Higher education systems have grown exponentially in the last five decades to meet the demands of quality education for all. This aspect has further gained momentum due to swift advancements in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Demand for skilled and competent labour is ever increasing in the contemporary globalised society. In this backdrop, access to quality in higher education for all has emerged as determining factor of economic growth and development. In order to increase the access to higher education and improving its reach to the remotest parts of the country, contribution of open and distance learning facilities is on the increase. In addition, it is catering to life-long learning aspirations and that too at an affordable cost.
The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is an umbrella term that includes any communication device or application, encompassing: radio, television, cellular phones, computer, and network hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing and distance learning. When such technologies are used for educational purposes, namely to support and improve the learning of students and to develop learning environments, ICT can be considered as a subfield of Educational Technology. ICTs in higher education are being used for developing course material; delivering content and sharing content; communication between learners, teachers and the outside world; creation and delivery of presentation and lectures; academic research; administrative support, student enrolment etc.
In the current information society, people have to access knowledge via ICT to keep pace with the latest developments. In such a scenario, education, which always plays a critical role in any economic and social growth of a country, becomes even more important. Education not only increases the productive skills of the individual but also his/her earning power. It gives them a sense of well being as well as capacity to absorb new ideas, increases their social interaction, gives access to improved health and provides several more intangible benefits. The various kinds of ICT products available and having relevance to education, such as teleconferencing, email, audio conferencing, television lessons, radio broadcasts, interactive radio counselling, interactive voice response system, audiocassettes and CD ROMs have been used in education for different purposes.
Society expects more and more of higher education each year. This stems partly from the continuing expansion of knowledge, and therefore of what must be included in courses and curricula, and partly from growing cognitive challenges and diversity.
Progress, convergence, and integration in information technology have driven fundamental change in the information technology faculty, students, colleges, and universities have or might be expected to acquire.
Integrating ICT in teaching and learning is high on the educational reform agenda. Often ICT is seen as indispensable tool to fully participate in the knowledge society. ICTs need to be seen as “an essential aspect of teaching’s cultural toolkit in the twenty-first century, affording new and transformative models of development that extend the nature and reach of teacher learning wherever it takes place”.
The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) provides a broad perspective on the nature of technology, how to use and apply a variety of technologies, and the impact of ICT on self and society. Technology is about the ways things are done; the processes, tools and techniques that alter human activity. ICT is about the new ways in which people can communicate, inquire, make decisions and solve problems. It is the processes, tools and techniques for:
- gathering and identifying information
- classifying and organizing
- summarizing and synthesizing
- analyzing and evaluating
- speculating and predicting
Enhancing and upgrading the quality of education and instruction is a vital concern, predominantly at the time of the spreading out and development of education. ICTs can improve the quality of education in a number of ways: By augmenting student enthusiasm and commitment, by making possible the acquirement of fundamental skills and by improving teacher training. ICTs are also tools which enable and bring about transformation which, when used properly, can encourage the shift an environment which is learner-centered.