Building Knowledge Communities Through e-Education


By

Dr. Sudhindra Bhat
MBA, MFM, PGDIR&PM, PGDS&MM, M.Phil, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Institute of Finance and International Management
Bangalore
 


Introduction

The impact of globalization is having substantial effects among various sectors of most nations. We are looking to maximize educational potential in rural areas. Taking this into consideration, government may choose powerful strategies aimed at development of rural area.  In other words, encouraging maximum participation in the economic and intellectual life of a community to develop and build knowledge society. Strong agricultural competition and globalization has accelerated rural depopulation.  Today the whole world moving towards information based society. After all information is knowledge and knowledge is wisdom. Universal Access of information is essential for 'human resource development' to empower knowledge community through e-Education.

Today there is a need to provide education in rural area for upgrading and building knowledge of marginalised populations. But it is very difficult and costly to provide infrastructure facility in rural area. Providing universal access facility, governments should look to e-Education as a strategy for promotional activity and build knowledge society. Information Technology is changing speedily at which knowledge provides a different challenge in the knowledge society. To upgrade knowledge some of the large companies provide their employees with on-the-job training through electronic. It means that training costs are building knowledge accelerated. In the fastest changing environments the marginilised people are often unwilling or unable to leave either place of work or homes. So there is need to provide education at their doorstep. Basically this is useful for the people namely, students, rural resident, farmers, workers, and others. The need of these peoples is different, so we must focus on suitable or optimal education.

Need of the e-Education:

We are using Distance Education for geographically isolated students, those students who are not able to attend the class. There are a number of Open Universities/Institutes which conduct Correspondence courses at various level. At present distance education is delivered by a variety of means including print, radio, television, CD ROM and Web at various levels. People are not isolated by virtue of geographical location alone but sometimes a culture makes difference. To bridge this gap e-Education can be used and developed to take account of cultural difference (Language). We must account for these kinds of issues through e-Education and develop the rural area.  In India ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is playing important role to bridge the digital divide gap. Divide means haves and have not, the poor and the rich, urban and rural, south and north. The cost of e-Education is not affordable to people with low incomes. For this problem we need to share resources through either government or sponsorship or by public provision. e-Education provides group of people to create and develop or to upgrade their knowledge and skills by communicating with others through web. With 40% of the Indian population being illiterate, 100 million of school children not getting a schooling, there is only way India will get educated if e-Education is used to deliver it. But there are the hurdles of cost and technology issues in India.

Initiatives Towards e-Education in India

A phenomenal growth in the Indian Economy primarily fuelled by the service sector has been because of the Information Technology Industry. It is interesting to study the contribution of this growth engine in the lives of about 70% of the 1 billion Indians; the 700 million who live in the rural areas. Major initiatives have been undertaken by the governments in focusing on the issues relating to universal access of information. In most of the country Information and Communication Technologies  (ICT) is used as tool for development. It is necessity to provide Universal Access (UA) for rural areas. Universal Service (US) is a different from Universal Access (UA). Universal Service means that every household in the country has communication service. UA means that everyone in a community can gain access to an available telephone. UA may available through pay phones, tele-centers or even single entrepreneurs who market/provides e-Educational services. The emphasis of such services to rural, remote and lower income users thorough e-Education.

The working group recommended several projects for the centre and the states to be undertaken for rural areas. Several schemes were mooted specifically targeted on rural India. For the purpose of spreading e-Education, Modified Vidyarthi Computer Programme was designed and launched. The Ministry of Rural Development also launched programmes like CRISP (Computerized Rural Information Systems Project) and CAPART (Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology). There have been a few success stories in empowering the rural India with IT. Ministry of Rural development is implementing a countrywide programme for land record computerization in collaboration with states. Infrastructure for this project has been set up in 534 districts. In Rajasthan, An information System for 'mandis' connects 236 'mandis' on-line providing daily rates of all the 'mandis' by 4 PM. In Karnataka, the Bhoomi project is a major scheme of the government to computerize 190 lakh land records concerning 60 lakh farmers. Gyandoot is a lead project of M.P. government under which 21 rural cyber cafes, called 'Soochnalayas', have been established in the district of Dhar. The services provided by these centres include commodity/ mandi marketing information, issues of copies of land records (khatauni and map), on-line registration for issue of income, caste, domicile certificates, Hindi email etc.

Another major private sector initiatives has been the ITC e-Choupal projects which have created value for the company and provided socio-economic benefits to the farming community by encouraging direct marketing by the farmers. All the information, products and services they need to enhance farm productivity, improve farm-gate price realization and cut transaction costs. M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, in an experiment in electronic knowledge delivery to the poor, have connected ten villages near Pondicherry in southern India by a hybrid wired and wireless network that facilitates both voice and data transfer, and have enabled the villagers to get information that they need. The Sustainable Access in Rural India project (SARI) seeks to show that viable markets exist for information and communication services in rural poor areas by inventing and deploying innovative technologies, assessments, and business models. A few groups like TeNet have been developing low cost solution based Business Models for the rural Areas.

As is evident from the above facts, the effort thus far has been localized without the focus or backing of a central e-Education policy for the rural India.

In order to ensure that technological innovations, of which e-learning is an example, are diffused and adopted, it is necessary for those involved in projects to have an understanding of the client group who will be using the technologies so that implementation issues are socially and educationally acceptable. In some instances, client groups may feel uncertain or negative about proposed technologies. Exploration of these issues and the subsequent development of positive attitudes to the proposals might enhance the uptake of e-education.

As with many developments, especially in the technology area, new products arrive on the market with remarkable frequency that are capable of increasing the capacity of hardware or the ingenuity of software. Timely and effective communications with intended users enhances their awareness of the benefits e-education systems can bring. Once potential users are awareness of what can be achieved by e-education, then accessible and affordable training has to be provided. Training involves the development and delivery of self-help packages as well as face-to-face contact, with its attendant seminars and itinerancy visits.

Underpinning the e-Education strategies is the assumption that the infrastructural backbone of communications technologies such as cabling, satellite links and bandwidth is available to users.  For example, many low-socioeconomic urban places may be well served with fibre optic cables while wealthier rural towns may still rely on copper wires for telecommunications. e-Education strategic planners need to take into account these structural issues when designing flexibly delivered teaching and learning packages.

e-Education Strategies:

Universal Access of information is an important factor in any strategy of development to empower the rural area (masses). e-Education is a new concept and as with other innovations it will meet with resistance.  The following strategies might be considered by those involved with e-Education.

Social Impact - A social impact of the development the values of upgrading skills and knowledge though e-Education.

Environment and Awareness - Creating a positive environment and awareness is required. A deep understanding of the culture is needed into which the learning is to be introduced. This takes time, zeal and energy.

Political Support Funds are not available without political support.

Pedagogically Sound - It should be considered that the contents/material of e-Education must be pedagogically sound. Contents especially in the "web based " environment are prepared by using regional language. It carries and attracts community or a specific group of people to create 'knowledge community'. It should be linked with society for successful adoption of e-Education.

Practices - The delivery and practicalities of e-education, the methods of teaching and learning and the actual delivering strategies suitable for professionals and society. 

Change in technology Upgradation of suitable hardware, software, maintenance and technology should be considered.

Technology Infrastructure - Successful participation in e-Education requires suitable and also personal expenditure on technology (computers, software, packages and network etc). There are peoples/groups, which it support collective acquisition of the above facilities, especially in rural (low income) areas. 

By using the above strategies people can improve economic efficiency, develop skilled workers, upgrade skills, enhanced business communications and access/share to global knowledge.

Response to e-Education

Government of India have made educational provision available for all in a variety of people way through schools, teachers and the correspondence system. The Correspondence School provides support to rural area and urban area. Many schools are closing for economic reasons as the population moves from rural to urban areas. Response for e-Education is very good in developed country and underdeveloped country. We need to create awareness about e-Education in undeveloped country.

How to bring e-Education?

Remote Students

By using print based system the Correspondence School (CS) has been serving needs of the isolated students. Recently CS used an electronic interface to its students for example Web Based Computer Training or e-mail and chatting system or synchronous/asynchronous methods. e-Education will become global education that will be available to students of all age groups and genders.  There is now a move towards a more co-operative learning approach between institutions to service and develop rural area.

Learners Learning Support

Both government and industry should support for the rural development through funds, creating infrastructure and sponsoring/supporting students specially in rural area.

People Support

Provide education through radio and television programme in rural area by using regional language. Use of Video conferencing technology to raise achievement standards in rural areas. This type of development helps to build knowledge communities of peoples (learners), Use specific language and culture and give students greater access of knowing. 

Facilitators/professional

Accountability and quality are the important factors in the professional world for decision making. Facilitators have to adopt the lifelong learning agenda.  Through e-Education professional can do lifelong learning. This kind of knowledge is now deliverable using CBT, and web-based training methods; these students can continue to learn while physically staying/being at home or at the workplace. The e-Learning materials developed for learners outside the institution are deliverable anywhere in the world (specially in rural areas). 

Costs and Economic factors

Standard Module: Today at introductory level it is costly but if we develop standard module, which will serve the need of the rural area at very large scale then it will become cheaper.

Infrastructural costs: cost of cables, networks and other transmission systems;

Package costs: cost of the selected software development package cost. Purchase, upgrade, licensing and compliance costs;

Methods for development: Quantifying the economic impact of e-education is not yet possible. e-Education costs can be identified using techniques developed for learning packages.

Peripherals costs: such as computers, scanners, web camera, multimedia kit, modems and printers;

CMS (Content Management System) cost: cost of developers to develop and trial learning materials; and copyright and other licensing issues.

e-Education Benefits

e-Education benefits depends on learners and facilitators. It also depends on community, culture and language. Considering this factor the following benefits would be considered.

It can be accessed globally through network (Universal Access and Universal Service).

Build knowledge comminutes by using self-learning or collaborative learning package. It will used for self learning purpose people without instructor.

It is beneficial for rural areas by preservation of local culture electronically

By using e-Education we can transfers knowledge speedily.

It is useful for dissemination of information through web in rural area.

It is beneficial for upgrading skills and building knowledge. It is lifelong learning for all who wish to access it.

Conclusion

Developed and under developed Countries have started adopting e-Education. Government of India has taken strong steps towards e-Education. The idea of building knowledge community through e-Education has taken hold. The methods of delivering e-Education are better understood for all levels of people. It is beneficial to people those who having universal access. It requires large amount of investment in the technologies and infrastructure. It is long term investment for which there may not be immediately economic return but significant social and educational profits. It is more useful for rural areas those villages located at remote places. It will proved to be the best-suited alternative for rural education and service delivery. 

In this context verifying the implications for governments and education service providers can be highlighted. It is necessary to identify targets communities, their characteristics in terms of attitudes towards e-Education. Characteristics may span over various aspects such as social, technological, personal and community level. Confidence of providers of e-education must be with respect to time and effort, which is definitely a risky business. Both providers and clients of e-Education should have strongly believe in power of information technology as far as its expandability is concerned. In India the infrastructure is improving as new technologies come available but it is need to identify specific community and understand their needs.

References

1. Darnell, F. and Higgins, A.H., (1983). Factors and Issues in Australian Rural Education: A Case for New Perspectives, in Browne, R.K. and Foster, L.E. Sociology of Education (3rd ed), Melbourne. MacMillan. p. 29.

2. MEGAN SANTOSUS, Leadership training courses target what's different about IT execs ; http://www.cio.com/archive/110103/hs_class.html

3. Pingali Rajeswari "Computers on wheels" for people centered development : http://www.maavooru.net

4. Shyamal Ghosh, Bridging the Digital Divide Options for India, 3rd National Workshop Hyderabad, CSI Communication, Feb - 2004 p 4.

5. Rogers, E.M. (1995). Diffusion of Innovations (4th ed). New York. Free Press.

6. http://www.emergic.org/archives/2003/08/07/index.html

7. http://www.emergic.org/archives/indi/004903.php

8. http://www.jhalawar.nic.in/janmitra.htm
 


Dr. Sudhindra Bhat
MBA, MFM, PGDIR&PM, PGDS&MM, M.Phil, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Institute of Finance and International Management
Bangalore
 

Source: E-mail October 2, 2006

     

Back to Articles 1-99 / Back to Articles 100-199 / 200 onwards / Faculty Column Main Page

 

Important Note :
Site Best Viewed in Internet
Explorer in 1024x768 pixels
Browser text size: Medium