Online education by Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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In the critical circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, the decision by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to continue the education process through the internet was a laudable step.

The motive behind it was to ensure that there should be no loss for university graduates. However, the lack of uniformed and comprehensive policy for all universities resulted in a number of severe problems that our young generation is facing and thus, they are currently on the streets to record their protest against the online education system.

The Virtual University, since the last 18 years, has been a role model educational institution to deliver outstanding results for distance education. Instead of following the VU, most universities developed their own online Learning Management System (LMS) in haste without any proper homework.

That’s why, today almost every student is facing technical issues related to the LMS of their institute. Most of the time, the university’s web server has no capacity to bear the traffic of students at larger scale. At the time of assignment submission, the LMS system goes down. The assignment submission through Email is not accepted, and failure to submission due to technical reasons increases the level of frustration among students.

Ironically, the LMS of few universities doesn’t meet the basic requirements of online education. Even, the HEC could not bound universities to ensure uploading of audio/video recordings of online lectures on the LMS. Students are right to highlight that it is not possible for parents to manage separate smartphones / laptops along with high speed internet connection for their many children living in a small home, especially when markets are closed due to the lockdown.

On the other hand, some teachers’ behaviour with students is also very hopeless. They prefer to take classes as per their own convenience without following any proper timetable. Some are very strict in terms of marking attendance. Most teachers are using Skype, Zoom, Google Class room and other such mobile apps and software for the first time in their life, and unfortunately, the HEC could also not provide any kind of training to teachers in this regard.

Some teachers, according to students, finish the three credit hour classes in just half an hour and then shift the burden on the students in the form of assignments. Some students have complained that they were over burdened with assignments with the same deadline by different teachers.

Strict marking was also observed during mid-term exams. Every teacher preferred to adopt his/her own way of examination. Allegedly, a few teachers assigned marks to students on the basis of personal bias, without even checking the papers. Students are afraid that such practices would also be repeated in the upcoming final examinations.

A private university has recently expelled a student over protest against online education. In my view, it is incorrect to punish someone using his/her constitutional right to peaceful protest, and the authorities are requested to take action. Every educational institute must provide an internal platform to students where their grievances can be addressed amicably rather than being highlighted on social media.

The HEC should understand that there is a dire need to ensure a check and balance mechanism for a student-friendly online education system. Similarly, teachers and university administrations should adopt friendly behavior with students. I also would like to advise students that loopholes should be highlighted for betterment of the system but it is not wise to stand against the institute in which you are enrolled.

Due to my positive tests for Covid-19, I am in quarantine nowadays otherwise I would love to show solidarity with students practically. However, I hope that the chairman of the HEC will definitely take action, for the sake of the future of this nation.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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