India’s New Regulations for Online Courses and Programmes

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) announced new regulations for online courses offering degrees, diplomas, and certificates by Universities and Institutions.
  • This will ensure easy access to education for students and working professionals.
  • As per the regulations, only non-technical courses can be offered online.
  • Online Courses or Programmes in the field of engineering, law, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture, physiotherapy, applied arts can’t be done.
  • Only programmes similar to programmes which have been offered in regular mode (i.e. classroom teaching) or in distance learning mode is applicable.
  • The course should have atleast one batch of successful students before it can be offered through the online mode.
  • Online Courses or Programmes can only be provided after obtaining permission from the UGC.

Recognizing the necessity of online education in India, and with an aim to increase the enrollment ratio in higher education in India, the UGC has now recognized the validity of degree, diplomas and certificates offered through online mode of education under its University Grants Commission (Online Courses or Programmes) Regulations, 2018 (“Online Education Regulations”).

What is it?

The Online Education Regulations apply to a University and an Institution deemed to be a University.

Only non-technical courses can be offered online. Hence, courses or programmes in the field of engineering, law, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture, physiotherapy, applied arts or any such courses or programmes are not recognized under the Online Education Regulations. Further, any course or programme which requires a practical or a laboratory course(s) as a part of its curriculum can also not be offered through the online mode.

Key Aspects of the Regulation

A. Eligibility Criteria for obtaining recognition 

For the purpose of obtaining recognition to offer online education, the Higher Education Institutes (HEI) should meet the following key criteria: 5

  1. The HEI should:
    a. have been in existence for at least five years;
    b. have a minimum score of 3.26 on a 4 point scale by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC);
    c. be in the Top-100 in overall category in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) for at least two years during the previous three years.
    Points (b) and (c) are however not applicable to government Open University till the NAAC, NIRF or similar accreditation system are made available for such Open University.
  2. An HEI can offer the Online Course or Programme only in those disciplines in which it has been offering the same or similar course or programme in regular mode (i.e. classroom teaching) or in open and distance learning mode and after at least one batch has been passed out.
  3. The HEI can offer the Online Course or Programme subject to it obtaining approval by the appropriate statutory authorities or bodies of the HEI such as the UGC.
  4. The HEI should have demonstrated capability for developing and production of Online Courses and Programes having access to SWAYAM or other platform for learner authentication (i.e. integration with AADHAAR or other government recognised identity for Indian students and passport for foreign students), learner registration, a payment gateway and a learning management system.
  5. The HEI should have the ability to conduct examinations either using technology enabled online tests or through proctored examination (i.e. examination under physical supervision).

B. Application and Approval

An eligible HEI can make an application to the UGC as per the process detailed in the Online Education Regulations. The application is inter alia required to be supplemented with:

  1. approval of the statutory bodies under The University Grants Commission Act, 1956 or the memorandum of association governing the HEI for offering the course or program through the online mode;
  2. proof of availability or appointment of adequate staff, infrastructure and technology; and
  3. expected leaning outcomes from the Online Course or Programme.

Pending the approval of the application to offer online education, no HEI can offer or admit students to offer the Online Course or Programme.

Renewal of Approval

The approval granted can be renewed every two years. Further, to ensure adherence to the Online Education Regulation requirements, the UGC may periodically or at any time based on any information received from any person, review the performance of the HEI (through its expert committee). In case the renewal is not granted or the HEI is found ineligible under the Online Education Regulation requirements, the HEI is given an opportunity of being heard and present their case. If permission is not granted, the HEI cannot offer the Online Course or Programme from the forthcoming academic year. If the HEI is aggrieved by an order of the UGC, may file an appeal against such an order within 30 days of the order.10

C. Operation of Online Courses

The HEIs which are given recognition may operate Online Course or Programme from the next academic session. Some of the key conditions under the Online Education Regulations for offering online education are as follows:

  1. The Online Course or Programme should be delivered through the SWAYAM portal or any other learning platform after the same is verified and approved by the expert committee of the UGC.
  2. The online learning should have a four quadrant ‘approach’, namely, tutorials, e-content, web resources and self-assessment.
  3. Apart from the actual course or programme delivery, other components such as counseling process, online application processing and fee payment should also be provided through online mode.
  4. The duration of the Online Course or Programme should be as below:
    a. For a Certification: The Online Course or Programme should be of minimum of six months’ duration and would have a minimum twenty credits.
    b. For a Diploma: Online Course or Programme should be of minimum of one year duration and would have minimum forty credits.
    c. For a degree: The Online Course or Programme should for the same duration and for the same credits as specified by the UGC under Choice Based Credit System (CBCS).
    However, the maximum duration for completing the Online Course or Programme should be double the minimum duration of the course or programme or as laid down by the UGC from time to time.
  5. The HEI can provide one or more academic sessions each year which begin either in July/August or January/February each year.

 

Source: Mondaq