Students and working professionals will now be able to obtain an online degree course and it will be recognized by higher education regulator, The University Grants Commission (UGC). The human resource development (HRD) ministry has decided to allow universities to offer such degrees and is drafting rules.
Institutes will be able to offer online degrees in all fields, except engineering, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture, and physiotherapy.
At the present scenario, the Commission does not recognize any course offered solely through the online mode. A student can get a degree by enrolling in a university and attending classes or through a distancing-learning module.
From this year, the government has allowed universities to offer 20% of their course material through the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platform called Swayam. But if a student gets a degree through any online course, it's not recognized.
A number of private universities offer online degrees but not many students opt for them as they are not recognized by the UGC.
The ministry has now started preparing draft regulations for online programs that will allow universities and higher educational institutes to offer degrees by conducting exams online; students will not have to attend classes physically. The draft came up for discussion before the UGC and the HRD ministry recently.
"The World over online degrees and courses are offered by institutes and they have gained respectability. Students will not be required to attend classes but will take e-tutorials to help them understand the concepts. Institutes will have to apply to the UGC for approval and degrees by such institutes will be recognized," said a senior official.
To qualify, a university would have to be NAAC-accredited with a minimum score of 3.25 on a four-point scale to ensure quality.
According to the official, the online platform will be integrated with Aadhaar to verify the identity of learners at the time of application as well as through the duration of the program, including examinations. "The programs can be designed for conventional learners, as well as working professionals depending on what the institute is looking for," the official said.
Apart from the actual program delivery, components such as the counseling process, online application processing, and fee payment will also provide online.