For years, students have dreamt of a system of learning where they wouldn’t have to leave the comfort of their beds on a frigid winter morning and drag themselves to a lecture. For the students at Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), this dream is set to become a reality.
In an initiative that is the first of its kind in Pakistan, the university plans to whisk medical education away from traditional classroom settings and dip it into the digital world. The move is expected to cut class-based studies in the undergraduate degree programme from 70 per cent to a mere 20 per cent. This also means that students no longer have to tailor their life around class schedules. Instead, they can wedge the lectures between their own plans.
The university’s information department will record videos of professors delivering lectures. But physical classrooms have not been discarded completely – for now, at least. Professors will augment virtual lectures by conducting two-hour-long practical classes in the university’s labs.
While talking to The Express Tribune, Syed Sohaib Shams, the director of information technology at the university’s Ojha campus, said that vice chancellor Prof. Dr Masood Hameed Khan wanted to shift emphasis away from classrooms and centre it on the students. “Now when the opportunity is at hand along with the power and promise, I believe it is time for DUHS to move from promise to practice.”
Last year, the university successfully implemented a pilot project involving 100 students and five faculty members. It is now looking to expand the initiative once the academic council gives it a thumbs up.
Shams said the lectures will be uploaded onto a portal that students can access through the internet. Techies will rejoice at the fact that lectures can also be accessed via a Google Android application for their tablet PCs and smart phones. Students will also be able to pop queries to a course supervisor’s cell phone.
Shahzad Ahmed, the programme manager for DUHS’ information technology department, said that he has his hands full with the task to convert 35 class-based courses into e-learning modules with the faculty’s help. At the same time, he is tasked with turning the entire campus into a free Wi-Fi hotspot for students and faculty. Ahmed added that Wi-Fi is an “integral part” of the digital transformation.
Dr Masood Jawaid, an assistan professor at Dow International Medical College, said. “The traditional system needs to be modified to make students independent learners, problem solvers and professional doctors who can see the patient as a whole.”
He believes that traditional lectures are not a good way to teach medical students as professors tends to dominate all most all of the airtime. “The pilot module was well appreciated by the students. The faculty and IT department got to know how to implement [it] and also learnt lessons for improving such projects in the future,” said Dr Jawaid. “We plan to change the methodology of education by bringing interactivity and innovation.”
This isn’t the first major change that the university has implemented. In 2009, it moved to a modular curriculum where the basic and clinical sciences were integrated to study human systems as a whole. Shahzad Anwar, a third-year student, explained that students who used to study anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology and pathology histology as separate subjects now focus on human systems, such as respiratory or cardiovascular, or medical conditions, such as diabetes. “The integrated study of the relationship as well as application of basic and clinical sciences on human systems and diseases will help resolve the potential disconnect from the real-life task of a physician.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2013.