Generative dialogue in the distance education programmes of the University of Mumbai, India: Use of ICT and digital technologies

Deshmukh Ashima
Smt. Kapila Khandvala College of Education, affiliated to the University of Mumbai
Mumbai, India

Chari Hemlata Ramaswamy
University of Mumbai
Mumbai, India


In a country such as India where the students' educational background is very varied, university distance education should focus on the fundamental aspects of each learning module, along with developing connectedness to knowledge and its context.

In 201213, a proposal was made to use a generative dialogue approach based on Scharmer's model for the distance education MA (Education) programme parts 1 and 2 of the Institute of Distance and Open Learning (IDOL) at the University of Mumbai. This was applied to the ICT paper (an optional paper), using ICT digital technologies. Specialized tools, such as 'Flexbooks,' and writing blogs in Moodle as LMS, facilitates the generative dialogue approach. The LMS allows the compiling of distributed educational content using the Web, and easy collaboration with more than one learner interface. The dialogue between the learners was done through Web conferencing, and they were also provided with recommended readings on cross-cultural and transnational topics. These provide excellent opportunities for learning through the generative approach.

Any education programme should empower students for economic entrepreneurship as well as gratifying their identity by learning designs as frameworks that address diversity and sustainability. This demands the use of digital technologies at university centres, affiliated colleges, city kiosks and municipal centress in urban areas, as well as panchayat centres in rural settings where contact centres can be established for the programme. The methodology for the inclusion of generative dialogue in learning systems was the writing of blogs by the learners on a given topic and preparing a presentation on their chosen specialist area. The students enrolled were mainly in-service teachers without much exposure to digital and Web technologies, and so writing blogs or preparing study materials for their students for the ICT paper helped them to gain insight into the interconnectedness and relativity of knowledge. The process of writing the blogs, or preparing materials, was learnt from their peers, with their centre teachers as facilitators. This approach to education shifted the locus of control from the course deliverer to the students, providing learner autonomy. The varied languages of India and their regional cultures were seen in their presentations, blogs and the comments of others in their blogs. Thus, in a diverse country like India, multiple perspectives on knowledge were seen to be enhanced, providing insights that could not be achieved by merely studying 'out of context' or alien course content, or only a competence-based approach. On assessment of the submissions, it was found that the learners were confident in using the learnt technologies, and could employ them for Indian languages and any school or college subject, which increased their self-esteem in terms of technology acceptance. By adopting a generative dialogue approach, it was felt that the University should provide flexible learning modules and assessment, and prevent over-generalization of content or too much 'levelling' of the learners for the purpose of certification. The aim of generative dialogue was to increase the catchment area of the student community in a distance learning system that may or may not be formal and make them capable of being lifelong learners who contribute to sustainable development and entrepreneurship.