ONLINE EDUCATION: HOW VIRTUAL ACADEMICS DROPPED ALREADY CRUMBLING EDUCATION SYSTEM TO NEW LOWS IN PAKISTAN

As the online semester concludes, students in scores of hundreds are asking themselves the same question: was it really worth it? This semester may have concluded, enriching the private universities with a sense of achievement for pulling it off even amidst such demanding crises, but this superficial victory is nothing to how deep a loss online education turned out for a great multitude of university students.

Private universities are marking the successful completion of the semester, which was disabled by the COVID-19 pandemic in such an abrupt manner that the circumstances heralded a distant resumption. But thanks to the technology at hand that eased the sudden impediment and discontinued the halt our academic activities had come to. Online education instantly turned mainstream across Pakistan, with mainly schools and varsities showing a paradigm shift by rescheduling their activities on the virtual platform. This was when we realized how education can be made accessible to students even when there is no hope for on-campus endeavors.

Before relocating education to the online stratosphere, our universities had only those students in mind who had the essentials to equip themselves for this sudden shift and completely ignored those who had neither smartphones nor an internet connection that works round the clock, not to mention students who hail from remote areas where signals are scarce. There have been hundreds of students who could not attend their online sessions owing to poor reception and were snubbed when they took to social media handles by whatever means to register their protest. Despite having paid their universities thick wads of cash (because a good education can only be taught when bought), the students awaiting their administrations to come up with convenient solutions ended up missing out on a lot, which is unlikely to be recompense das everything seems to have moved on.

Online education, on the other hand, also exposed the ineptitude of some of our highly qualified instructors (unfortunately the highest paid as well) and brought forth how successfully they have been getting away with their indolence. As if being getting paid for plagiarising content from online sources and removing credits wasn’t enough, these individuals found the greatest comfort in online teaching as it allowed them to have a more negligent approach towards their pupils. Along with the stolen content, they provided their students to prepare from, these instructors now had the additional benefit of not even drafting exams by themselves, but conveniently lifting them from the internet, practically putting in absolutely no effort in the process and still getting paid. One more interesting thing observed was how some instructors conducted “ghost sessions” online, marking both students’ attendance and completion of their course in abject absences; they definitely took the concept of ghost schools a notch higher. Then there were respected instructors who weren’t that tech-savvy and demanded pupils to interact while keeping their mics on mute and barely turning to have a look at the inbox brimming with students’ grievances. The blame for this can be apportioned to universities, for they did not even bother conducting proper workshops for their staff on how to use online applications. A few of such universities even had the temerity to bash their students for not teaching their professors the correct usage of these apps.

The end-of-term exams and assignments throughout the semester are an entirely different story altogether. Programs, where theoretical courses dominated the practical ones, might have been covered effectively through the assignments, but courses that required on-field work and hands-on experience have completely gone in waste. Instead of devising a strategy wherein these courses could be put on hold and resumed later, the varsities decided to get them over with no matter what the circumstances. This approach towards such crucial courses in a degree program manifests the varsities’ lack of sense and how ill-equipped they happen to be when the system is disrupted. The results of online exams also proved how anyone can jump from the bottom to the lead, solving papers by lifting heavily from online sources (because the papers aren’t checked anyway), and stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the front row with students who have worked hard tirelessly and strive d for better results, only to see unworthy students sharing their fruit by dishonest means.

However, it is also worth mentioning the incredible efforts made by our hard-working and determined instructors, who stepped out of their comfort zone to make their earning justifiable to the last penny. But the irreparable damage caused by their counterparts and university administrations that pushed the semester for the sake of completion and then cherishing their so-called success amidst a crisis is hardly redeemable. It leaves no doubt that if online education is continued into the next semester our education will witness abject discrepancies and plunge to remarkably new lows.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.

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