Empowering Rural Communities through Virtual Academies: Experiences from India

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF5 Sub-theme: Livelihoods // The changing scenarios have been demanding professionals at various levels to adapt new ways of education and training to update their skills and knowledge for making their identity in this competitive world. Advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are helping educational organizations and training institutes to meet these requirements by offering online and web-based courses and practicing new generation open distance learning methodologies (ODL) i.e., synchronous (Chat, Flash meetings, Breeze meeting, Teleconferencing and Video Conferencing to name a few) and asynchronous (Internet education portals, web based learning management systems, Forums, and wiki’s to name a few) learning methodologies. However most of these technologies are accessible to urban folk, none (or) very few above discussed technologies are accessible to rural communities that to not for education, training (or) learning purposes. // The M S Swaminathan Research Foundation chose to impart a pro-nature, pro-poor and pro-women orientation to technology development and dissemination as its main mandate when it started functioning in Chennai in 1989. This main mandate has given birth to the Information Village Research Project (IVRP) in 1992, and started implementing from 1997 onwards by establishing Village Resource Centres and Village Knowledge Centres. After receiving successful results from the IVRP pilot experiment, the initiative was further strengthened into the Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy in the year 2003 by bringing various International and National partners, with an objective to empower the vulnerable remote rural Indian communities by building the skills and capacities through ODL mode, viewing that this education should reach every home and hut, and gives them a better control on their own development i.e., to make better choices, to take better decisions, and to create better livelihood opportunities. // In this paper, the authors discussed their experiences, methodological frameworks and approaches emerged out of their experiments with ICTs and ODL principles. // Paper ID 602