ISLAMABAD: With the government announcing to close all educational institutions across the country until May 31, a new set of guidelines have been issued by the higher education watchdog for universities to switch over to e-learning methods and save the ongoing academic year for students.
In a notification issued by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), all such universities which are unequipped with an online platform for conducting classes have been asked to develop such platforms so that they can commence classes by June 1.
It further clarified educators can deem the extended closure of institutions, due to COVID-19 pandemic until May 31, as summer vacations. They have been advised to use this time and utilise them for the preparation of their curriculum, time tables and lectures for the next semester.
HEC has also formed a technical support committee that would assist the varsities to shift to remote learning systems.
The notification further stated that the national academy for higher education (NAHE) has been tasked to oversee and maintain the standards of curriculums being taught online to students.
For those varsities, who developed learning management systems and had started online classes, the HEC said that these varsities can continue their classes as an extended spring semester.
However, it noted that it had received several complaints from students regarding the quality of syllabi and digital preparedness of teachers and varsities.
In this regard, HEC said that it had requested varsities to share real-time data on syllabi, reading materials, lesson plans, lecture presentations, video lectures, exams and quizzes. Other data on faculty and students registered on these systems, faculty’s training on online teaching and assessment practices and other requirements prescribed by the HEC were also sought.
For easy access, the commission has established a national knowledge bank from where institutions can extract related teaching material including curriculums, syllabi, list of textbooks, links to digital libraries, lesson plans, video lectures, presentations, exam questions and quizzes.
This bank, it said, will be available soon to augment resources available with different universities. Furthermore, the HEC said that it will make available a list of recommended online tutorials on skills and competencies required for good quality online education.
Should educational institutions reopen normally in June, the HEC said that they should be able to follow the academic calendar and complete admissions in early September.
If the exams are delayed, varsities will offer provisional admissions to students while a guideline on meritorious admissions will be formulated.
Should the crisis extend beyond the summer, varsities will continue classes online while the admissions process will be adapted.
The HEC noted that around 30% of all complaints were related to poor connectivity issues which hampered participation in online classes. This was especially the case with students living in remote areas particularly in erstwhile federally administered tribal areas (Fata), parts of Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) where there was no 3-G connectivity available.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2020.