ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi has directed the concerned authorities to take measures to improve internet connectivity for students while discussing online university classes held in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many universities are offering online classes, but a large number of students are facing internet connectivity issues or lack laptop computers and other such facilities, sources said.
“There are a number of students in the country who have no computer, laptop or Android mobile phone, what to talk about internet connectivity issues,” a teacher at the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) said.
He added that universities should have made sure students had the necessary facilities before they began offering online classes.
Students have raised concerns regarding the situation on social media, even demanding the suspension of the ongoing semester.
According to a press release issued by the presidency, Dr Alvi chaired a meeting to discuss bandwidth issues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday. He was briefed on issues facing internet users, particularly students, due to the pressure on the existing internet infrastructure since people have begun working from home and students studying online.
The statement said that in order to facilitate students and improve internet accessibility, Dr Alvi has directed the relevant quarters to take necessary measures to enhance internet connectivity so that the students could continue their education uninterrupted. He also directed to improve internet coverage in areas that currently lack internet facilities.
Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Digital Pakistan Tania Aidrus, Information Technology and Telecommunications Secretary Shoaib Siddiqui, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Chairman retired Maj Gen Amir Azeem and Ministry of Finance Additonal Secretary Ahmed Mujtaba Memon attended the meeting.
Higher Education Commission spokesperson Ayesha Ikram said that the commission has been providing universities support and guidance on online classes. She said universities have been asked to address connectivity and accessibility issues.
To a question, she said that students who do not have facilities such as laptop computers through which to attend online classes would likely be provided coursework on flash drives or CDs.
“Through online classes, that too only in those universities which showed willingness, we are taking steps to mitigate the educational loss of students,” she said, adding that complaints regarding online classes led the HEC to ask for detailed information on courses in order to inspect the quality of their content, delivery and connectivity.
In order to avoid system problems from a single ‘big bang launch’, the HEC has allowed digitally advanced universities to start offering online courses as soon as they are ready. However, clear instructions have been given that the quality of education should not suffer at any cost. In case a university needs time to establish their learning management system, they will have until May 31 to do so.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020