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22nd-Jul-2020

Online Teaching Future Impact On Universities In Bangladesh

By

M. M. Shahidul Hassan :
Universities in Bangladesh had no choice but to use online platforms and tools for teaching, learning, and assessment after universities were closed due to Covid 19 pandemic. Two factors worked in private universities to make this decision. If students sit idle for long periods of time, a section of students will lose interest in higher studies and will not return to their university after reopening. On the other hand, if private universities do not conduct academic programs, students will not pay tuition fees which is the primary source of income for all private universities, and they will be in financial crisis to pay their staff and to continue ongoing development work. Therefore, they accept this new teaching even they do not prefer this mode of teaching and learning. Considering the uncertainty of returning to normalcy and the long separation of students from their studies, public university authorities are also deciding to teach online for their students. Teachers could not think of taking classes online with little preparation. Teachers are now exchanging their views and opinion on how they are conducting classes online and taking steps to mitigate the chance of cheating in exams. Some pedagogical researchers have begun research on how to improve and practice online teaching methods and how to eliminate cheating during exams. However, Bangladesh has a long tradition of teaching classrooms to university teachers. They had never taught online classes before. So, they are facing the challenge of changing their mindset, learning online platforms and tools which will be used only for a short time, probably five to six months and should be spent on non-sustainable things.
Under this situation possibility of finishing a semester in a non-tidy manner by some universities cannot be taken lightly. If this really happens, then this will damage quality education and will reduce the interest of students in acquiring subject knowledge and create dissatisfaction. As guardians of universities the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh (UGC) can monitor how universities conduct online semesters, especially in teaching, learning, and student performance evaluation.
Human nature is to use what have learned through spending time. When universities reopen, teachers will return to the classroom teaching and will want to apply what they have learned about taking classes online. They will expect universities to offer some courses online so that they can teach online. What will universities do then? Shouldn't members of their faculty be listened to? Universities should face this reality and prepare now.
Most universities around the world administer classroom teaching based academic programs and use Learning Management System (LMS) software for executing official works, conducting some online programs for adult and financially disadvantaged people, training and short courses. They also offer professional certificates, advanced degrees, global and executive education programs, and lifelong learning online. Online courses run by Princeton University, known as Massive, Open, Online Courses (MOOCs) have become popular worldwide. MIT and Stanford offer online courses for their faculty members, industries, and other learners. They offer Certificate Programs in a variety of fields such as Urban Studies, Environmental Studies, Values and Public Life, Teacher Preparation, Technology and Society, Sustainable Energy, History and the Practice of Diplomacy, Entrepreneurship, and Creative Writing. Oxford has been successfully delivering programs such as Executive Leadership, Diploma in Global Business, Diploma in Finance Strategy, Diploma in Organizational Leadership, the History of Economic Thought, Inequality and Labour Market. Universities also offer free online courses to advanced degrees and executive education in order to help the community to meet goals for life and professional advancement. Department of continuing education and academic departments administer theses online programs. Many universities in Asia offer online courses in science, engineering, social sciences and business and economics and contemporary subjects.
Universities in Bangladesh may also opt for such online programs. Successful implementation of online programs cannot be accomplished with free online platforms and tools. A large financial investment will be required. Universities need to develop a strong IT department and have LMS. Developing infrastructure will not be enough to provide online programs. Universities must have resourceful persons.
Faculty members and staff who will be involved in online programs and activities need to be trained. International experts can help train them. In today's world, universities do not limit their activities to impart knowledge to students. Now they provide life-long learning, high-level skills, critical thinking, and innovative qualities to students through education and also do social work.  
They are applying software to achieve the skills and qualities. In this age of internationalization, it would not be right for our universities to function differently. It is time for the universities in Bangladesh to build a strong network with them. The online learning experience during the Covid 19 pandemic will increase the use of the software in future university activities, and Bangladesh will gradually enter the digital age. However, with this opportunity, many institutions can be set up to deceive students in the name of awarding degrees online. Before allowing an institution to award a degree online, the government has to do a lot of screening.
(Professor M. M. Shahidul Hassan, PhD is the Vice Chancellor of East West University. Email: vc@ewubd.edu).