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Dhaka Tribune

OP-ED: How to learn online

The challenges of utilizing e-learning during Covid-19 in a country like Bangladesh

Update : 16 Jun 2020, 10:34 PM

Covid-19 has undoubtedly affected our economy, society, humanity, business lives, and livelihoods in an unprecedented way. In particular, the education sector has suffered immensely with more than 60% of the global educational institutions shutting their services. 

As a result, 90% of students (approximately 1.5 billion students) were affected by the closure. The question then arises: What should be done to mitigate the effect of this closure? Many recommended the utilization of online and distance learning, which is undoubtedly an excellent and welcoming approach. 

Although, neither developed nor developing countries were prepared to experience this unexpected pandemic of Covid-19 and its consequences, developed countries were in an advantageous position of using the online platform for educational institutions. 

Another question then arises: Why are developing countries lagging, and what should they do to cope with a subsequent pandemic? Below are possible reasons and solutions: 

First, there is a lack of well- developed IT infrastructure. Students in remote areas experience very weak and unstable internet connections, which keep them out of cyberspace. It is worth noting that the majority of the students, especially university students, come from remote areas and are forced to return to their localities due to the lockdown measures. 

This lack of connectivity makes the establishment of an e-learning platform almost impossible. As an alternative, radio or television channels could be established, but that has proven difficult due to limited or no power supply. In this regard, a collaboration between private and public institutions is required to bring the whole country under constant electrical coverage as well as a stable internet connection. 

Second, most universities, especially government-owned in developing countries lack an e-learning platform and operate a very outdated website. The university authority is therefore advised to set up an online learning platform and make its use compulsory for all students and teachers. 

The third is the challenge of technophobia. It is no surprise that many older professors in most developing countries are afraid to use technology and consider it to be complicated. As a consequence, they resist the establishment of an e-learning platform. 

It must be understood that failure to eliminate technophobia at this stage will prevent the new generation from utilizing e-learning tools. In this era, the use of technology in studying or teaching any subject is inevitable. The concerned authority should take responsibility for training all teachers and students in the use of educational technology.

Last but not least is the naivete of the elementary or secondary students about the online learning platform. Thus, the radio or TV pathshala suits them better, provided they are well-monitored by their guardians. Additionally, most university students are either already knowledgeable of online learning platforms or could be easily trained in their use. 

However, some students may lack a smartphone, computer, or laptop, leaving them with no or limited access to online courses and reading materials. Therefore, support from both government and non-governmental organizations is required to assist the needy students, and consequently reduce the inequality gap. 

The government should increase the allocation for the education sector to solve these problems and establish an online learning platform in earnest with the help of various stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Education and university management. 

Muhammad Mehedi Masud is an Assistant Professor, Department of Development Studies, University of Malaya, Malaysia.

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