By: Munaza Kazmi
Creating educational disruption, the Covid-19 pandemic has hindered the academic lives of students, also it exposed the lack of technology that is hindering the quality of online education in Pakistan. With the steady increase of virus, world forced to shift from doing things traditionally. Resulting, in March 2020, the Government of Pakistan closed all schools as part of a nationwide lockdown, prompting the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training to seek education alternatives to ensure learning continuity. However, this timely decision taken by the government not only safeguarded the academic lives of students but also protected a large number of individuals related to the education sector across the board.
Throughout the first wave, out of many initiatives taken by government of Pakistan one was the launching “TeleShool” that would deliver free educational content to grades 1-12 students and provided one lesson per day to each grade, so students would have to watch in shifts. Similarly, during the second wave of Covid-19, Radio Pakistan started transmitting “radio school” to encourage virtual learning in the country for primary-level students, as a part of an effort toward overcoming the digital divide.
In the higher-education sector of Pakistan, Virtual University is at the front line for delivering virtual learning, providing full-time online learning courses, from bachelor’s to Ph.D. level, in diverse fields. While the virus disrupted education, Microsoft Teams were deployed in universities to build connection between students and teachers. Previously, Microsoft collaborated to provide technology-based education in underdeveloped areas. The eLearn Punjab program has generated educational content based on videos and illustrations for primary and secondary school classes. And in tackling the digital divide in gender. The Malala Fund has investigated Covid-19 as an amplifying factor for the girls’ education crisis in Pakistan.
However, in the due course of pandemic we have also learned about the loopholes among the education sector, to highlight one of the many along the availability of technology is lack of technically trained teachers to run online classes smoothly. To strengthen blended, distance, and online learning, there is a need to provide more awareness and accessibility. There is also a dire need to develop innovative, immersive learning technologies and modern education spaces using virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technology. These technologies, along with the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, can change the future of learning by helping us build more interactive, personalized, and productive learning solutions. More specifically, when we talk about practical, hands-on learning, where there is an urgent need for learning material, augmented reality can provide virtual material to help teach with the kinesthetic learning approach.
Seemingly developed countries have innovative and advanced systems for e-learning, allowing them to stay in the loop and keep the learning flow active. But in the scenario of Pakistan, online learning is at emerging stage. Having started as emergency remote learning, it needs further investment to create more adoption and overcome limitations. Along with the establishing the Internet services in remote areas, developing specialized authoring tools, and creating awareness for getting the most out of online learning, moreover faculty need training to use online modalities and innovative pedagogies to reduce cognitive load and increase interactivity.
However, this critical period, which is moving us rapidly toward the adoption of e-learning, can spark more focus on providing Internet facilities in remote areas, developing more innovative, low-cost learning solutions, and creating more adaptive and effective methods of learning in the near future.