Without paying a penny, people can avail education from Harvard University, a Ivy League institute, at anytime and from anywhere in Pakistan and across the world from December 12. All you have to do is pay for the degree.
Through its integrated and massive open online courses, the Latif Ebrahim Jamal (LEJ) National Science Information Centre at the University of Karachi intends to make courses from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, Stanford and other colleges free for everyone.
The aim is to provide students in Pakistan the same education as those available to students from prestigious universities. The initiative, said former Higher Education Commission chairperson Dr Attaur Rehman, has the potential to change the landscape of higher education in Pakistan and the developing world.
“While enormous effort undergoes to build and fund a large number of colleges, universities and technical institutions across Pakistan, a major bottleneck is the unavailability of highly qualified faculty,” said Dr Rehman.
He was speaking at a press conference along with Dr Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary, the director at KU’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences, on Friday.
Dr Rehman explained that despite the technological revolution brought by the internet in the last two decades, its role in the realms of institutionalised education through the availability of online courses was far from clear till the last few years.
Only recently, premier institutions began of offer to the world in-house resources, ranging from varied disciplines of social sciences to medicine, technology, engineering and business administration.
The resources offered by leading educational institutions across the globe were, however, scattered throughout the web, said Dr Rehman, necessitating the need for a sophisticated ‘aggregator’ to arrange the resources of about half a million lecture hours subject-wise and school-wise.
The initiative, referred to as LEJ Knowledge Hub, is set to offer thousands of full-time courses, skill development modules, research-based lectures, and online mentoring sessions through conjoining top-notch global resources, including MIT Open Courseware, a Harvard University initiative called Udacity, MIT’s Khan Academy, Open Yale Courses offered by Yale University and Stanford Engineering Everywhere, the brainchild of Stanford School of Engineering. Meanwhile, the resources through Pakistani institutions, including the LEJ’s courses and lecture series, HEC online courses and courses offered by Virtual University, are also a part of the initiative.
“The massive learning platform from various major world sources aims to ensure accessibility, structured mentoring, an assessment system, credit recognition and issuance of certificates and degrees wherever possible,” added Dr Choudhary.
Dr Rehman said that the inaugural ceremony of the LEJ Knowledge Hub will be held at the Governor’s House on December 12, where President Mamnoon Hussain will inaugurate the knowledge resource.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2013.
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