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Distance Education In The Era Of Social Distancing

Dr. M. Abul Kashem Mozumder & Dr. Md Shairul Mashreque

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17th-Sep-2020       
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Distance education, or distance learning, involves the students 'who may not always be physically present at a school. Traditionally, this usually involved correspondence courses wherein the student corresponded with the school via post.' This is also termed as on-line education.
London University was the first university to offer distance learning degrees in 1858.  London  university was  in power to institutionalize distant learning approach to conduct the examinations leading to degrees would be given to a new officially recognized entity called the University of London, which would act as examining body for the University of London colleges, originally University College London.
The regular technical school or college is to educate a man broadly; our aim, on the contrary, is to educate him only along some particular line. The college demands that a student shall have certain educational qualifications to enter it and that all students study for approximately the same length of time; when they have finished their courses they are supposed to be qualified to enter any one of a number of branches in some particular profession.'
The Open University revolutionized the scope of the correspondence program and helped to create a respectable learning alternative to the traditional form of education. It has been at the forefront of developing new technologies to improve the distance learning service as well as undertaking research in other disciplines. However, the OU accepted its first 25,000 students in 1971, adopting a radical open admissions policy. At the time, the total student population of conventional universities in the United Kingdom was around 130,000.
The need for an open university in Bangladesh was felt long ago. The history of distance education in Bangladesh dates back to 1956 when the Education Directorate was assigned with the responsibility for distribution of 200 radio receivers to educational institutions. This led to the creation of an Audio-Visual Cell, which was upgraded to the Audio-Visual Education Centre in 1962. No further progress in distance education was made till 1971.
After Independence, Bangladesh faced the challenge of meeting the educational needs of mass people. To meet this challenge the necessity for a new mode of education was widely felt. As a sequel to that feeling, the School Broadcasting Pilot Project was launched in 1978. The project was transformed into National Institute of Educational Media and Technology (NIEMT) in 1983. NIEMT was later replaced by the Bangladesh Institute of Distance Education (BIDE) in 1985. Apart from producing audio-visual materials, BIDE offered the Bachelor of Education (BEd) program in distance mode. The success of BIDE encouraged policymakers to take up a major plan for establishing an open university. The plan became a reality in October 1992.
Bangladesh Open University (abbreviated as BOU) is the only public university in Bangladesh for distant learning. It was established in 1992 by Bangladesh Open University act. This university offers various courses in hybrid distant learning method. The main campus of the university is in Gazipur near Dhaka and there are twelve regional resource centers in the country. Students need to contact to the regional resource center for admission and exam related matter. Now Bangladesh Open University uses television and radio to deliver lectures. The books are written in such a way that students can understand the lessons without the help of a course tutor. Moreover the university arranges one or two classes in a week.'
Distance education should become a replicable model of learning and examination in the era of social distancing. For the techniques of distance learning are very modern associating students with the process of learning.  The two methods can be combined. Many courses offered by both open universities and an increasing number of campus-based institutions use periodic sessions of residential or day teaching to supplement the sessions delivered at a distance. This type of mixed distance and campus-based education has recently come to be called less often "hybrid learning". Many open universities use a blend of technologies and a blend of learning modalities (face-to-face, distance, and hybrid) all under the rubric of "distance learning". Distance learning can also use interactive radio instruction (IRI), interactive audio instruction (IAI), online  virtual digital games, webinars, and webcasts, all of which are referred to as e-Learning.
Covid-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization. Most common symptoms are fever, dry cough and tiredness. Less common symptoms are aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, a rash on skin or discolouration of fingers or toes.
The benefits of open education approach knew no bounds. In the era of social distancing education with distant learning technologies should be pervasive. All public and private universities, colleges and institutes should follow it in the situation of corona pandemic. The Covid-19 has resulted in education institutions shut all across the world. Globally, over 1.2 billion students are out of the classroom. As a result, education has changed dramatically, with the distinctive rise of e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms. Online learning has been shown to increase retention of information, and take less time, meaning the changes coronavirus have caused might be here to stay. With this sudden shift away from the classroom in many parts of the globe, some are wondering whether the adoption of online learning will continue to persist post-pandemic, and how such a shift would impact the worldwide education market.

(Dr. Mozumder is Pro VC, BUP and Dr. Mashreque is former Professor of Chittagong University)

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