E-Learning Landscape in Pakistan

Face to face interaction between student and teacher is an integral part of traditional education system. distance education – where there is no teacher-student interaction – has become a common practice for theoretical subjects. Distance education is a blessing for students in less developed regions and provides opportunities for busy professionals to learn new skills and improve their qualification with their jobs. There has been a paradigm shift recently in education in the form of online learning where students are provided all study material online. Such platforms provide forums where students may discuss topic and ask questions. The concept of e-learning offered low cost reach to massive audience. Today, many international universities are offering their courses online in order to reach a larger number of audience.

The idea of distance education in Pakistan was first envisioned with the launch of Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) in 1974. This was the first institute in the country to launch such education system. It helped people to get education at their door steps where university used to correspond with students by posting material and assignments and centers where established in each city to conduct final exams. With the advent of digital media, AIOU took initiative to enhance the distance learning experience. In 1999 (after one year the Google was launched) AIOU started Open Learning Institute of Virtual Education (OLIVE) system. The motivation behind OLIVE was to enhance the distance education experience by providing support through digital media. There were many other initiatives taken by AIOU to improve distance education such as audio cassette, recorded video lectures and streaming of lectures on Pakistan Television(PTV).

AIOU was not alone in the race of providing quality distance education. Other universities in Pakistan started distance learning programs by using latest technologies to provide education at door steps.  These universities used electronic media, video lectures, live streaming etc. The figure below shows the timeline of the universities in Pakistan starting distance learning programs with respect to years.

timeline

Virtual University (VU) of Pakistan was launched to enhance the distance learning in modern technologies. VU used proper television and FM radio transmissions, e-learning, Learning Management Systems (LMS) and its own TV Network (VTV1-4). Following table shows some institutes with their strengths in using new and innovative ways to deliver education. This comparison is based on the research we did online.

Sr No Institute DL LMS E-Learning Forum Chat Video Lectures
1 AIOU Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
2 VU Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
3 COMSAT Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
4 BZU Yes Yes No Yes No No
5 UET Lahore No No No No No No
6 IIUI Yes No No Yes No No
7 GCUF Yes No No No No No
8 AUF Yes Yes No No No No
9 UOP Yes No No No No No

In 2007, Higher Education Commission Pakistan, took an initiative to set up the distance learning program at 6 different universities located in Pakistan (http://www.dawn.com/news/600049). They included

  1. University of the Punjab, Lahore.
  2. University of Peshawar, Peshawar.
  3. University of Karachi, Karachi.
  4. University of Sindh, Jamshoro.
  5. Gomal University, D.I. Khan.
  6. Bahauddin Zakriya University, Multan.

Although HEC took the initiative to promote distance education, the system is still facing many serious issue such as: corruption, lack of funds, lack of technology awareness, lack of professional and trained resources, high rate technology products, energy crisis, traditional mind, and misuse of technology. There are some people in our society who don’t want to launch such systems, because their corruption will be exposed to media. Many people find their own benefits to launch or establish such system/projects instead of as a national welfare. Many universities in Pakistan are facing financial problems. They have short budgets to maintain the existing resources. So, they don’t have capacity to launch these type of high cost projects.

E-learning has changed the way education is delivered. Study materials, graphical presentations, simulations, and student-to-student interactions on forums is really a powerful way to learn new skills. The only limitation faced in e-learning is in practical fields such as medical (operative etc.) and engineering (field work) but it really helps to learn theoretical aspects of that fields. HEC as well as universities should take serious initiative to promote e-learning system to take the full advantage of the spectrum of technologies it offers. Professional resources should be hired by universities to setup, maintain and run such systems. Teachers and students should be trained to adopt it. We are already in 600s and 700s in international university rankings and by delaying the adoption of e-learning technology will only decrease our university rankings.

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