Making distant learning effective during COVID - 19 | Examples from the globe

Due to spread of corona virus across the world, all higher education institutes including primary and secondary were closed down as a safety measure taken by 175 countries across the world. This includes 220 million children worldwide, whereas, most of these institutions transformed themselves by conducting online classes and assessments. Many of the countries managed this transition smoothly while others struggled. It happened due to lack of prior experience of such nature, whereas, many of the developed and even few developing countries has specialized distant learning universities. Due to the struggle, few of the economies of world suffered a delay in moving their courses online but few of them suspended them completely for an indefinite period. In 2018, UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP – UNESCO) conducted a study based on identifying policies and instruments that will support in flexible learning as it could become the medium of instructions for higher education institutes. The study was made public by demonstrating the good practices deployed in field by various countries, therefore, on the basis of that findings, countries can develop their systems for making distant learning effective.

In Malaysia, Wawasan Open University (WOU) delivers distant learning education programs but the trick is in its establishment. It is not a sole independent university rather it was developed by a consortium of all public sector universities of Malaysia. WOU serves as a gateway towards the educational programs of various universities in which all non-traditional learners can acquire education, such as, working people or who were probably unable to proceed to higher education after the completion of their secondary education. In a situation, when all of the educational institutes are closed, Malaysia is one of those countries that has continued all educational activities without any delay. All the traditional learners were also advised to use the online learning platform of WOU through which they accessed the material of their specific university.

In Finland, one of the top ranked educational environment in the world has also developed its own online education system. The national policy framework in the country instructs all universities to have online learning platforms and it is mandatory for all Finish universities to have an open learning platform. These platforms were previously used by those people who were interested in learning regardless of their age, education, gender and location but within the country. These types of courses were offered free of any charge and are also recognized in the transcripts of students. However, due to closure of institutes and rapid spread of the disease, same open learning platforms are now being used by the conventional students for continuing their educational activities.

Lastly, India offers distant education at a very large platform and due to the arrival of COVID – 19, all those programs have become more effective than ever before. The country has 15 open universities with approximately 110 dual mode universities that are specialized in providing education through traditional and online platforms. One of the useful practice that India uses to make distant learning effective is that it provides a Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM). It is an online platform which provides e-learning content and they are also recognized by all the higher education institutes. A student entering a higher education in India can either transfer up to 20% of credit hours from any online courses completed on SWAYAM or request university for enrolling him any related online course. The same program is televised in regional languages across 32 different educational TV channels and via the radio as well.

All of the above mentioned practices are useful ways of continuing the educational activities despite the outbreak of deadly virus. Few of the initiatives can be taken by even struggling economies, such as, broadcasting through radio and televisions rather than internet. As most of the undeveloped or even developing countries, such as, India too highlighted the issue of internet availability in rural areas. Hence, above mentioned practices can be replicated immediately by Pakistan too so that learning is continued and is recognized when the institutions are opened at a later stage. No doubt that government of Pakistan and all the regulatory bodies in the country including Higher Education Commission (HEC) are doing a tremendous job but it can be more effective by adapting to the best practices across the globe as highlighted by UNESCO.

By; Daniyal Ahmad

The blogger hails from Lahore and has been writing content for various leading platforms since 2015. Education, Current Affairs, Sports and Social Issues are the expertise of blogger. The blogger can be contacted using his email address daniyal.ahmad71@gmail.com

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