ISLAMABAD: For one of the country’s largest universities with a large distance-learning component, a paradigm shift is coming which will help lead the university and the society into the future.
Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Ziaul Qayyum, who was only appointed late last year, has started to recalibrate the direction of the varsity and its 1.4 million enrolled students.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Dr Qayyum said that the primary aim of the varsity was to provide modern education to its students.
For this purpose, he said that they will be upgrading their syllabus to match modern requirements. Moreover, he said that they were “working to improve the quality of the programmes which are already taught in the university.”
For this purpose, he said that the university has discussed measures with the University of London and two other universities in Britain.
The idea, Dr Qayyum explained, was to seek collaboration in enhancing the competency of the teachers of the varsity while helping with upgrading the course and examination system of the university under the Pakistan-UK Education Gateway programme.
A measure in this direction was that the AIOU and the University of London were in talks to launch a specialized, joint-degree programme.
But the biggest shift in the university’s approach will be that it will look to solve the needs of the job market and realigning itself to market needs.
Dr Qayyum said that the AIOU will not launch any new programme unless there was a market demand for it.
Moreover, he said that they will be reviewing and revising the criterion to hire tutors and that teachers recruited for the next semester will be per the new criteria.
Further, he warned that the varsity will cancel the registration of those teachers who perform poorly.
With digital gadgets and connectivity to the internet becoming ever more common, particularly after the United Nations declared internet to be a basic human right, the AIOU vice chancellor disclosed that they were working on digitally transforming the varsity.
Having led prominent technological varsities in the country such as the National University of Computer and Engineering Sciences (NUST) and the University Institute of Information Technology (UIIT), Dr Qayyum said that they were working on the digital and automation policy for AIOU.
Once the transformation is complete, he stated that all processes of the university — from admissions to examinations — will be automated.
However, given the massive size of its student body and the vast remote network it operates across the country and abroad, Dr Qayyum said that the entire process will take around 18 months to complete.
Elaborating on the process, he said that all the books taught at the varsity will also be converted into digital format by later this year.
One obvious advantage of this move will be in reducing the fees charged and to make study material immediately available to students.
However, he clarified that the university will still mail hard copies of books to those areas which lack internet facilities.
The new automated system which Dr Qayyyum hopes to install in the varsity will allow assignments to be given out, submitted, checked and returned to the students through an online process.
These assignments will be changed every semester so that students who have completed the course can not ‘sell’ the assignments to new students.
To further expand its reach, Dr Qayyum said that the university is looking to launch its own television channel to teach its various remote-learning courses.
He elaborated that this channel will televise tele-lectures apart from dialogues and debates on different topics of student interest as well.
“This will be the first channel in the country which will primarily focus on spreading education amongst the masses” he claimed.
Dr Qayyum said that the varsity was currently working on building a new academic calendar.
Moreover, he said that they were mulling a plan to increase the time it takes for teachers to mark term papers. One way to achieve this whiteout disturbing the semester cycle would be to limit the semester’s duration to 16 weeks (four months) while expanding the examination process to 50 days.
The AIOU vice chancellor also hinted at aiming to admit a better quality of student by reviewing and revising the academic rules to improve the eligibility criteria for admissions.
He told nepotism will be completely discouraged in recruitments in the university.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2019.
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