Virtual education degree programs and e-learning universities tend to be perceived of lesser quality and validity. comparatively the physical classroom-taught programs. However with the pandemic, both public and private universities have been mandated to move their courses/classes online. as per the directive of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Over the last month, a number of articles published in newpapers.
Advocates of the online shift (mostly private institutions) have been congratulating themselves on the quick and smooth transition they have made. Others, including many student groups, have been resistant to the idea of e-learning. They claim that infrastructure, access to technology and connectivity are not set up to equitably meet the needs of students in Pakistan. However, there has been limited discussion on what e-learning conceptually requires and whether we, as a nation, have the pedagogical skills to provide online courses for degree programs.
E-learning or Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT)?
We believe that ERT is a practical, temporary or short-term shift of delivering education. , whereas online education requires careful deliberation. Without much preparedness and an urgency to facilitate teaching and learning as an emergency response, faculty have been struggling to make this transition and support students. effective planning is required for the continuation and effectiveness of online classes.
An uncertain terrain for students
The student learning experience must be at the core of all pedagogy, hence it is imperative that their readiness in terms of access to technology, learning needs and digital literacy be facilitated. We spoke to undergraduate students across disciplines from various private universities in Karachi who shared their experience of the shift from remote to face-to-face learning. Although many were appreciative of the efforts of faculty to quickly transition to new modalities of teaching, they still shared numerous challenges.
These include low bandwidth due to increased work from home policies, electricity issues, unavailability of personal desktop/laptop and personal delegated space for studying, stress, juggling between family life and education, physical and mental health issues, fear of being infected or having a loved on getting Covid-19; gender discrimination and domestic workload, and well as feeling of isolation from friends. For few students, online education has been an opportunity to think more carefully about their learning tasks – how they can pursue detailed projects and/or deeper research, and learn how to communicate their ideas better due to the time at hand.