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Pros and Cons of COVID-19 online classes for university students

Necessity is the mother of invention.

We should take full advantage of online learning system now because something is better than nothing.

 

By Aiza Ijaz

The whole world is suffering from deadly corona virus pandemic and Pakistan is no exception. It has disturbed the normal activities all over the country sending people into lockdown. Progress of any country mainly depends on the percentage of literacy. Along with many other sectors, it has hugely affected the education sector of the country. Taking an online class is proving to be a challenge for both teachers and students. Teachers are new with this mode of teaching, on the other hand, students are having difficulties due to many factors and it is taking time for them to digest this system as it takes time to become used to something new. Our main focus is university students here.

Online education system has both advantages and disadvantages. Here are some:

 

First of all, unavailability of internet facility in many areas of Pakistan is the major issue as it is not a tech-savvy country. On June 3, 2020, Higher Education Commission guaranteed students to solve their internet connectivity problems and issues regarding upcoming examinations. If somehow, student has arranged something to not miss the class then sometimes, class is not conducted on time as online system does not follow a strict schedule or time-table. Lack of participation from students is another problem.

Taking an online class is very different from the traditional one. Interaction with expression and body language is equally important along with the voice but it is lacking in online one. Studying under the reflection of a physically present teacher is easier and is comfortable to communicate with. Another disadvantage is ethical issues. Due to shutdown, living in isolation has resulted in the disturbance of sleeping and eating patterns. Laid-back attitude and laziness has taken over humans. In this gloomy situation around, it is difficult for teachers to teach with full potential and students to pay attention and actively participate.

Students, at university level especially, studying in last semester where they have to work on final projects including some practical field stuff has been severely affected because of shutting down. As effectively and successfully the students can work being in social contact, working and opinion sharing via technology cannot be of that much effective.

 

It has improved the technical skills of students. Now students can perform multiple tasks at one time. They can take classes, do job, and continue with other degree meaning online system has made learning more convenient and flexible. Also it is proving to be cost effective as there are no conveyance charges, no course material charges such as textbooks are available online. Also students do not have to follow a particular code of dressing in this system. Learners can keep themselves engaged with classes through mobile phone, laptop or any device available. This system might not be of great help but at least it is providing us learning to some level and saving our precious time to not get wasted due to this global crisis.

In this present era, where everything is getting digitized, these traditional classes are going to be transformed into online classes sooner or later. Due to corona virus, we have become used to this technological mode of learning which is great. Now that the situation has forced us to use this different style of learning through virtual world, we should take full advantage of it because, something is better than nothing.

 

  • Only 36.2% of the Pakistan’s population has internet access.

According to a survey conducted at a National level, 55 Universities from all across Pakistan took part in this survey, including provinces of Baluchistan, Gilgit Baltistan and AJK.  Students from public and private sector also participated in poll to share their opinions. The results state that 84% of students did not like this virtual system of learning, seven out of ten students did not like this continuation of online studies. Among them were the students from Baluchistan and Gilgit Baltistan, where internet facility is unavailable in many areas. 74% of students find this system of learning difficult but they are mostly undergraduate, postgraduate students find this system easy as compared to them. 17% of students stated load shedding to be a serious issue while 80% claimed internet to be the major problem while taking online classes. 48% of students reported to be busy in other tasks while taking classes. 45% of students from KPK supported this virtual education system and this had been the most surprising revelation of poll.

According to a survey done by Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations, 86.7% were not satisfied with higher education policies. Among university teachers, 75.7% showed their dissatisfaction over the performance of HEC Chairperson. On the other hand, 7.1% supported the proposed amendments in the universities Acts. Improvement in online classes can only be brought through proper feedback from both teachers and students.

 

Thoughts and opinions shared by some stakeholders regarding pros and cons of online system.

“After the emergence of corona virus disease, the question was how we run our education system now. Firstly, it was necessary to bring back students towards positivity amidst the pandemic so we conducted digital education classes and received an impressive positive feedback from both PhD and MPhil students. Due to some technical courses, the major challenge was to teach at Masters Level but our teachers again proved to be successful in this domain too. Some students intentionally tried to disturb the atmosphere of class and made fun of teachers upon which strict measures were taken.  Online education system is proving to be a positive change as it is budget saving, connective and more time managing. We can now conduct international webinars, take online exams and vivas on the applications like Zoom and Google meet.” Dr. Nosheena Saleem, the Head of Department (HOD) at Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab said.

“The pandemic has provided both aspects, negative and positive. As far as positive is concerned, we are shifted towards the online and technological use of our facilities and it has increased our exposure and vision regarding the pedagogy skills of teachers and learning skills of our students. As far as negative is concerned, initially the interaction, classroom atmosphere and quality of education was affected but now things are improving and this pandemic has proven to be blessing in disguise for our academy and our education culture because technological factor has been included in our daily routine education.” Seemab Far Bukhari, an honorable professor at Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab said.

“In my opinion, pros are… online learning is the best option to keep the system going, it helped to save time of the students because there is less distraction means to the point class. As technology is the future so it’s best time to equip ourselves with the technology. As far as cons are concerned, unstable connections do create problems. Sometimes students take undue benefit and misbehave. Sometimes teacher does not take it seriously so it’s a mutual loss. But what I can say here is a dire need of counseling for students. They need to understand that we have to move with the time so we should be prepared for adverse things and act accordingly but students lack seriousness. Though I believe, online system has reduced the distances and kept the world moving.” Dr. Savera Shami, coordinator of Master’s Program at Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab said.

“As far as my point of view is concerned, I am only seeing pros in it. If the facility of distant learning is available at university level then in my opinion it is the best. Because many students are also engaged in multiple activities while studying such as seniors and professionals. Secondly, due to the less use of vehicles, pollution in air has become so much better. So, according to me, by making internet accessible to all areas of Pakistan, online classes are a good initiative and this trend must sustain” Amna Mufti, a professsor at Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab said.

“Amidst the critical situation due to COVID-19, the major hurdle in online learning was internet speed and connectivity. A leverage on attendance was given by university and I myself accommodated students regarding this issue because it is unfair to overburden students and impose pressure on them by giving strict deadlines for assignments submission when the atmosphere around is already depressing. I, being a production teacher, experienced a severe barrier in getting response from students as the subject is based on practical work and needs constant interaction. Challenges were both at teachers end, as well as at students end. But overall, it has been a good experience teaching through different softwares. This new experience has made me learn how to deal with students sitting remote while you are not watching them. The new methods of presentations and assignments has been evolved as it is said necessity is the mother of invention.” Sabeen Inam, a respected lecturer at the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab said.

“It was not something new because even before lockdown, FC was operating its own websites like tmoodle and empower and the purpose was to make students technology friendly. Although taking online lectures and exams are unusual and not quite satisfactory” a student from Forman Christian University said.

 

The writer is a student of MSc Digital Media at Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore.

 

 

 

 

 

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