During this tough time, entire race of mankind is in a fighting mood against an invisible but lethal and fatal enemy. Till know and even in near future, there is no option present for its treatment. Due to large number of patients all over the world, the health systems of many countries even developed countries started giving up and hospitals are running out of their capacity. Infection and mortality rate is continually rising at a rapid rate. Herd immunity is the last ray of hope which human being have, otherwise it seems to be all over. Supply lines are breached, production and distribution level is totally going for a dip. Educational institutions were closed and our ability to respond to the crisis pushed beyond limits. Hopefully the virus can be stopped soon but even if it is stopped, the impact which it creates will remain for many generations.
It is a type of two way battle, first we need to isolate people to stop the spreading of infection and once the infection is gone, we need to reassemble as quickly as possible to restart the system at previous pace. Universities gets most affected from this because they hold a large number of students which are vulnerable to spreading of infection. Closing down of campus is a good option but they should look for better options in which they can continue their normal study procedure without spreading of infection such as online tuitions and classes. Because no society can afford the closing of educational institutes for such a long period of time, already Pakistan has paid huge price due to disturbance in academic activities. From the start of the infection, polices of HEC (Higher Education Commission) mostly revolves around these two things and one of them is to support the efforts of government to stop the spreading of infection no matter whatever it takes and the second is to minimize the academic activities for this. Luckily online tuitions and classes work as a ladder to climb up this mountain. HEC authorities asked universities to formulize their plan for online tuitions and classes as soon as they can. There are many reasons why HEC hurries on for this, one of them is we don’t know exactly how long it takes to eradicate the infection completely, even though many studies suggest some tentative dates for the elimination of infection based on regression model. Most studies suggested that lockdown will last somewhere till September 2020. Currently universities are under lockdown till 31 May. If it extends further from there than students might lose their whole semester.
According to experts, this pandemic will leave a similar kind of impact on the world economy as these were during world wars and during pandemic before that. Even though it is not possible for anyone to suggest exactly that how economy will shape up during the future. The decision of shifting towards online classes faced a lot of criticism. One school of thought says that students should be promoted without any classes and exams based on their previous marks and CGPA. The reason they put for this is that students living in remote areas where internet facility is not present will never be able to attend their online classes. There are some people who just want to enjoy their summer holidays and they don’t want to be a part of this new type of interaction for studies. However, most students and teachers are interested to utilize their time in a productive way hence they want to continue their studies through online classes. During this tough time, only a few most capable universities and their vice-chancellors can launch some high-quality online courses. HEC is assisting the affiliated universities in many ways such as the provision of software, better internet facility, checking the online materials and training programs, etc.
Quality related issues in online education:
Quality of online education in Pakistan isn’t up to the mark as compared to other countries and it needs lot of reforms to improve itself. To solve this issue, HEC has formulated a criteria for universities which they have to follow before they start online classes which are given below.
- There should be an effective and working learning management system
- Faculty members which are to teach in online course should be well trained for that before they start teaching
- All the necessary information related to course should be present online on LMS, including readings and assignments
- There shouldn’t be any technical flaw regarding the deliverance of course
- If students are facing any problem, regarding the course then this should be solved as soon as possible. There maybe problem in accessing related material etc.
Assistance of HEC regarding connectivity for online classes:
To address this issue of connectivity, HEC has devised a four point program which comprises of following points.
- They introduced Taleem bundle to provide subsidy for students on internet connection
- They deliver internet packages according to the needs of students like for short duration classes, data-light options and both at a time.
- Offline system is also available through which course work can become available offline in CDs and other storage mediums
- Student Facilitation Committees are there in every university to address and solve student’s issue related to connectivity particularly for the students of remote areas.
Universities should make it compulsory for their students to own any gadget like tablet, smart phone or a computer so that they don’t face any difficulty during online classes and for the ones which can’t afford it then university should provide for them through scholarship or any other method of financial aid.
By: WTI Academy