As edtech gains prominence in the Covid-19 world, the government now wants to monetise its online education courses under SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds). A Livemint report said that education regulators University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved an internal proposal asking higher education institutions to pay for the scheme, which promotes online courses and hosts them on a dedicated platform.
The proposal entails educational institutions to pay the government 15% of the fee collected from students for offering the courses. The meeting details said, “The commission ratified… the decision of the Swayam board to ask each recognised higher educational institution offering programs on Swayam portal, to pay 15% of the fees collected from students to the Swayam scheme… and to request the Swayam board to make it a cost-effective platform for higher educational institutions.”
SWAYAM is the government’s flagship online learning platform providing open online courses with 140 universities with approved credit transfer features. The platform is said to have over 1.9K courses covering school and higher education and has 1.57 Cr students enrolled till January 2020. In FY’18-19, $6.2 Mn was allocated for the scheme, which is 14% lower than allocation two years ago ($7.2 Mn).
The report added that the government plans for education to be a mix of online and offline mode. “The government through top institutions is creating hundreds of courses and it has a cost. A portion of the money that universities charge their students should come to the scheme to make it a viable proposition in the long run,” it added.
The ministry of human resource development (MHRD) has noted in a series of campaigns that students should utilise lockdown by learning new courses or continue their ongoing courses online through MHRD’s online learning and information and communication technology initiatives.
For this, multiple people asked the government to increase the variety of courses on the platform and allow the transfer of course credits for all universities.
Recently, education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal said in a tweet, “To provide enhanced learning opportunities to 3.7 crore students in higher education and expand e-learning by liberalising open, distance, and online education regulatory framework, the top 100 universities will start online courses.”
The debate on the effectiveness of online learning has been a point of contention for many. It’s been argued that the expertise of a good teacher cannot be replicated in an online classroom where one-on-one observation of a student’s behaviour is not possible and even peer-learning becomes a far-fetched concept. Yet, the coronavirus lockdown has forced the world to experiment with online education.
In a related development, on Saturday (May 23), the Delhi government had submitted to Delhi high court that if Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category students in private schools were unable to access classes online during the lockdown due to lack of devices or the internet, schools must take steps to ensure they can. The submission was made by the Directorate of Education (DOE) in response to a plea filed by Justice For All, an NGO, which contended that several students belonging to the EWS and disadvantaged groups were unable to access classes online due to the lack of availability of these devices. The NGO contended that the decision of private, unaided schools to conduct online classes would affect over 50,000 students who cannot afford laptops, phones or high-speed internet.