Campus Watch: What will Maharashtra’s first online university look like?

In her budget speech, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the creation of a digital university – a necessity triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent shift to virtual learning – but there has been no clarity on plans to implement it. Even as the Center is developing a roadmap for the same, the government of Maharashtra is already working on establishing a virtual university following an announcement it made two months ago.

On February 17, a committee set up under the chairmanship of the former Vice-Chancellor of Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), Dr. RK Shegaonkar, will meet to deliberate on the nature, function and structure of the university – its second meeting in a month.

The committee has been instructed to study the provisions of the National Education Policy 2020 as well as the structure of online universities established in foreign countries and come up with a framework for the establishment of such an online university in Maharashtra.

Dr. Vasudev Gade, Vice President of Vishwakarma University and former VC of SPPU who is another committee member, said similar universities exist in the US and UK. “We must first study the administrative and operational structures, how do these digital universities work? Then we have to study how these universities are constituted. We had a meeting earlier and now we are meeting after some time, in the meantime we have studied the universities established abroad,” he said.

“More importantly, we need to find the distinction between them and traditional universities. If the same business, arts and science degrees are offered online, where there is no requirement to physically attend or take lengthy paper-based exams, wouldn’t that impact universities? traditional? Gade pointed out.

The committee compiles a list of the types of courses that may be offered by the university, with particular emphasis on skills-based education and technology-based courses.

In its directive to the committee, the state government tasked it with studying all aspects of establishing an online university, including those related to its curriculum, lectures, study materials, its teaching staff and references, as well as the necessary training. , the study centers and their structures, the necessary human resources, the infrastructures, the examinations and results, and the courses offered via traditional universities.

He should also study their distance learning programs, course duration, and fee structure, among others. The committee was also asked to suggest whether it would be viable to create an online university or rather to make courses from non-agricultural universities and colleges available online.

Gade said the pandemic has caused many “disruptions” in the education sector, some of which may lead to positive and permanent changes in course delivery, pedagogy and approach to education.

“It’s a new way of delivering education and while we’ve been forced to confront it during a pandemic, perhaps now we need to internalize and integrate it, at least as an alternative way. If we offer the same courses, we need to provide some differentiation in terms of who they can be offered to or certain prerequisites, so that online universities work alongside traditional universities or in conjunction with them. , however, is envisioned as an independent, self-sufficient entity, delivering its own courses and issuing its own degrees. Something along the lines of education anywhere for anyone,” Gade said.

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