BRAOU: Surging ahead towards greater heights

BRAOU: Surging ahead towards greater heights

At a time when detractors cry foul over falling standards of education and regular degree holders look down upon those who graduate on distance...

At a time when detractors cry foul over falling standards of education and regular degree holders look down upon those who graduate on distance learning mode, an open university is going great guns, much to the amusement of students and academician as well.

Dr B R Ambedkar Open University (BRAOU), also known as Telangana Open University, formerly Andhra Pradesh Open University, is a public university in the city of Hyderabad. Of late, the university has been drawing wide attention for its excellent services and high standards of education. Undisputedly, the man behind the recent success of the university is none other than its present Vice-Chancellor Kusumba Seetharama Rao.

Rao, who took charge as Vice-Chancellor of this university three years ago on July 25, 2016, has focused on providing high-quality materials and learning support services. A network of regional coordination centres and study centres spread across the two States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh is in the domain of providing delivery services to reach out to the unreached. This university, as a premier institution of distance education, played a significant role to bring legitimacy to the Open Distance Learning (ODL) system in the country.

To its credit, BRAOU is the first established open university in India, which has taken prime initiative to implement Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) pattern, to claim first chance of curriculum and syllabus at UG level programmes from the academic year 2017-18. So far, two academic years or four semesters have been successfully completed and students of 2019-20 academic year are going to be the first batch of graduates coming out from the University.

For the first time in the annals of the university, three convocations - the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd - were conducted consecutively benefiting students of 2017, 2018 and 2019 batches respectively.

New disciplines like Statistics, Computer Science and Applications and Geography were introduced as one of the disciplines and specific compulsory courses at undergraduate level as part of CBCS pattern. To expand skill education through ODL Mode, the Skill Development and Career Planning Centre has been established.

This centre has identified various skill development courses (at certificate and diploma levels) basing on the guidelines of NSDC and other skill development institutions.

As a result, the university has entered into an MOU with the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) Centre Secunderabad, Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Limited (MKCL), Pune, and National Academy of Construction (NAC), Hyderabad, to impart skill education to the students of UG programmes.

These skills-based and oriented certificate and diploma programmes add value to their three-year general undergraduate programme. As part of National Digital Initiatives in higher education by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development and the UGC, this university has strengthened online learner support services and multiple gateways of payment services.

A new modernised and upgraded university website has been launched. In order to maintain the punctuality and promptness of the employees and safety and security of the properties and persons, administration has introduced biometric attendance system for employees and closed-circuit electronic surveillance system in the buildings and on the entire campus.

The university has evolved its institutional Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy and launched 'BRAOU Vidya Ghani an OER Repository. Digitisation of study material of UG programmes has already been started to provide soft copies of study material for the needy. Multimedia (audio-video) form supporting lessons are being provided through web radio and YouTube.

Digital Onscreen Evaluation System (DOSES) has been introduced in all UG and PG examinations in order to make evaluation and assessment process cost effective, fool-proof and with required pace for announcing results.

A committee has been constituted to establish e-learning portal with effective Learning Management System (LMS), and to evolve institutional IT policy. The university has entered into an agreement and signed an MoU with CDSL Ventures Ltd as part of the National Academic Deposition (NAD) Policy of MHRD and UGC for the benefit and interests of students.

Apart from implementing various academic and infrastructure development programmes, the university has organised numerous extension lectures, workshops, seminars and symposiums. Besides organising an International Conference in collaboration with Commonwealth of Learning (COL), the Telangana State Council of Higher Education (TSCHE) and the Government of Telangana on "Current ODL Issues", the university was able to organise All India Open Universities Vice-Chancellors Round-Table Meet (RTM) as part of this International Conference, to discuss on infinite potency of ODL system in the present context.

The Vice-Chancellor of the university, during his tenure, was not only active in organising different kinds of academic programmes and events of international repute, but also actively participated in International RTMs of Vice-Chancellors of Open Universities in Toronto, Kuala Lumpur and New Delhi and in a few international conferences organised at Symbiosis University, Pune and KKHSOU, Guwahati, Assam.

The Vice-Chancellor has an opportunity to be a member of National Task Force (NTF) Committee of University Grants Commission (UGC) and National Accreditation and Assessment Council (NAAC) which finalised assessment and accreditation policy frame and criteria for open universities and ODL institutions of regular universities.

At present, Seetharama Rao is a member of the UGC National Working Group (NWG) on implementation UGC ODL and Online Education Regulations. Being a member of this UGC national level committee, the Vice-Chancellor has visited, as Visiting Team Chairman and Member, Mumbai University and Mewar University, Chittorgarh, Rajasthan to assess the status and functioning ODL institutions of these regular universities.

This university has effectively utilised the one-time infrastructure grant to the tune of Rs 20 crore sanctioned by the government of Telangana besides developing a lot of infrastructural facilities that include 300 kw rooftop solar power plant over the terrace of the Administrative Block.

Improving quality of research programmes, introduction and expansion of skill development, reorganisation of study centers, promoting and developing audio-video lessons, evolving institutional IT policy, internationalisation of ODL programmes etc. are some of the future proposed initiatives of BRAOU.

The academic and development programmes of Dr BR Ambedkar Open University during the past three years, are perhaps worth emulating by any other such academic institution. The credit for all this should go to its Vice-Chancellor Kusumba Seetharama Rao who possesses excellent academic qualifications and experience.

Despite the tremendous growth under his stewardship, the VC humbly expresses his sincere thanks to all his predecessors under whose leadership this university was nurtured, fostered and developed to be able to emerge itself as one of the prestigious institutions of distance education in the world.

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