A team of Government College University Lahore academics, who graduated from top universities of the world, prepared the University’s Online Education Policy after studying various models adopted by the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Singapore. The policy is approved by the University’s Academic Council.
Prof Dr Asghar Zaidi, Vice Chancellor of GCU, said: “We can comfortably claim to have devised one of the best, forward-looking online education policies in South Asia. This policy is an integral part of our four-year strategic vision (2020-2023).”
Online education policy focuses on four key elements: course readiness, teacher training, technology and students’ preparedness. To ensure course readiness for online teaching, faculty members revised more than 1600 courses by adding e-resources, weekly distribution of lectures, grading strategies and reading material. All courses are approved by relevant chairpersons and the Panel of Digital Learning Environment of the University. The Library staff worked 24/7 for providing students and teachers with reading material by electronic and postal services.
Recently established Directorate of Information Technology trained 800 faculty members and forty IT Coordinators for using the newly acquired online system.
The University adopted a “distance learning model” for students who had internet connectivity issues. At students’ request, the University sent course material by postal service without charging any amount. Such students submitted assignments and final essays by post as well.
“Despite having no prior experience, more than 800 faculty members and approximately 15000 students shifted to online mode in a short time. We made sure that no students were left behind because of technology or humble background”, Prof Zaidi said.
GCU conducts mid-term and final examinations online for all degree programmes in accordance with the online education policy. The Controller of Examinations said: “Teachers could take 24-hour or less open book exam, long essay and/or viva for assessment. Assessment strategies in each department varied depending on the requirement of the discipline. Teachers also checked submissions for plagiarism”.
A chairperson of Languages Faculty told: “In a three-hour on-campus exam, students usually reproduce verbatim of readings uncritically. However, in a long essay or 24-hour time-bound online exams, they have the opportunity to revise the script multiple times. We can conduct an online viva to verify whether a submission is of the same student. That’s what learning is all about”.
Prof. Zaidi said: “Our academics deserve particular appreciation. Many faculty members and their families suffered from Covid-19. But they continued teaching and did not compromise on students’ learning”. He also said that Pakistani universities cannot shy away from e-learning, it is the need of the hour and the Government needs to make heavy investments to improve internet connectivity and online teaching systems.