Life long Learning through Open and Distance Learning Mode

Dr. Krupapar Wasnik

Published in Issue – I, June 2013

The Open and Distance Learning (ODL) mode of education is now being preferred   not only by the disadvantaged and drop-outs but also by those who need an easy access to school   education. Open learning is a system of learning guided by the philosophy of freedom to learn without the constraints that are characteristics of conventional education. Distance education is a mode of education, a methodology adopted to make open learning possible. Open learning is a philosophy which is characterized by learner – centeredness, openness in terms of learners’ access to educational provisions, flexibility in the organization of learning and process of achieving success in learning. On the other hand, distance education is a mode or methodology of organizing learning experiences to achieve the objectives of open learning. Distance education is a modality, which permits the delivery of study materials by means of multiple media without the necessity of regular classroom participation and wherein the individuals themselves are responsible for their own learning. Open learning, in this sense, is characterized by its   progressive outlook and innovative and flexible approach. It places more emphasis on the learner’s need, interests etc. than anything else. Studying through the open and distance learning mode requires great   commitments on the part of the students. Once they are enrolled in a course, they will need to complete assignment and examinations according to a specific schedule. Being working adults, they find it helpful to get support of their employees and their family. This support keeps them motivated.


The emergence of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) System has been a natural and phenomenal evolution in the history of education development towards the latter half of the twentieth century. While the conventional system continues to the mainstream of educational transaction, it has its own limitations with regard to expansion, access, and equity and cost effectiveness. Major challenges that India faces today in the educational arena are:


  • The challenge of numbers,
  • The challenge of credibility, and
  • The challenge of quality.


Although Open Distance Learning (ODL) has travelled a long journey and has been steadily growing in stature in its various avatars, somehow residual prejudice about its status and effectiveness viz-a-viz face to face mode as a second rate or inferior mode of education still continues. The developed countries have got over this hangover due to their long experience and expertise is using different types of technologies to upgrade, innovate and compete while using distance education as a mode and strategy. It is commonplace to mention here that developing countries, for obvious reasons, are yet to catch up with educational practices that are urgently needed but not yet in place precisely for the reason of not having enough experience and expertise. The most critical issue here is to convince the academia in the developing world that hard evidence based on credible research is the only way to remove the stigma as well as prejudice against the efficacy and efficiency of ODL (Ramaanujam , 2010).


In fact, Shachar and Neumann (2003) in their meta analysis concluded that:


Based on 86 studies and using learning outcome data from over 15,000 participating students, the results of the meta analysis show a strong positive trend indication that Distance education is an effective form of instruction. This analysis demonstrates that students engaged in Distance Education mode have academically outperformed as compared their face to face (F2F) counterparts.


Realizing that there are immense opportunities for human resource development in the  field of agriculture, manufacturing and social services sectors for developing countries  like India, a properly planned and effectively implemented Vocational Education and Training (VET) system through Open and Distance Learning (ODL) will;


  • Equip the learners having varying learning abilities with particular emphasis on marginalized  groups with appropriate skills for sustainable livelihood,
  • Facilitate creation of a pool of technologically qualified human resource, and
  • Make the youth entrepreneurs.


However, in many countries, particularly in developing countries, the Vocational Education and Training (VET) program under the formal education system faces certain limitations with regard to expansion, access, and equity and cost effectiveness. Consequently a large number of individuals who would like to acquire competencies and skills are excluded from the benefits of VET.


There is a need (i) to sensitize the society about the importance of VET in the context of reduction of un-employment and poverty, (ii) to bring about attitudinal changes in the   society to ensure dignity of labour thereby diverting more people to join skill based programs for earning livelihood and (iii) to provide equitable access to Vocational Education and Training (VET) program.


Certain other challenges that need to be addressed are:


  1. Need to meet the constantly changing requirements of technology/industry with inbuilt flexibility to switch over courses with changes in demand pattern.
  2. Quality improvement by involving industries in designing the courses, development


The revolution brought about by the growth of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has greatly facilitated the expansion of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) System and permitted adopting a flexible, constructivist, learner friendly and multi-perspective approach to teaching learning process which is so essential for creativity, leadership and scholarship leading to total development of human personality and in responding appropriately to the challenges identified above.


Vocational Education through NIOS

National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) is an apex Open Schooling organization in India. It operates through its five departments, 19 Regional centers and two regional sub- centers and network of study centers known as Accredited Institutes (AIs). Accreditated Vocational Institutions (AVIs) and Special Accreditated Institutions for the Education of the Disadvantaged (SAIEDs) spread all over the country. The National Institutes of Open Schooling (NIOS) is committed   to enhance the quality of its courses, learners support services, capacity building of the open schooling functionaries. Vocational education program is an integral part of the scheme of studies of the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). The objective of the NIOS vocational education program is to ensure that educational opportunities for development of   vocational skills are provided to learners so as to enable them to become entrepreneurs capable of running their own businesses. The emphasis of the vocational education program is to develop a cadre of skilled persons that are capable of being a job providers rather than job seekers. 


Presently, 97 vocational courses of NIOS are offered in broad areas such as agriculture, engineering & technology, health & paramedical, home science, business and commerce, computer science and IT, teachers training, library science amongst others. The range of courses has been expanding upon learners’ needs and market demands. The present courses of NIOS relate to both urban and rural sectors, for women and school dropouts, SCs/STs, etc.


The NIOS vocational courses are offered at pre secondary, secondary, senior and post secondary levels. The pre-secondary courses are linked to the open Basic Education Programs of NIOS. Life enrichment courses are also offered as non credit courses under the vocational stream. These vocational courses are for literate to the senior Secondary level and from six months to two years duration.



Admission to these courses takes place twice in one calendar year. The vocational courses are delivered through professionally managed bodies called Accreditated Vocational Institutes (AVIs) which are responsible for the hands on training, providing career counseling to the students; enroll students and conducts practical examination.

Students, who want to join vocational courses of NIOS, can visit to the nearby Accreditated Vocational Institute of NIOS (AVIs) and can enroll for course.


             Why to join vocational courses of NIOS?


  1. Minimum age for admission is 14 years and in certain courses 18 yrs. No upper age limit
  2. Admission is valid for five years
  3. Nine attempt to clear the course
  4. Facility of re-registration
  5. NIOS provides self learning study material
  6. Large network of study centers
  7. More emphasis on skill training
  8. Examination after every six months
  9. Affordable course fee.


Come join NIOS, learn with flexibilities and earn with pride.



  1. Shachar, M. & Neumann, Y (2003) Difference between Traditional and Distance Education Academic Performance: A Meta – analysis approach. The international Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning,(4(2)
  2. Ramanujam, P.R, (2010); Editorial of Indian Journal of Open Learning, Vol. 19(1), Jan. 2010.


(Author is Director – Vocational Education at National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), Noida)

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