ISLAMABAD: There is a need to harness efforts to ensure that the quality of online learning is not compromised, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Director Education Varuni Muthukumarana said while addressing members of an online conference.

Vice chancellors of organisations along with representatives of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and equivalent entities of Saarc member states attended the conference. Ms Muthukmarana also proposed that Saarc countries should set up a platform for mutual sharing of measures in order to make the online system of education more effective.

Hosted by HEC Pakistan, the two-day meeting concluded on Thursday.

HEC Chairman Tariq Banuri said all Saarc member states have similar experiences in terms of the use of different applications and software for online education, e-learning system, capacity building of faculty, poor internet connectivity, and power breakdowns and need for technological infrastructure.

“All of them have addressed different issues with different degrees of success and all of them will benefit from sharing of information, pooling of resources and collaboration in capacity building as well as research. Pakistan is fully committed to regional cooperation and would be happy to arrange capacity building programmes for regional partners and support collaborative research and exchange,” he said.

According to HEC, issues and challenges related to the online mode of learning amid the pandemic were discussed in the meeting.

Delegates from all Saarc states shared how universities and other higher educational institutions in their respective countries are functioning currently and what solutions are being adopted to cope with multi-faceted challenges posed by the spread of Covid-19.

Sessions of the meeting covered topics including technological infrastructure for online learning, effective teaching online, quality assurance for online education, and evaluation and assessment for online education. Participants noted that online education is altogether different from conventional teaching methods. There was a consensus that shift to online education will be highly beneficial for all member states.

Vice chancellors also discussed various approaches being adopted to make sure that the quality of education is not compromised, besides ways and methods for proper monitoring of online examination and evaluation.

Mr Banuri appreciated all the participants for their commitment towards enhancing cooperation among higher educational institutions in Saarc countries. He thanked the Saarc Secretariat and other participants for their valuable insight and recommendations for overcoming different challenges of online education.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2020

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