Semester-Course-Credit pattern. The Convergence Scheme has the advantage of availing the best features of the conventional classroom teaching and the distinct benefits of the Self-learning-centered Open and Distance Learning (ODL) system. In this context, it is worth noting that in the preparation of the Self-Instructional Material for the ODL system, the expertise of a large number of teachers in the conventional, regular mode Universities and colleges is being used. In such a context, it is all the more relevant that these teachers also get an opportunity to deliver these educational material to more aspiring students with appropriate backing of the required classroom teaching, practicals, project work and significant campus presence. This is a clear case of optimal utilisation of the state-of-the-art infrastructure and the rich and scarce academic resources for enhancing the quality and reach of higher education in the country. The scheme also gives an opportunity for the large number of teachers in our colleges to get exposed to the Open and Distance Teaching-Learning technologies. When all the Universities and Colleges get broadband connectivity and other educational technology facilities through the flagship schemes of the Government, like the National Mission of Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT) and National Knowledge Network (NKN), this experience with the ODL Technology-Enabled teaching and learning acquired through this innovative Convergence Scheme of IGNOU, adds to the much required ICT capacity-building of teachers. This scheme proposed by IGNOU in the 11th Plan has been accepted by the Planning Commission, even though the implementation details are yet to be finalised. Now this scheme is an exclusive project of IGNOU and has been running successfully for the last three years. Recently, a national-level expert committee has reviewed the entire scheme in terms of its impact on the Gross Enrollment Ratio, economic sustainability and quality.
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