Fostering Education and Digital Learning

As the fear of session jam looms large, the trend of biting with public-private universities is going on. The fiasco started with online classes and exams. The paradigm of the education system is about to shift.

The idea of distance learning is very old. It began in the early nineteenth century, but it was first implemented in 1953. But it was limited to learning, it took another decade and a half to develop the assessment system. And the first online-based degree was given in 2009.

What is the reason? The reason is that a lot of research has been needed to fully implement the whole idea. I’m not saying it will take us so long, it doesn’t mean that “Corona came and we implemented it” will be so easy.

Classes are suspended. Exams like GCE, GCSE, HSC, and university examinations are suspended. Tests such as GMAT, GRE, SAT are also suspended. Professional degrees like CFA’s June exams are shifted to December.

At present 63 private universities are taking online classes. Now think about what teachers and students perception about learning anywhere anytime.

On 20th May, the University of Cambridge decided to take online classes till Fall 2021. Sajib Hossain, an assistant professor of Finance of Dhaka University, opines:

“Graduates, postgraduates, and final year students are going to be the prime sufferer. Jobs will be more competitive. Salaries are likely to be slashed. Competitive job exams will be far more competitive. Most importantly aspirants aiming for studying abroad are going to face difficulty in getting funds and scholarships.”

Belal, finance alumni, whose admission for master’s is completed in Oklahoma in the USA, states the following:

“The uncertainty looms large. Going online is the key for time being.”

Bangladesh reported its first death via Coronavirus infection on March 18, 2020. As of today (20th May), 370 people died while there are confirmed cases of 25,121. To our great relief, 4993 successfully recovered from this Coronavirus disease

On 5th April, Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina announced a stimulus package of BDT 67,750 million where the education sector was given minimal importance.

Figure 1: Government Announced Stimulus Package

Figure 1 by Youth Policy Forum

Not only technology has to be invented, but the invented technology has to be adapted to human beings, that is why research is needed to test human behavior, capacity in respect of technology. There is a big difference between learning in class and learning online, there is a big difference between teaching in class and teaching students online. We do classes from 45 minutes to 1 hour, how is this timing coming?

.Also, there are many criteria for taking online classes and examinations that need to be researched first, such as

  • Time limit,
  • content-type,
  • Interaction with each student and so on.
  • Exam time,
  • What should be the baseline questions to keep the stretch level right,
  • How to turn off the cheat factor,
  • Question patterns.

There are many more criteria that online classes without research. Or when he goes to take the test, questions will arise about the quality of his learning and assessment.

The matter is not so simple, we are billing in a third world country, a visual will help grasp the sorrow we are facing right now.

Figure 2: Immediate Impact of Corona

Figure 2 by Youth Policy Forum

The gravity of such pandemic needs no telling. Amidst all the chaos, survival is the prime concern. If we are alive, we can complete our degrees. We can thrive with success later. But let’s face it, distant learning is the new normal. We have to deal with this. Going digital has its separate kinds of pros such as,

  • Less hassle in the form of distance we have to go attend classes
  • Less expensive
  • Students from any distant part of the globe can access the worlds finest universities via communication tool which is a major plus
  • Graduation might not be mandatory as one can learn whatever online courses s/he chooses thus enhancing the portfolio of one’s skill
  • Short term courses free us from the long tiring 4, 5 or so years long degrees

Developed countries have improved a lot before us but still, it takes a long time to fully adapt to their distance learning. Just downloading “Zoom Meeting”/ “Google Classroom” on desktop or mobile means sitting in the video but not having the ability to take online class exams.

Infrastructure needs to be incorporated into the system, research needs to be done and then it needs to be implemented.

But yes, this is a matter of online learning that private varsities are starting, it is a very good initiative, it is a very good start. But based on this start, you will give a degree, it is much more. Believe it or not, it’s far more.

UGC was asked to survey the capacity to take online class exams in all public varsities. The matter is not easy because the maximum number of public students do not have that ability, not everyone can afford laptops, desktops, and broadband. So here too there is no benefit in nailing the board.

Distance Learning and Assessment can be an important part. From now on, if you have this facility in every public or private varsity, many people in the villages will be able to get a degree at home, but before that, you have to do research from UGC. Assessment planning. This could be the next big step in the education sector.

Implementing these actions is an uphill battle marred by multiple problems. It will require robust maintenance, realistic design, utmost transparency, and proper feedback.

God, nature, human efforts, whatever you believe in, to heal the diseased and to protect the vulnerable among us, let us all pray to our creator for a quick recovery for everyone as this crisis gets global.

Let’s stay safe and keep our hopes high.

Written by Junayed Hossain

Member, Startup Chattogram

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