Online Degrees – Are they for real? 

One line answer, yes and finally! 

In two notifications published in February 2020 and September 2020, the UGC (University Grants Commission) has given a nod to run and issue undergraduate and postgraduate formal degrees to students who go through the program in the online format.

Quick context, so far you could earn your degree either by attending college in a regular classroom format or in the open and distance learning mode. But with a heavy push by the Government of India to improve Gross Enrolment Ratio (which is nothing but an indicator of what percentage of the Indian youth who should be completing their higher education actually are), the UGC has added online as a mode of learning and earning formal degree.

With digital boom, it only made sense to add “online” as a legitimate mode of attending college and getting a degree. What should online learning solve for, is something I’ll cover later. For now, let’s talk about the rules of “going online”. 

Here’s a very quick summary of 7 things you should know about this new mode of higher education-

1. Who can offer online degree programs? Any higher education institute that meets one of the following two criteria is auto eligible to launch and run their existing degree programs (in which at least one batch has graduated) in online mode – A. HEI should have ranked in top 100 at least twice in the last three years, B. HEI Should have a NAAC rating of A+.

If a university does not meet the above criteria and still wants to run their program in online mode, they can go through an application process and all the programs that get approved can be launched in an online format. There are 200+ universities eligible to launch their programs in online mode all over India!

2. Who can enrol for the program?  The university can offer to their programs to students all over India in the online mode and are not restricted by territorial jurisdiction. 

3. How will learners study online?  The university can choose to offer the program on SWAYAM or any other learning platform that meets the four clear guidelines set by UGC. 

4. Who will govern these programs? All universities that intend to offer their programs online need to set up a Center of Distance and Online education to govern and operationalise these programs.

5. What will learners earn at the end of successful completion of the program? The university will hand put degree certifications to all learners who have completed the program – cleared all credits and exams. 

6. Who will design the program? UGC has set very clear 4-quadrant approach of creating the program and the university is supposed to design and develop the e-content strictly in adherence to the same. 

7. How will students take examinations? The university will organise computer based test or pen and paper test in an online proctored environment to assess the candidates. 

I’ve tried to cover some very key points put of the 400 pages of very detailed in depth description of how these programs should be run rolled by the UGC. But it’s a start. I’ll cover and expand, deep dive further in the next couple of weeks. So keep watching this space if you are someone who is keen to explore the world of online degrees!  

What exactly is NAAC?

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) is a government organisation which conducts the assessment and accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) such as colleges, universities, or other recognised institutions to derive an understanding of the quality status of the institution. It evaluates their conformance to the standards of quality in terms of their performances related to students, educational processes and outcomes, curriculum coverage, teaching-learning processes, faculty, research, infrastructure, governance, and other such things. A + + is the highest grade given by the NAAC to an institution based on its conformity to the parameters set by it. The higher the ranking, the better the institution.

Which universities offer UGC-approved online courses?

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved 38 universities to provide online courses, including both public and private universities and also deemed universities. Some of these universities are OP Jindal University, Amity University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Shiv Nadar University, and Mysore University. All the universities which have been approved for providing online courses have to follow certain rules created by the UGC, and those accredited by the NAAC with a score of more than 3.01 on a scale of 4 are eligible for providing fully online courses. Taking up UGC-approved courses can prove to be highly beneficial for students irrespective of domain of study.

What do you mean by MOOCs?

The Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are such online courses which are developed as per the pedagogy stated in the UGC instruction manual for development and delivery. It supplements the formal education system in the country from high school to higher education. The MOOC structure follows a 4-quadrant approach which consists of video, text, self assessment, and further learning. It is hosted by SWAYAM, which is the indigenous platform of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. It provides an integral portal through which MOOC can be developed and delivered.

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