Which are better, the face-to-face interactions of traditional learning within the confines of a campus or the flexibility and ease of access to distance learning? There is, of course, a case to be made for both in education today.The thought process was instigated by an argument with my friend on buying education from universities (i.e. distance learning) vs. attendinga regular university. According to my friend in both the cases there is a cost and when an individual is paying for the cost, therefore, it should be termed as ‘buying’ – the education!The argument took a tangent when my friend further pointed out that private universities like distance learning universities are also selling degrees. Buying a degree rather than actually studying for it is a new phenomenon in our country. I was trying to convince my friend about how distance learning universities are not the same as private universities, moreover, in Bangladesh we do not have distance learning universities (apart from the Open University, and it is a government university!) Even though for the last twenty five years I teach in a private university, my argument was that not all private universities are selling degrees. There are a few good private universities where students take admission test, regular classes are held, exams are held to give grades, and based on performance students obtain their degrees.
I do agree that there are a few private universitieswho are not maintaining their standard and where degrees are sold. University GrantsCommission (UGC) on their website mentions these universities by name and clearly states if students enrol in them UGC will not take the responsibility of theirdegrees. In spite of the warning if a student stillinvests in some bad karma, then I guessthis will only add to the trouble in his/herlife, and certainly this degree will not provide the necessary skills the job market is looking for.If students spend money to get these fake degrees, it will notfool anybody, especially employers. And if the graduates do fool the employers, it won’t be for long.If one cannot perform the job that one got with the fake diploma or certificate, one won’t beable to keep the job. The person will likely be shamed and then fired. The person also runs the risk of being sued, especially if someone gets hurt.Most importantly he/she will be right back where one started, less the money spent for the fake degree.
In recent times we have seen many people taking the easy route when it comes to obtaining tertiary education or higher qualification. These people are not only obtaining degrees from local private universities but also getting degrees from on-line foreign universities. The distance learning on-line universities offer MBA, EMBA or Ph.D. degrees. All these universities’ cost tends to vary and some of these universities admit that their degrees are not accredited by the recognisedauthorities of their country’s education department. This alone should set off alarm bells for any person intending to pursue a distance learning program to obtain the degrees.
To be fair, there is nothing wrong with pursuing a distance learning course. These programmes are considerably cheaper than a typical undergraduate/graduate or PhD courses in a regular university. Distance learning courses also allow flexibility for those who are in the work force. I would certainly agree that private education does not come cheap these days and a distance learning programme is a boon to many people who otherwise may not be able to obtain a degree. However, I would request the individualsto verify the accreditation or quality assurance status of the programmes offered by these universities before onetakes a decision.
Most countries have an accreditation system which the public can access, with different countries having different regulations and arrangements for quality assurance. Currently there are well established traditional universities in UK, Australia, and the US who are offering distance learning programmes. Applicants easily can go to these universities websites to find out the accreditation status. Generally, the traditional universities will be very candid about the accreditation of the programmes and approval of the authoritative bodies.
My friend’s concern is raised as more and more people from powerful positions are getting a tertiary education like MS or MBA or even degrees like PhD. What message we are trying to impart to the society? In fact, the more prominent a person, the more impressive his qualification appears to be. We have noticed more and more CEOs or people in position overnight adding Doctorate in front of their names!At one time fake MBAs were all the rage, but now even a master’s degree isn’t enough. The latest trend is to buy you a PhD. In the society these ‘doctorates’ immediately give you a sense of importance with the prefix ‘Dr’ in front of your name.
The main concern of our argument was what message we are conveying to our younger generation. You do not need to go to a regular university to obtain the degrees but sitting at home you can obtain the certificates. These certificates will not only bring jobs for you but social recognition as well! In other words, we are showing the ladder to short cut to education!Somehow, we are forgetting the fact that these days a simple Google search will reveal the credentials for these educational institutes. You may have fooled your peers or your employer with a fake qualification, but there will always be the fear in your mind that the diploma hanging in your office will one day be exposed. Most importantly these degrees certainly will not enhance the skill level. At the end of the day, a degree is to enhance our qualifications; and the qualification can be judged by the skills we depict in performing the tasks in the jobs that we do. As we are not learning any skills with these certificates, as a nation we are becoming dependent on others to do the job. At the end organisations need employees who can do the job; if we Bangladeshis cannot perform, then the employers will hire employees from other parts of the world to do jobs. Ultimately though, there is no shortcut to obtaining a tertiary education. You will have to pay for it, obviously; but you would also need to put in the hours – either in a conventional classroom environment or via distance learning.
Earn your certificate in the right way— by learning and doing. Not learning is not the way one can move forward in life. One may think it doesnot matter how the degree is obtained, fake or not, no one will be the wiser; but the most important fact of life is you are the only one who matters. You are holding a degree which failed toadd value to your life. There are many reasons we go to universities and for some it may seem too hard. All these traditional universities are equipped with people who are there to help, guide you to obtain the skills you are looking for. It is never too late, and this certificate will make a huge difference in your life. And at last both of us called it a night on this note - Thinking positive is easy, and it’s free! Effort is required, and the rest will follow.
The writer is a Professor, School of Business,Independent University, Bangladesh