Rama Krishna Sangem
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced in her budget speech for 2022-23 that a Digital University would be launched in the coming financial year. Obviously the job of putting in place this university falls on the union education ministry and University Grants Commission (UGC) which looks after the universities in the country.
Indications suggest that both the education ministry and UGC are still to come to terms with the arrangements to launch a Digital University. Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan is busy with UP assembly elections and will not be available till at least March 10, the counting day. If BJP falls short of numbers, he will be busy for some more days for government formation.
UGC got a new chairman Prof Mamidala Jagadish who is known for administrative skills in education sector by heading JNU as VC for the last five years. Now the question is what the imperatives of the digital university and how are they can be translated into reality. Already, we have a national open varsity – Indira Gandhi National Open University, which imparts distance learning classes.
Now, this proposed digital university will compete with Edutech firms – Byju, Unacademy etc – which completely rely on online teaching. So, the classes of this digital varsity will be meant for smartphones, tabs and laptops too. They have to be different from several TV channels run by the education ministry currently.
Content may be the same, but the modes of teaching have to be different for digital platforms, which require Internet connectivity even in remote areas. We must remember that even 2G and3G are not available in some areas, leave alone 4G and the proposed 5G. Will the digital university run MOOC (mass online open courses) or prepare lessons for regular students? UGC will find answers.
Currently, Kerala is running a digital university and this can be a model for the central varsity too