These are perilous instances. The whole human race is at struggle with an invisible, relentless and lethal enemy. There isn’t a remedy in sight. Well being methods in lots of locations are overwhelmed. The toll of infections and mortality is growing exponentially. Not solely has the pandemic put our lives and well being in danger, it’s having what Henry Kissinger calls “societal dissolution results.” Our provide traces are lower, our manufacturing and distribution methods locked, political processes interrupted, faculties and universities closed, and our very capability to answer the disaster compromised. Whereas the duty of reversing the unfold of the virus is pressing and hopefully momentary, the impacts on society are prone to final for generations.
It’s a battle on two fronts. On the one hand, folks have to self-isolate to cease the unfold of the virus. However, folks have to reemerge and are available collectively as shortly as doable to reboot caught methods.
Universities mirror this dilemma. They convey collectively hundreds of individuals every single day, making them exceptionally susceptible to the unfold of the illness. Closing campuses is a crucial step in controlling the unfold. However universities additionally accumulate data and are the locations the place options will probably be discovered. No society can threat conserving universities closed for too lengthy. Pakistani society has already paid a heavy value because of previous disruptions in tutorial actions.
For the reason that onset of the disaster, the insurance policies of the Increased Schooling Fee (HEC) have been pushed by these two imperatives. Assist the federal government’s efforts to cease the unfold of the illness and begin the hassle to reduce disruption to highschool. Fortuitously, on-line interplay gives a method to do that. Consequently, HEC urged universities to organize for the transition to on-line programs and on-line interplay as shortly as doable.
There are additionally different causes for the emergency. We do not understand how lengthy the disaster will final. Some epidemic curve modeling research estimate lockdowns can final wherever by means of September, together with in international locations with related viral trajectories and lockdown dates as ours. The present college lockdown is in place till Could 31, however nobody can say how lengthy it is going to be wanted. If this continues past Could 31, college students threat shedding their semester.
As well as, the present pandemic is prone to lead to a basic restructuring of the worldwide economic system, related to people who passed off after earlier world wars, depressions or pandemics. Whereas it isn’t doable to foretell the exact form of the longer term economic system, there’s virtually unanimity on the central position that data expertise and digital interplay will play in it.
The choice to change to on-line programs was the topic of a lot criticism. Some argue that college students needs to be promoted with out research or evaluation. Others complain concerning the high quality of the programs and the connectivity points dealing with college students in distant areas. Nonetheless others need to take pleasure in a trip. There can also be an underlying stream of tension a few new method of interacting.
We are able to perceive, and even forgive, the need of some folks to remain out of this battle. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of scholars and college members are desperate to make good use of their time, additional their schooling, and contribute to nationwide efforts. HEC has labored onerous to attempt to discover such options.
At this level, solely the perfect universities and essentially the most engaged and dynamic Vice-Chancellors will be capable to launch a number of high-quality on-line programs. But when the preparations are taken in hand straight away, others will be capable to catch up by June. HEC helps universities in several methods, together with organizing software program and connectivity packages, organizing on-line supplies and coaching packages, creating an information repository, offering recommendation on high quality enchancment and by establishing and adapting monitoring and analysis methods.
High quality points
It’s true that the standard of many on-line programs at the moment supplied is sort of poor. If nothing is finished about them straight away, they’ll stay on this state even after June. To deal with the problem of high quality, HEC launched the idea of “on-line preparation”.
Vice Chancellors have been requested to take on-line programs if and provided that they’ll personally certify that six key components are ‘on-line prepared’: (a) College preparation, i.e. a environment friendly and operational studying administration system (LMS) in addition to an oversight physique accountable for certifying programs as on-line prepared; (b) college readiness, that’s, college members have accomplished on-line instructing coaching earlier than being permitted to show such a course; (c) Course preparation, ie all key details about a course is out there on the LMS; (d) Library readiness, ie all course readings and assignments can be found by means of on-line means; (e) Technological readiness, ie the expertise required to ship on-line programs is prepared for deployment; and (f) scholar readiness, ie college students are helped to beat obstacles they might encounter in accessing classes and supplies.
HEC has launched a 4-point program to deal with connectivity: (1) the Taleem package deal is being negotiated with telecom operators to prepare backed Web entry for college kids; (2) Supply modes to fulfill numerous scholar wants together with shorter length programs, knowledge gentle choices, and synchronous and asynchronous modes (i.e. placement of all course content material on the Web); (3) Offline mode, ie a system by which course materials might be distributed regionally by means of CDs or different storage media; and (4) scholar facilitation committees at every college to deal with connectivity points dealing with college students in distant areas.
Immediately, a digital gadget, be it a pc, pill or smartphone, is now not a luxurious, however a necessity. Universities should make it a requirement, and for many who can not afford it, manage scholarships or scholar loans to allow them to take action.
Because the outdated saying goes, hope for the perfect and put together for the worst. If the lockdown restrictions are lifted in early June, universities can resume operations as regular, but when there are additional delays there will probably be no alternative however to change to instructing in line or drop the semester (and possibly extra).
That is vital not just for the short-term response to the virus, but additionally for the long-term response to the disturbance that may comply with. The purpose will not be solely to deal with the present demand, nevertheless lengthy it might be, however to harness the energies and passions of our youth to fulfill and overcome the challenges that we’ll face after the tip of the disaster. To provide them the instruments and experiences that may permit them to outlive and even thrive within the economic system rising from the ashes of it. It’s a noble trigger and we hope that our younger technology will information us in its realization.
The author is president of the Increased Schooling Fee