E-learning in India: The electronic way to learning

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Historical Background of Indian Education

The Gurukula System
The Gurukula System

In the past, education for everyone was a difficult notion for the Indian government as the most traditional systems of education such as Gurukula (one system of imparting knowledge, and the Brahmacharya (celibacy) system (which refrained women and children from accessing education) were popular in those days. So education in India became a prime concern for the nation and the people of the nation.
After independence, education for all was the mission of the government. The unhealthy practice of discriminations was removed by the 86th Constitutional Amendments and education has been made compulsory for the age group 6 to 14. The significant gap between the rate of urban and rural literacy is being bridged and the UGC was set up in the year 1953 to regulate the processes of educational development in the country. Currently, there are 17000 plus colleges, around 20 universities (central), 217 universities (state), and many deemed universities as well as national institutions. The national institutions of international fame are the IIT's and the IIM's. The Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad holds a global rank of 15 in the field of management education (www.mapsofindia.com/education)

The Evolution of e-Learning in India

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In the present century, it is doubtless to say that India has begun her mission of crumbling the ivory towers of traditionalism in teaching and learning process. In other words, India is marching ahead to embrace e-learning culture for various reasons. According to Williams and Goldberg (2005), the main reason is ,the Indian government’s realization of the fact that a robust higher education sector is vital for international competitiveness and a subsequent inflow of funding. The government has set an objective of making universities more market-oriented. There is pressure on universities to be a lot more creative in producing effective learners who can contribute well to the society. Universities are forced to address the needs of non-traditional learners as their number is increasing gradually.
According to the 1999 Trade Organisation’s Education Services Report, by 2020, demand for higher education in India is predicted to grow dramatically. So it has been estimated that the growth in non-traditional learners numbers would pave way to the development of new courses which require crystal clear evidence of learner centeredness. So the present day student profiles are gradually changing, specifically socially and economically. E-learning has been recognized as effective medium for the delivery of tertiary-level courses, allowing students to become fitful members of the society. The educators and professionals have found flexible delivery as a mantra for tertiary educational institutions as they seek to satisfy the existing non-traditional students.
Nowadays, e-learning providers are mushrooming everywhere in the midst of the so called traditional educational institutions. So as Goldberg & Williams (2001) pointed out, e-learning in India is turning out to be evolutionary, not revolutionary and it can no longer be regarded as a fad or the realm of the nerd.

Is e-Learning occurring in India?

The answer is a big ‘Yes’. According to Dutta & Mia (2010),
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  • More and more working professionals are interested in e-learning because of the flexibility that it offers.
  • They predicted that e-learning will soon become a great tool to enhance qualifications and getting promotions in the job market
  • High quality e-learning solutions are developed in different sectors such as IT, automobile technology etc.
  • Prominent places such as Mumbai and Bangalore are becoming prominent centres for providing e-learning tutorials.
The recent initiatives of the government include the following;
  • An Information Technology teacher should be appointed in every school.
  • Foreign universities are being given green signals to open campus in India. These universities are also collaborating with Indian institutions to disperse combined curricula.

So, india, with its diversity fascinates one and all by trying to implement e-learning initiatives recently. As a result Indian Education has recently been gaining world recognition.The Indian economy has grown in leaps and bounds in the recent years and hence there is a necessity to educate the masses to accelerate the growth process. It is interesting to note how the Indian education e-learning system is working.
The following link will provide the development of e-learning in India.
Kapil Bhatia, a teacher in India strongly hopes that if education reaches to everyone , and every corner of the nation, e-learning becomes a successful venture as it is closely tied to education for everyone. He mentions some of the big challenges for India to implement successful e-learning education could be the technology hurdles, language barriers and proper infrastructure. The following link would take us to understand how can teachers provide e-learning effectively by being creative and innovative.

The truth not to be forgotten in the successful implementation of e-learning:
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The efforts of uplifting the standards of Indian e-learning education may not always meet with success as there remains constant hurdles such as hurdles in accessibility, poverty and other factors. Due to widespread poverty the government of India may not be able to achieve its expected success in the implemented projects. This requires a complete change in the attitudes of the rulers of the nation!

Viewing through Hofstede's Cross-Cultural Dimensions;

(description of dimensions here or click each title to view Hofstede's figures)
**Power Distance Index (PDI)**
From the figures, it can be understood that India has highest PDI indication compared to the other dimensions. In other words, a high level of inequality exists in various areas such as power, wealth, caste and education. A High Power Distance ranking indicates that inequalities of power and wealth have been allowed to grow within the society. These societies are more likely to follow a caste system that does not allow significant upward mobility of its citizens(http://www.cyborlink.com/besite/hofstede.htm). When we analyze the Indian classroom culture through this lens, we can find power discrepancy between teacher and the taught. Teachers are considered as gurus who transfer knowledge to their subordinates-students. Students are considered as passive recipients of knowledge, thus unequal power distribution exists between two parties; teachers and students.
**Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)**
As far as Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) is concerned, India occupies the lowest rank compared to other countries. Indian culture is more open to unstructured ideas and situations. Indians have fewer rules and regulations with which they try to attempt control of unknown and unexpected events or situations. According to Tylee (2001), in these cultures teachers are allowed not to know all the answers (there can be more than one answer), are able to run open-minded classes and discussions and are expected to speak in understandable language. Low Uncertainty Avoidance ranking indicates the country has less concern about ambiguity and uncertainty and has more tolerance for a variety of opinions. This is reflected in a society that is less rule-oriented, more readily accepts change, and takes more and greater risks.
**Individualism Index (IDV)**
The very low Individualism Index(IDV) score indicates that there is a positive inclination toward collectivist society. Collectivist cultures always value harmony and being silent in all situations. Students in classrooms show ‘un-questioned loyalty’ and never attempt to exercise freedom in classrooms. A Low Individualism ranking typifies societies of a more collectivist nature with close ties between individuals. These cultures reinforce extended families and collectives where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group.
**Masculinity Index (MAS)**
India has Masculinity Index (MAS) as the third highest ranking Hofstede Dimension at 56, with the world average just slightly lower at 51. It connotes that there is a greater gap between values of men and women. In other words, the traditional distinction between the roles are strictly maintained.


Although, it is highly difficult to uproot the cultural dimensions mentioned by Geert Hofstede, one thing has become very vivid that the Indian government is marching ahead in planning e-learning initiatives by recognising the potential of electronic way of teaching in empowering tertiary learners to face the challenges of the current global market. It is fascinating to observe that, in the midst of the impossibilities (the current hurdles), the government, educators, professionals, and stakeholders are showing tremendous inclination toward the implementation of e-learning in education. As Williams and Goldberg (2005) pointed out, education in India is no longer about teaches teaching upfront, but the focus will be on the present day digital learners. The famous quotation " sage on the stage' is giving way to the 'guide on the side' and becoming the ultimate reality of the present day situation