Counseling Experiences in Distance Education

A case study that reflects the role of a coordinator as counselor in distance education
"General counseling is related to personal and individual needs. It is student- centric and goes beyond academics. Tutoring is basically course centered. A tutor is a subject specialist." [Representational Image]
"General counseling is related to personal and individual needs. It is student- centric and goes beyond academics. Tutoring is basically course centered. A tutor is a subject specialist." [Representational Image] Maxpixel [Creative Commons]

Academic Counseling is an amalgamation of general counseling and tutoring. An academic counselor should combine the functions of general counseling and tutoring.

General counseling is related to personal and individual needs. It is student- centric and goes beyond academics. Tutoring is basically course centered. A tutor is a subject specialist.

In the light of ODL regulations 2017 and new education policy 2020 the distance teacher has to redefine his role as a tutor- cum-counselor .I shall share a case study. In my BEd programme there was a girl who was academically very vibrant.

She had attended all the contact classes regularly; she had put her sweat and blood in preparing her assignments. She was chosen as class representative by dint of her leadership qualities.

Four years later when we were preparing a list of dropout candidates I was shocked that this girl had appeared in one of the theory papers and was marked absent in rest of the papers.

Since we had switched to two year BEd programme and university had offered a mercy chance for those BEd students who were enrolled for one year BEd programme but could not complete the degree for one or the other reason.

I wanted to know the reason why this girl had dropped out from the course.

Through student tracking mechanism we located the girl. I, along with my wife, visited her residence; she was living in a rented accommodation along with her one year old daughter, and mother.

She narrated her ordeal. During the same year she was enrolled for BEd programme, her marriage date was fixed. At the start everything was ok and her mother-in-law and husband were desperately expecting a son from her, this stressed her pregnancy period.

She gave birth to a daughter who had foot deformity called polysyndactly (extra toe with fingers fused). The attitude of husband changed overnight. He proved to be a cold-blooded mammal; he made her life living hell and divorced her. She returned back to her parental house.

Due to sustained stress, her father received a stroke and died of cardiac arrest. Relation with sister-in–law got strained and she had to move to a rented accommodation. Whatever little as counselor I could, I decided to do. First, we boosted her lost spirit.

I talked to my friend. He appointed her as teacher in a private school. Meanwhile, I did a lot of research on google on foot deformity and consulted leading plastic surgeons and orthopedics. Finally through cosmetic surgery her foot deformity was corrected and she could wear shoes easily.

Meanwhile this girl continued her studies; I provided her best student –support-services and personal library-support-services. She completed her MEd, appeared for 10+2 screening, qualified it with 81 points and was appointed as 10+2 lecturer on permanent basis.

This case study reflects how education can lead from darkness to light, how it can be a tool for women empowerment. This case study also reflects the role of a coordinator as counselor in distance education.

I am reproducing here the letter of gratitude which I received from one of my students “Depression is a disorder that broke my life. Every day I would make plans to have a different life, to struggle, to achieve, to do big and good, and everyday depression, its pain, hollowness, emptiness, and inability to think clearly or feel good would come in the way.

I had been through many tough things in life, bad relationships, a struggling career, financial issues, and health issues. It was like a vicious cycle that just made things worse for me in all directions. I would make plans but then low mood, disbelief in myself, and inability to do anything would stop me. My days, months, and years passed and my life looked completely frozen. I was now 29.

I didn’t have a good relationship, I didn’t have happiness. I felt like I was leading an empty, dragged, unhappy life. I enrolled for PG programme in IGNOU & Distance Education but dropped.

My main problem was how to get started; I shelved the lecture scripts which I received through mail. During personal-contact-cum-counseling when I expressed my feeling in the class, I was obstructed and demotivated by concerned resource persons they were not trained in the philosophy of distance education.

It was depression. I would feel like also giving up on my life. No one would understand me; everyone would blame me for my condition and I would be helpless. Depression had frozen me in time. I was left so far behind that I had no hope left. Everyone was so way ahead of me. I needed someone to talk to, coordinator sir gave me a patient hearing and hope that my life could be better, hope that I could have many good things even today, that the freeze could break and that I could make myself proud.

I had to choose myself above the pain. Something in me moved that day and I decided to seek help. I decided not to cancel BEd admissions and tore the application on which I had applied for refund. Through the course of counseling, my coordinator helped me prioritize and do better.

Sir helped me break my resistance and inertia. I started taking small but consistent steps to change my life! And I did change it, things did get better.

Today I have a good job; I completed my BEd through Directorate of Distance Education with first division. Each day I wake up, I wake up with a plan and most importantly I execute it. I do things that make me happier.

I don’t look at myself as a loser. I don’t look at my life as a race with others. I see my life as time with myself. Depression, frozen pain is gone. What I have today is my hopes and dreams for happiness.

Here is the learners comment who was an army personnel from study center Leh on the value of first contact with his counselor “I first knew that my application to take the course had been accepted when I received the study material from Directorate of Distance Education University of Kashmir.

I opened it right away but could not get any idea of what to look at first. It was like receiving one of those assemble-it-yourself furniture kits, without any clear instructions.

I worried about it for several days without really doing much about it; then I got a mobile message from my coordinator. In his message he introduced himself told me a bit about the course and asked if I had any queries. I felt as though someone had thrown me a tow rope and now I could get myself going on the course.”

Here is a feedback from the distance learner to a counselor “Thank you very much for your support and guidance during the course period, without which I would not have been able to complete the assignments.

There were times when weeks would pass by without doing my assignments due to exigencies of duty and your emails always put me back on the track. You never know how much I appreciated those emails.” To conclude counselors who are consistently empathetic, genuine develop an open and trusting relationship with their students .

Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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