Learning online

Print edition : June 04, 2004

IN recent years, the concept of e-learning appears to have caught the imagination of students who seek a cost-effective alternative to actually going abroad to study. Recently, Loyola College became the first college in Chennai to gain access to the international Gale Group's online service through the Chennai-based Edutech India. Two other Chennai-based institutions - the TB Research Centre (ICMR) and Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS) - have also subscribed to this service. Students from other colleges and the knowledge-seeking members of the public can also access the international database of reference material.

The Gale Group, an operating unit of the Thomson Learning Division (TLD) of the Thomson Corporation, claims to be the largest publisher of reference material in the world. Its online database gives users access to over 6,000 international journals, which include full texts and abstracts, with relevant information dating back to 20 years. The content includes encyclopaedias, almanacs, bibliographies, biographies, statistics, monographs and directories. More than two lakh researchers across the globe access more than 10 million web pages on their online databases every day. The Gale Group also publishes more than four million essays or entries, two million indexed periodical articles, 50,000 photographs, diagrams and maps, which can be accessed by students.

Loyola College, which invested more than Rs.1 lakh to subscribe to the service, offers it free of cost to its students. This is done on the college's own intranet, which connects all the departments by optical fibre cable. Students can access reference material on any discipline from all over the world, either from the computers in their departments or at the college's Internet centre. The result is substantial savings to the students and the college since subscription to specialised journals in print would be costly and the journals would take time to reach the hands of the students.

Loyola College has also entered into a tie-up with Egraduate Institute India Pvt. Ltd. for providing online education to its students. Its parent company, Egraduate Pvt. Ltd, is an education management service company devoted to "promoting, harnessing and facilitating e-learning through interaction, collaboration and learning by appropriate integration of web technology". The company claims to provides a "one-stop service for education programmes, corporate training courses and further education-related services". Through its education portal, Egraduate offers corporations and institutions of higher learning an opportunity to obtain access to a range of corporate training courses and certificate, diploma and university degree programmes.

Apart from its tie-up with Loyola College, Egraduate also has a tie-up with the Mohammad Sathak group of colleges, offering full-time and part-time courses to their students.

A spokesperson of Egraduate told Frontline that the company catered to students "who may chose to do foreign-based undergraduate or post-graduate programmes locally and be awarded with a degree, which carries the same recognition as studying abroad in that university." Students have the option of completing their first year and second year in India and completing the final year in the U.K. or Australia, or may choose to complete the entire programme in India. Naturally, the fee for the former programme will be higher.

Irrespective of the options that are chosen, students will be assured of the fullest attention towards their aspirations in obtaining internationally recognised qualifications. Egraduate claims that its trained student counsellors will assist students in choosing the right course.

Its courses are offered in three modes. The full-time mode offers students "extensive coaching and tutorials", conducted by the company's partner college faculty members. Classes are conducted throughout the day as in the case of normal undergraduate programmes. The part-time mode is meant for those who are working, with classes being conducted on weekends and in the evenings. The online mode is meant for those who are unable to attend classes, in a "virtual learning environment on the web".

Egraduate claims that the e-learning system drives students to be more creative and inquisitive, using new technologies. Moreover, students have the flexibility to access course notes and participate in online chats and discussion forums to communicate with their facilitators at their convenience. The company informed Frontline that being a flexible system, it offers an alternative to "traditional classroom-type courses". Students are able to submit assignments on the web although examinations are held at designated venues in the written format.

A letter from the Editor

Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.


R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

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