A Systems Approach for Training the ODL Support Staff on Written Communication Skills: A Strategy for Quality Enhancement in Student Support
Communication has a vital role in ODL system. Its criticality arises due to distributed nature of program delivery and student support services. For a distance learner waiting for crucial information at various stages of study, the information must be made available at the earliest and with clarity. Lack of appropriate communication has been cited as one of the reasons for student attrition (Fozdar, Kumar and Kannan, 2006). This makes it imperative to ensure inculcation of communication skills among the staff at all levels. The scale of requirement can be realised, if we trace the recent developments. The distance education institutions have changed the scenario by offering education to a mass scale. The advent of ICT has no doubt made communication faster and easier; still, it has raised the expectation levels of the learners. It has also a compelling effect on the institutions to change the style and format of official correspondence (Moran and Rumble, 2004, p.210). The distance education institutions, even if they adopt dual mode, have to generate funds to sustain their operations; this segment, barring the government run open universities, is not offered any government grant. The institutions have to work hard to get a sizable enrolment. In such a competitive environment, the institutions have to be alert in adapting to changing modes of technology to offer quality service to the clientele. In the self-financing context, the institutions desire to expand their ambit of operations through unconventional modes. The result is corporate tie-up for the offer of many executive training programs. It is possible that many of these institutions could wait for collaborative ventures with foreign higher education institutions for even back office operations, once the Indian Parliament gives final clearance for their entry into Indian soil. Significant number of institutions are also waiting for approval for GATS related issues, since it could support new ventures. Newer delivery models and partnerships could emerge. All these developments have placed considerable demand for skill enhancement of the staff in the distance education institutions. We would like to focus on the measures needed to enhance written communication skills as a facilitating feature for quality enhancement in student support services.