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Editor’s Note: This paper is an assessment how students value of different learning media. This data is useful to determine pedagogy and instructional design. The research introduces terms that apply to broadcast media in India: Gyn Vani is an FM radio channel dedicated to education and Gyan Darshan is a satellite downlink.

A Survey of the Electronic Media Utilisation
by Distance Learners of Indian Open Universities

Ashwini Kumar and Ramesh C. Sharma
India

Abstract

The pedagogy and instructional design in open and distance education lay great emphasis on proper use of suitable media. Different forms of media have their own significance in their own context and said to affect the learning. The open and distance education institutions have developed and are using various media, keeping in view the resources available to them. Some are using traditional media like radio, television, audio and video cassettes; while the advanced universities or institutions have gone fully online providing online support to their learners. In this paper, we obtained opinion of the learners in Indian Open Universities on the use of media. The objectives of the study were to obtain the feed back of learners in respect to their accessibility to various media; media use profile, views on usefulness of media, impact of media on their learning activities, problem faced in the use of media and suggestions for improving the utilization of media in distance education. The problems faced by the learners and suggestions for the improvement in the media usage have also been presented.

Key words: distance education, distance learners, electronic media, media utilisation, media impact, media use profile, agreement index
 

Introduction

Distance education places main emphasis on the learners rather than upon teachers. In this system it is the learner, who is undergoing primarily transformations and hence the learning process is determined more by what and how learner wishes to learn rather than what teacher has to teach. In other words until the learner is prepared to learn, no learning activity can take place. It is the learner who in actual terms ‘rules’ the roots and sets the conditions. (S)he is autonomous entity within educational process. Learners in distance education may come from various categories ranging from eighteen-year-old student in a remote area, who could not complete his course because of geographical constraints to a senior person, who wishes to make education a life long activity. They may be housewives to management professionals, who want to update their skills. The common points among all categories of distance learners are sense of isolation and the time constraints. Therefore, all efforts in distance education are made to help learners to minimize their sense of isolation and provide them platform so that they can study at their own convenience. The role of media thus becomes very crucial and of fundamental importance as it attempts to ‘bring together the learners and teacher across the time and distance to facilitate communication process’ (Khan and McWilliams, 1998). Because of their qualities, such as greater delivery capabilities, contributing to specific learning activities, promoting participatory learning, motivating the learners to get involved with learning activities, accommodating individual needs and extending the role of the teacher, electronic media such as radio, television, computer and Internet have been embraced as a part of learning by many Open Distance Learning institutions. This is the ‘cardinal point that distinguishes distance education from traditional classroom education as well as the correspondence education’ (Khan and Dikshit, 2006).

In practice, the patterns of technologies in use among institutions across the world are varied, and are commonly influenced by non-pedagogical factors, such as cost, access and availability as much as by pedagogical factors. The ways in which different institutions employ any one particular technology are also subject to great variation (Harry and Khan, 2000).

The present study aimed to get the feedback of learners in respect to their accessibility to various media; media use profile, views on usefulness of media, impact of media on their learning activities, problem faced in the use of media and suggestions for improving the utilization of media in distance education.

Objectives

The study was undertaken with a view to achieve following objectives:

  • To prepare the demographic profile of the distance learners

  • To assess the media accessibility of the learners

  • To identify the media use pattern of the distance learners

  • To obtain the student’s opinion on helpfulness of electronic media in understanding the subject matter

  • To analyze the feedback of the learners on practical issues related with use of electronic media in their academic activities including the factors that impede its use.

Research method

Questionnaire

Two types of questionnaires were developed by the investigators for administering to the learners enrolled through distance education to obtain information related to objectives of the study. Items gathering data on the personal and professional background of the respondents were also included. Most of the items were structured to provide different alternatives to the respondents to be identified. A Likert scale procedure is commonly used for attitude scales (Dyer, 1995) and was used in part of the questionnaires with three options. Some items were open ended to get feedback of respondents on the nature of problem faced during the use of electronic media and the suggestion on how to improve their use. The major items of the questionnaire for two categories are given in Table 1.

Collection of data

For the present research, a descriptive sample survey method was adopted because respondents who were involved in the research were scattered over the entire country. This study was conducted by mail whereby structural questionnaires were sent to the sample respondents to collect data relevant for this study. 1800 questionnaires were distributed to students enrolled in various programmes of open universities of India. A time period of 45 days was fixed for receiving the filled in questionnaires. After 45 days, a reminder was sent to those who did not send back the filled in questionnaire extending time for completion by another 30 days. This resulted in collection of 665 responses from distance learners.

Table 1
Number of information items in each section
of the student questionnaire

Major sections in the Questionnaire

No. of information items

Personal Information

9

Visit to Study Centre

2

Media Availability

1

Media Use

1

Media Usefulness

1

Opinion on Various Learning Activities

12

Problems in Use of Media

1

Suggestion for Improvement in Use of Media

1

Total

28

 

Findings

The responses obtained have been discussed under the sections demographic profile of Learners, availability of media to students, media used pattern of the learners, View point on media helpfulness in understanding the subject, opinion of learners on various learning activities, problems faced in the use of electronic media and suggestions for improving the usage of electronic media at the learner’s end. The term ‘respondents’, ‘students’ and ‘learners’ have been used interchangeably for the purpose of the study

Demographic profile of Learners

The 665 learners who came from diverse backgrounds varied in their age, category, educational attainment, study habits and area of residences etc. Identification data showing their characteristics are summarized in Table 2, which shows most of the respondents, were male (75%) while rest (25%) were females. The age of learners ranged from 18 year to 52, in which vast majority of learners were below age 37 years (97%) and only 3 percent of them were more than 37 year old. 41% students were in the age group 23-27 years followed by age groups 18-22 (34%), 28-32 years (15.6%), 33-37 years (6.8%), 38-42 years (0.8%), 43-47 years (0.8%), and 48-52 years (1.2%).

Students’ educational attainment level ranged from 10th grade to doctoral degrees. Slightly more than 44 percent (44.5%) had some form of graduation degree; while nearly 30% had only 12th pass qualification. 22.7% of learners under study joined Open Universities courses after completion of their Post Graduate degree, while this percentage was 1.3 for Ph.D. holders. Cumulatively this figure becomes 24 percent. This confirms to the role of open universities to promote learning as a life long activity.

Category wise analysis of respondents indicated that more than 82% of the learners belonged to general category whereas, learners in reserved categories registered their presence for less than 18%. The data break up for reserved category students are as follows: OBC (13.8%), SC (2.7%), and ST (1.2%).

Table 2
Characteristics of learners

Characteristics

Frequency

Percentage

Cumulative %

Gender

Female

168

25

25

Male

497

75

100

Age

18 to 22

226

34

34

23 to 27

272

40.9

74.9

28 to 32

104

15.6

90.4

33 to 37

45

6.8

97.2

38 to 42

5

0.8

98.0

43 to 47

5

0.8

98.8

48 to 52

8

1.2

100

53 to 57

0

0

100

58 to 62

0

0

100

Educational attainments

10th

17

2.6

2.6

10+2

192

28.9

31.5

Graduation

296

44.5

76

Post Graduation

151

22.6

98.6

PhD

9

1.4

100

Category

ST

8

1.2

1.2

SC

18

2.7

3.9

OBC

92

13.8

17.7

General

547

82.3

100

Area

Rural Turned Urban

33

5

5

Rural

87

13

18

Urban

545

82

100

Programme wise-distribution

B_OTHER

61

9.18

9.18

BCA

60

9.02

18.2

BDP

146

21.95

40.15

Certificate

81

12.18

52.33

DIPLOMA

46

6.92

59.25

M_OTHER

83

12.48

71.73

MCA

188

28.27

100

Medium of instruction

English

415

62.4

62.4

Hindi

165

24.8

87.2

Others

85

12.8

100

Read SIM regularly

Yes

590

88.7

88.7

No

75

11.3

100

Table 2 also indicates that 82% of the learners belonged to urban population.18% of the respondents had rural background out of which nearly 28% (5/18) learners came from rural to urban area, may be for the continuance of their course. It suggests that distance education has not been able to make sufficient impact in rural areas.

For the purpose of this study, academic programmes offered by open universities were clubbed in following categories: BDP (BA, B.com., and B.Sc.,), BCA, B_Other (All bachelors degree programmes except, BDP and BCA), MCA, M_Other (All master level programme except, MCA), Diploma, and Certificate level programmes. The programme wise break of students shows that highest percentage of respondents belonged to MCA programme (28.27%) followed by BDP (21.95%), Certificate level programmes (12.18%), and Masters level programmes other than MCA (M-Other, 12.18%). For remaining categories student strength was less than 10% of their total population.

Table 2 also shows that most of learners had opted English as medium for instruction (62.8%) followed by Hindi (24.8%). While percentages of learners choosing the languages other than English and Hindi as medium of the instruction for their courses was only 12.8 %. The reasons attributed to this may be the offering of most of their programmes through English medium by open universities as well as the preference of English as medium of instruction by majority population in urban area besides many other factors.

The study habits of the learners’ reveals that vast majority of them read their instructional material regularly (88.7%), while remaining are not very regular in their studies. This indicates that most of the learners of open universities are serious towards their studies and take out some time for interaction with the study material in-spite of their various responsibilities.

Reasons for joining the programme

On the issue of reasons for joining the programmes of open universities, learners were allowed to exercise their multiple options. In their response , around 40 percent learners expressed more than one reason for joining the course. Half of the respondents had joined the course with an aim of getting a better opportunity. 41% learners wanted to add qualification and 36% wanted to update their knowledge. This supports the view that open universities play an important role in making learning a life long activity

Table 3
Reasons for joining the programmes

Reason

Frequency

Percentage

Better Job

334

50.2

Add Knowledge

238

35.8

Add Qualifications

271

40.8

Get Degree

89

13.4

Total

 =SUM(ABOVE) 932

 =SUM(ABOVE) 140.2


Visit to study centers

Study centers in open universities act as nodal point for providing various academic supports such as counseling, library, media use, and information regarding schedules in respect of submission of assignments, examination, and admission etc. The feedback of the learners on frequency and purpose of visit to the study centers are compiled in
Table 4.

Table 4 indicates that 69 percent of the learners visited study centre regularly, nearly 30.4 percent were occasional visitors of study centers as per their need, while four percent of the learners never went to study centers. Visit of 99.4 percent of learners either regularly or occasionally confirms the sincerity of the distance learners.

The responses of the learners on the issue of purpose of visiting study centers indicated that most of them visited the study centers for multiple reasons. Approximately 80% learners visited study centres for attending face-to-face counseling, followed by information seekers (38.5%). While nearly one fourth respondents visited study center for using media (25.7%) and availing library facilities (23.8%). This confirms the importance of face-to-face counseling in distance education and also highlights the importance of study centres in delivering various student support services.

Table 4
Visit of learners to Study Centre

Frequency of Visit to Study Centre

Visit Habit

Frequency

Percentage

Regularly

459

69

Occasionally

202

30.4

Never

4

0.6

Purpose of visiting Study Centre

Purpose

Frequency

Percentage

Counseling sessions

533

80.2

Media/Tech use

171

25.7

Library

158

23.8

Information

256

38.5

 Availability of media to distance learners

On the question of availability of various media to learners either at home or work place, responses are presented in Table 5.

Table 5
Availability of media to students

Media/Tech

Available at home or work place

%

Not available

%

Total

Telephone

423

64

242

36

665

Computer

235

35

430

65

665

Internet

135

20

530

80

665

Gyan darshan

225

34

440

66

665

Gyan vani

130

20

535

80

665

Cable TV

385

58

280

42

665

Audio cassettes/CDs

306

46

359

54

665

Video cassettes/CDs

164

25

501

75

665

Fax

76

11

589

89

665

Television

413

62

252

38

665

Teleconference

52

8

613

92

665

Table 5 indicates that the facility of learning through telephone (64%), television (62%) and cable television (58%) were available to nearly 60% student population while audio cassettes were available to only 46% of them either at their home or at their work place. Teleconferencing (92%) were not available to more than 90% students’ population. The availability of remaining media was not encouraging as it varied from 11% (Fax) to 35% (computer). It means these are not available to more than 65 percent learners. Therefore, to compensate for this non availability, Open Universities should well equip their study centres with the electronic media that they are going to adopt towards course curriculum, otherwise a big gap between media haves and media have-nots might be created.

Media used pattern of the learners

The response of the learners on media used by them indicated telephone as most frequently used media by vast majority of student community (81%) for their various academic activities. The remaining media had not been used by more than 50% of the learners for their learning activities. The reasons may be of accessibility, relevance to the course or attitudinal barriers. The morning television and cable television was available to more than 60 percent learners either at their home or at work place (table 4) but were used by 11% and 18 % of them respectively. Except telephone (available 64%, used 81%), computer (available 35%, used 43%), and internet (available 20%, used 28%), similar trend could be seen for all the media under the study. The higher percentage of utilization than availability of media at the dwelling or working place of learners, also indicates their dependence on facility of the study centers or outside agencies. Teleconferencing (6%), Fax (7%), and Gyan Vani - dedicated FM education channel (7%) were used by less than 10% student population. Lower participation level of learners in teleconferencing was also reported by Raghubanshi and Mishra (1996) in Indian context. The percentage of population using the remaining media ranged from 15% for CDs to 21% Gyan Darshan – a satellite downlink. Table 6 summarizes use of various media by various groups.

Table 6
Media used by learners

Media/Tech

Consolidated

Gender-wise

Area-Wise

Freq.

%

Female

%

Male

%

Rural

%

R-T-U*

%

Urban

%

Telephone

540

81

158

94

382

77

43

49

17

52

480

88

Computer

288

43

82

49

206

41

9

10

12

36

267

49

Internet

187

28

54

32

133

27

5

6

0

0

182

33

Gyan darshan

140

21

43

26

97

20

16

18

6

18

118

22

Gyan vani

49

7

31

19

18

4

5

6

4

12

40

7

Cable TV

121

18

48

29

73

15

0

0

9

27

112

21

Audio cassettes/CDs

134

20

49

29

85

17

5

6

9

27

120

22

Video cassettes/CDs

122

18

42

25

80

16

12

14

9

27

101

19

Fax

43

7

22

13

21

4

0

0

0

0

43

8

Television

72

11

31

19

41

8

0

0

0

0

72

13

Teleconference

42

6

22

13

20

4

5

6

0

0

37

7

 * Rural Turned Urban

The gender wise analysis of media used by the students indicates that use of electronic media was more by Female students in comparison to Males. While data break up of media use on the basis of area of residence of respondents revealed higher level of media utilization by urban population as compared to other counterparts leaving some media like cable television, audio cassettes, Gyan Vani and video Cassettes, for which, percentage of learners belonging to rural turned urban category was higher in comparison with other categories.

Viewpoint on media helpfulness in understanding the subject

The viewpoints of students’ population on the issue of help provided by media in understanding the subject matter indicated that more than three fourth population (78%) were evaluating the help extended by various media as poor, while 12% viewed it average and only 10% learners had graded the help of media as high. Their opinions about usefulness of every media under study are summarized in Table 7.

Table 7
Media helpfulness understanding the subject

Media/Tech

High

%

Average

%

Poor

%

Total

Telephone

61

9

134

20

470

71

665

Computer

212

32

118

18

335

50

665

Internet

147

22

96

14

422

64

665

Gyan darshan

59

9

139

21

467

70

665

Gyan vani

32

5

89

13

544

82

665

Cable TV

45

7

59

9

561

84

665

Audio cassettes/CDs

61

9

64

10

540

81

665

Video cassettes/CDs

71

11

88

13

506

76

665

Fax

17

3

29

4

619

93

665

Television

54

8

72

11

539

81

665

Teleconference

39

6

42

6

584

88

665

Total

991

 

1199

 

7785

 

9975

Percentage

10

 

12

 

78

 

 

Table 7 shows that that half of the learner population under study considered computer helpful in understanding the subject (high+average). However, 32% of the learners rated computer high on the scale of help derived from the media in understanding the subject.

Internet was considered as highly useful by 22% student population and viewed as average by 14% of them. Cumulatively this figure was 36%, which was next to computer in terms of usefulness of media followed by Gyan Darshan (30%) and telephone (29%).

Fax (93%), teleconferencing (88%), cable television (84%), Gyan Vani (82%), audio cassettes/CDs (81%), and Television (81%) were graded poor by more than 80% population under study on the scale of understanding the subject.

In order to compare various media on the scale of helpfulness in understanding the subject , Help index(Hs ) has been defined :

Hs = (Ih * fh + Ia *fa+ Ip*fp) / N

Where
fh= frequency of students considering high help from media in understanding the subject
fa = frequency of students considering average help from media in understanding the subject
fp = frequency of students considering poor help from media in understanding the subject
N = Total population of distance learners.

                                                                         Table 8
Indexing scheme

Index Value (I)

Description

3

High Help

2

Average Help

1

Poor Help

 
Table 9
Possible rating of media

Range

Explanations

Hs≥ 2.5

High Help

1.5Ł Hs <2.5

Average Help

Hs <1.5

Poor Help

Greater the Hs index value, higher the extent of help expected by learners from the media in understanding the subject. The Hs indices of various media in decreasing order of their helpfulness are given in table 10

Table 10
Hs index values of various media

Media/Tech

H-M-S-index

Computer

1.82

Internet

1.59

Gyan darshan

1.39

Telephone

1.38

Video cassettes/CDs

1.35

Audio cassettes/ CDs

1.28

Television

1.28

Gyan vani

1.23

Cable TV

1.22

Teleconference

1.18

Fax

1.09

Table 10 reveals that a poor rating towards understanding the subject matter has been given by the learners all media except computer and Internet. (1.5<Hs). They evaluated computer and Internet as being average helpful media. Computer (Hs=1.82) was considered as more helpful than internet (Hs=1.59) where as, fax was rated lowest helpful by the majority (Hs=1.09) on scale of understanding the subject.

Opinion of learners on various learning activities

Feedback of students were obtained on some practical issues related with the use of electronic media for their academic activities such as help of counselors in using various media, relevance and effectiveness of electronic media to their course, understandability of language thru electronic media used in distance education, and availability of necessary infrastructure at the study center etc. The agreement of the learners on five point scale i.e. strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagree, and strongly disagree are presented in table 11.

Table 11
Activities for media use

Activities

SD*

%

D*

%

U*

%

A*

%

SA*

%

Counselors in my programme provided help while using various media/ technologies

73

11

75

11.3

69

10.4

309

46.4

139

20.9

I was able to understand or follow various media/technologies adopted in my course material

61

9.2

28

4.2

76

11.4

365

54.9

135

20.3

Media/ technologies used in my programme are relevant

104

15.6

289

43.5

109

16.4

91

13.7

72

10.8

Media/technologies used in my programme are interesting

73

11

56

8.4

99

14.9

299

45

138

20.8

Language used in media/ technologies in the programme is difficult

175

26.3

242

36.4

119

17.9

108

16.2

21

3.2

My study centre has necessary physical facilities related to use of these media/ technologies

96

14.4

87

13.1

177

26.6

203

30.5

102

15.3

I am satisfied with time alloted for media use at my study centre.

389

58.5

102

15.3

54

8.1

92

13.8

28

4.2

I have participated in an online discussion

202

30.4

165

24.8

168

25.3

107

16.1

23

3.5

Watching video/audio is more interesting than studying the SIM

87

13.1

74

11.1

188

28.3

207

31.1

109

16.4

Watching video/audio is more useful than Studying the SIM

130

19.5

158

23.8

165

24.8

134

20.2

78

11.7

Use of electronic media is effective in improving you're my interest in studies

61

9.2

13

2

57

8.6

327

49.2

207

31.1

Use of electronic media is effective in improving my performance

56

8.4

13

2

64

9.6

330

49.6

202

30.4

·          SD= Strongly Disagree, D= Disagree, U= Undecided, A = Agree, SD= Strongly Agree

 

The observations on various activities based on table 11 are given below:

Help of counselors in using various media

67.3%of the respondents agreed (agreed + strongly agreed) that counselors provided helps in using media for their academic activities, 10.4 % were undecided on this issue while 11% disagreed with the statement and remaining 11.3% had shown their disagreement with more emphasis (strongly disagreed).

Following up of various media adopted in course material

Nearly 55% learners could follow (agreed) the various media adopted in their course materials, 20.3% showed their strong agreement on this issue. 11.4 % had shown their neutral opinion and the remaining population had opposed (strongly disagreed + disagreed) the said idea.

Relevance of electronic media

Cumulatively 69.1% students evaluated various media adopted in their course as non-relevant, only 24.5% participants had agreed (13.7%) or strongly agreed (10.8%) that electronic media used in their course were relevant. The remaining 16.4 had expressed their neutral opinion on the subject.

In response to the statement that media used in their programme were interesting, 45% of learners had shown their agreement 20.8 % expressed their strong agreement, 14.9% were neutral, and 19.4% showed their disagreement (disagreed + strongly disagreed).

Language of adopted media

Approximately 63% of students did not agree (disagreed + strongly disagreed) that language used in the media and technology adopted in their course was difficult, approximately 18% were indecisive about it and remaining 19% consented (agreed + strongly agreed) that language used in media were difficult to follow.

On the question of availability of necessary infrastructure at the study centre for using various media, agreement level of 15% student population was strong (strongly agreed), 31% students were moderate (agreed), 26% learners were undecided and remaining population registered their opposition (disagreed + strongly disagreed).

Satisfaction with allotted time for use of media at study centre

Nearly 74% student populations felt that time allotted for media use at the study centre was not adequate (disagreed + strongly disagreed). Approximately 18% seemed to be contented (agreed + strongly agreed) with the timings of media use at the study centre, while remaining 8% learners did not express their clear views.

In response to Participation in online learning only 19.5% of student population expressed their agreement to strong or moderate degree (agreed + strongly agreed), 55.2% replied negatively (disagreed + strongly disagreed) and remaining 25.3% perhaps could not understand the concept of online learning and showed their indecisiveness.

Effectiveness of audio-visuals

On the issue of comparing the effectiveness of audio/video with that of printed self instructional material in terms of their usefulness and interestingness, nearly 47.5% showed their agreement (agreed + strongly agreed) that learning through audio/video was more interesting than printed SIM, nearly 28.3% were neutral in their opinion and remaining 24.2% did not find audio/video lessons that interesting (disagreed + strongly disagreed). With regards to their usefulness 43.3% opposed the idea, 24.8% were undecided and remaining favoured the usefulness of audio/video lessons over printed SIM (agreed + strongly agreed).

Effectiveness of electronic media

With regards to effectiveness of electronic media in improving the interest of learners in studies as well as their performance, 80.1% of the learners felt that use of electronic media is effective in improving their interest in studies (agreed +strongly agreed), 11.2% showed their disagreement (disagreed + strongly disagreed) and remaining population could not express their clear opinion. Approximately similar opinion was expressed by learners in response to the effectiveness of electronic media in improving the overall performance of the learners. Their percentage wise break ups for various categories were: strongly agree (30.4%), agree (50%), undecided (9.6%) disagree (2%), and strongly disagree (8.4%)

In order to compare the agreement of learners on various practical aspects of use of electronic media, Agreement Index of each activity has been defined.

Agreement index (Ia) = (ISA * fSA+ IA *fA+ IU*fU+ ID *fD+ ISD*fSD) / N
 

Table 12
Indexing scheme

Index Value (I)

Accessibility

5

Strong Agreement

4

Agreement

3

Undecided ness

2

Disagreement

1

Strong Disagreement

 
Table 13
Possible rating of media

Range

Explanations

Ia 4.5

Strong Agreement

3.5Ia<4.5

Agreement

2.5≤Ia< 3.5

Undecided

1.5≤Ia <2.5

Disagreement

Ia< 1.5

Strong Disagreement

Agreement index of various activities are given in Table 13 in the decreasing order of their agreement. Higher the value, greater is the level of agreement for a particular academic activity.

It is evident from table 14 that agreement of learners on effectiveness of electronic media in improving their interest in studies as well as performance was higher in comparison with other activities under discussion. Similarly agreement index of satisfaction of learners with the time allotment for use of media at the study center reveals that most of them were not satisfied with media use time given to them at the study centres.

Table 14
Agreement indices of various activities

Activities

Agreement Index

Use of electronic media is effective in improving my interest in studies

3.9

Use of electronic media is effective in improving my performance

3.9

I was able to understand or follow various media/technologies adopted in my course material

3.7

Counselors in my programme provided help while using various media/ technologies

3.6

Media/technologies used in my programme are interesting

3.6

Watching video/audio is more interesting than studying the SIM

3.3

My study centre has necessary physical facilities related to use of these media/ technologies

3.2

Watching video/audio is more useful than Studying the SIM

3.2

Media/ technologies used in my programme are relevant

2.6

I have participated in an online discussion

2.4

Language used in media/ technologies in the programme is difficult

2.3

I am satisfied with time allotted for media use at the study centre.

1.9

 

Problems faced in the use of electronic media

The reported problems as faced by learners in the use of media are presented below.

  • Relevant audio video cassettes/ CDs as per the requirement of the course are generally not available.

  • The counseling sessions are arranged on Saturday/ Sunday’s, and in the evening hours of working days. On the same day and time approximately 7-8 counseling sessions are scheduled for which audio video are also available, but due to availability of only one television all groups cannot use the audiovisuals.

  • Timing of teleconferencing did not suit to learners. During counseling through teleconferencing, mostly counselors were not available to explain the concepts dealt by the resource persons. The problem gets further aggravated because of poor communication with the resource persons at studio because of constant telephone calls from many centers and less time allotment for interaction. As such may queries of the learners remained unanswered.

  • Non-receipt of schedules of radio counseling and programmes telecasted through Gyan Darshan, teleconferencing, morning television and Gyan Vani.

  • Facility to access Internet at the study centers is mostly not available.

  • Most of the local cable operators are reluctant to telecast Gyan Darshan channel.

  • Power failure

  • Non-availability of trained manpower to operate various media.

Suggestions

The suggestions given by distance learners to improve the electronic media usage in distance education mainly pertained to the proper accessibility and relevance of various media as given below.

  • Media for the sake of adaptability only should not be considered, but the media, which could be accessed by the students and relevant to the course, should be included in course curriculum.

  • Counselors/Study Centres Staff/ Student also should be trained in handling various media.

  • Access to internet should be made available at the study centres.

  • More general type of information should be placed at the web site of respective universities. It should be regularly updated.

  • Functionaries of open universities should be instructed to respond to the queries of the learners sent through e-mail in time. In absence of any response learner gets de-motivated.

Conclusions:

The analysis on feedback of learners indicated that distance education has been accepted by nearly all segments of society; ranging from eighteen-year-old student to a service man, who is nearing his retirement, 10th class pass learners to Ph.D. holders. Open universities have been successful in their endeavor of making learning a life long activity.

With a view to exploring the possibilities of reaching the learners with the help of various electronic media, they were requested to give their viewpoint on various aspects pertaining to the usage of media in distance education. On the question of usefulness of various media in their learning activities, the learners envisaged supplementary role of electronic media, by grading the usefulness of all media (under study) except computer and Internet, as poor. In their opinion, help extended by computer and Internet was also considered as average. This indicates the student’s preference for computer and Internet.

Trend in media use by the learners did not present a very encouraging state of affair, as except telephone; none of the media were used by more than half the population. The poor availability of media to learners either at their home, residence or at the study centers could be the probable reason for the same. This also confirms the study conducted by Voyageur (2001) on learners of first nation’s community in Canada, who concluded that use and availability of electronic media were closely linked.

The agreement index of the learners also reveals that most of the learners were not satisfied with the time allotted for media use and many learners were also not sure of the availability of necessary infrastructures at the study centers. This puts more responsibility on the part of open universities to see to the proper accessibility of media before adopting it for their course curriculum, otherwise a gap between media haves and have-nots will be created and the very purpose of open universities to bring education to the doorsteps of the learners will be defeated.

References

Dyer, C. (1995). Beginning Research in Psychology: A practical Guide to Research Methods and Statistics. UK: Blackwell Publishers.

Harry, K. and Khan, A.W.(2000). The use of technologies in basic education. In Yates, C. and Bradley, J. (eds.) Basic Education at a Distance: World review of distance education and open learning, volume 2, London and New York, Routledge Falmer and Commonwealth of Learning.

Khan, A.W. and Dikshit, H.P.(2006). Emergence of distance education media network. In Garg, S. et al. (eds.). Four decades of distance education in India, reflections on policy and Practice, New Delhi: Viva books private limited.

Khan, A.W. and McWilliams, P. (1998). Application of Interactive Technology in open and Distance Learning: An overview, India Journal Open Learning, 7 (1), pp. 7-21.

Raghubanshi, A.S. and Mishra, S.(1996). Satellite technology and student support services, Paper in 10th AAOU Conference, Tehran, Iran as cited by Mishra, S. (1999). An empirical analysis of interactivity in Teleconferencing, Indian Journal of Open Learning, 8 (3), pp. 243-253.

Voyageur, J.C. (2001). Ready, willing and Able: Prospectus for Distance Learning in Canadian First Nations Community, Journal of Distance Education, 16 (1), pp. 102-112.

Acknowledgement

Ashwini Kumar sincerely acknowledges the partial financial support received from the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia, New Delhi (http://www.cemca.org) towards completion of this research.

 

About the Authors

Ashwini Kumar

Ashwini Kumar Ph.D. is presently working as Deputy Director at Jaipur Regional center (Rajasthan) of Indira Gandhi National Open University. His doctoral work is based on an exhaustive survey on status, effectiveness, suitability, and impact of electronic media in distance education from perspective of learners and functionaries namely faculties, counselors and coordinators of open universities in India. Besides, he has several research papers and book chapters to his credit.

He also had distinguished academic career and received many scholarships at national level during his studies.

 Ashwini Kumar, Ph.D., Deputy Director,
IGNOU Regional Centre, JAIPUR, Rajasthan (INDIA)

Email: ashwini_ak@yahoo.com
 

Ramesh Sharma

Ramesh Sharma Ph.D. is an Educational Technologist currently working as Regional Director in Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He has been a teacher trainer also and has taught Educational Technology, Educational Research and Statistics, Educational Measurement and Evaluation, Special Education, Psychodynamics of Mental Health Courses for the B.Ed. and M.Ed. Programmes. He is the co-Editor of 'Asian Journal of Distance Education' (www.ASIANJDE.org). He has co-authored one book on distance education research and very recently one of his co-edited book on "Interactive Multimedia in Education and Training" has come out from IDEA group, USA. He is also on the Advisory Board Member and author for the "Encyclopedia of Distance Learning" (http://www.idea-group.com/encyclopedia/details.asp?ID=4500&v=editorialBoard)

 Ramesh C. Sharma, Regional Director,
Indira Gandhi National Open University, India

Email: rc_sharma@yahoo.com
 

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