Emerging online technologies can have a disruptive effect and universities offering distance education programmes will need to gear up to meet the challenge, Prof. Bhushan Patwardhan, Vice-chairman, University Grants Commission said here today.

Inaugurating a two-day international workshop on Quality Assurance Toolkit preparation at the E-Learning Centre, University of Hyderabad, on Monday, Prof. Patwardhan said the UGC was constantly working to create an enabling environment for universities to work smoothly. The UGC was working on several policy decisions that would change the way universities would be able to reach more students using online technologies, he said. Teachers would now be able to take up orientation and refresher courses on the ARPIT platform and credits thus earned would be counted towards their career advancement. The introduction of online learning would drastically change the way students choose courses and the UGC was working on a policy to ensure smooth transfer of credits earned by a student.

Prof. Patwardhan also launched the e-learning mobile app of the centre and said the app would help students learn from anywhere.

Dr. Manas Panagrahi, Programme Officer, Commonwealth Educational Media Centre Asia (CEMCA), New Delhi said the purpose of the Quality Assurance Toolkit was to help universities assess themselves periodically to meet emerging challenges. The workshop would seek feedback from participating universities on the draft toolkit and an adoptable version would be released soon after the workshop. The toolkit, while basically aimed at universities offering Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programmes, was flexible enough to be adopted by universities offering face-to-face programmes too. The indicators and parameters in the draft toolkit were universal in nature and could be modified to suit a context, he said. CEMCA was ready to assist UGC and universities in formulating processes and technologies that would help students seek admission, register, complete an academic programme and even download a validated transcript and certificate, he added.

Presiding over the inaugural session, Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Appa Rao Podile said the university was extending all help to the E-Learning Centre and would like to see it emerge as a centre of excellence and national importance. The university was committed to providing quality education and the toolkit would help the university look inwards from time to time, he said.

Introducing the E-Learning Centre, Director, Prof. Jandhyala Prabhakar Rao said the centre was looking at major expansion plans and was seeking to be the national co-ordinator for training of teachers offering courses on the SWAYAM MOOCs platform. The University will soon be able to offer full academic programmes online thereby enhancing gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education. The Centre is also examining the possibility of offering courses in educational areas such as ASEAN, BRICS and in the African continent, he added.

Faculty members and officers representing International Quality Assurance Cells from over 15 universities in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are participating in the two-day workshop.