Dealing with Covid-19 | The Daily Star

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With the Covid-19 pandemic having an unprecedented impact on higher education in the country, universities are adopting a blended learning approach, combining online education and traditional face-to-face teaching to bridge the gap in learning.

Universities have also reduced the number of vacations and the length of semesters and years, among other things, in their efforts to recover from the losses suffered by the pandemic-induced shutdown for 17 months.

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Educators appreciated the steps taken by higher education institutions, but stressed that universities should continue to strive and explore new approaches to deliver quality education in a changed scenario of digital transformation and take into account future health emergencies.

Professor Kazi Shahidullah, Chairman of the University Grants Commission, said: “Now that we return to traditional classroom activities, we advise all universities to take a blended approach combining different media or teaching methods, including in-person and online learning. “

An extra effort must come from everyone – teachers, students and administrators – to tackle the problem of education loss, he said.

The UGC president said that many students have experienced mental pressure and these students should be given the necessary support to overcome it.

“I hope we can overcome all of this, but it takes time,” he said.

The highly infectious coronavirus has had a profound impact on higher education institutions, including public and private institutions around the world. In Bangladesh, the government closed all educational institutions on March 17 last year, including universities a week after the first case of Covid-19 was detected.

As a result, classes on campus remained closed for over a year and a half.

Private universities quickly adopted e-learning methods, and public ones followed soon after. But the crisis has exposed the fact that many universities are not equipped to take online courses – a new reality for the country’s education system.

Lack of infrastructure and uneven access to the internet and devices such as desktops, laptops and smartphones for students in rural and urban poor areas are vital barriers to virtual learning.

Over time, however, universities came up with innovative ideas.

For example, Brac University has created an online learning platform based on a world-class platform developed by MIT and Harvard – named “buX”.

It allows students to learn regardless of their location and the quality of their internet connection, and makes learning interactive and lively, authorities at one of the leading private universities have said.

“At the same time, we are supporting students with financial aid for the fifth consecutive semester during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” a senior university official said, wishing to remain anonymous.

To guide and assist students during the predicament of Covid-19, the university has provided psychological support and other helpful instructions through a hotline number.

North South University students did not encounter many obstacles as they received online lessons.

NSU Vice-Chancellor Professor Atiqul Islam said: “We took around 3,000 online courses in one week and the participation rate was around 95%.”

He said NSU officials will resume in-person classes for students who have received a single dose of the vaccine.

“Students who have not received vaccines join real-time online classes where they can also interact with their teacher and classmates,” he said.

Prof. Shamsad Mortuza, Pro-VC at the Bangladesh Liberal Arts University, said online classes were going full steam ahead.

“Over the past two years, we’ve learned how active learning can be delivered online. The students realized that this was a new reality and they embraced it. It’s a demonstration of our combined collective resilience, ”he said.

He said ULAB will take in-person lab classes and hold final in-person exams from January. However, online classes will continue for others, he said.

At the Independent University of Bangladesh, all academic activities took place on online platforms in accordance with government guidelines.

During this time, the IUB has organized numerous seminars, workshops and conferences, all online.

“In order to ensure the mental well-being of the students, all clubs remained fully active during the lockdown. The students participated in career development and mental health sessions via online platforms,” ​​said Rajib Bhowmick , director, media and public relations of the IUB.

“The IUB has also continued to introduce innovative ways, such as digital classrooms, to enhance the online learning experience for students,” he said.

Public universities have also taken various measures to recover the educational loss of their students and reduce the possibility of session blocking.

Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Professor Md Akhtaruzzaman said, according to their estimate, that the university can experience sessions of seven to eight months.

“In view of the situation, we are reducing the durations of semesters and academic years to cover academic losses. We decided that a semester would end in four months instead of six months and the academic year in eight months instead of 12, “he said.

Before last year’s shutdown, DU authorities were not in the habit of holding classes and exams on Saturdays. But now many departments and institutes are taking classes on Saturdays if they wish, the VC said.

Jahangirnagar University treasurer Professor Rasheda Akter said they had taken online courses and exams on different subjects throughout the pandemic.

In some cases, many departments have also held lab courses, she said.

Regarding the jam session, Professor Shahidullah said that public universities have been successful in overcoming the jam session in the past. “So there’s no reason they can’t do it now,” he said.

Educator Hossain Zillur Rahman said: “One of the impacts of the pandemic is the delay of graduates to enter the workforce.”

“If there had been a responsible attitude on the part of the authorities, like taking the final exams, it could have helped students get their certificates on time,” said Zillur, also president of the Power and Participation Research Center Executive.

On September 23, the UGC, the apex statutory body in the field of higher education, in a directive to all private universities declared that they can conduct educational activities on campus if teachers and students have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, or are registered to receive the vaccines.

UGC member Mohammed Alamgir emphasized blended learning, saying the method will be useful in facilitating quality education not only in the event of a pandemic, but also in general.

“If a student is deprived of the opportunity to attend classes in person, they can recoup the loss – by taking advantage of recorded classes. He will also have access to multimedia content. “

Alamgir said the UGC has suggested universities reduce the length of the academic year and vacation time to make up for academic losses due to the pandemic.

The commission recommended that vacations such as summer, winter and festival vacations could be reduced to complete final exams, classroom tests, homework and quizzes for all subjects, including practical classes.

Preparatory leave for final exams, the gap between exams in two subjects and the gap between year and semester can be reduced, he said.

There are 108 private universities in the country, of which 98 are currently operational with around 3.5 lakh of students, according to UGC’s latest annual report. The other 10 universities, recently approved by the UGC, have not yet started their academic activities.

On the other hand, around 2.98 lakh students study in 41 public universities except National University, Open University, Islamic Arab University, and medical universities.


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