ADOPTING E-Learing in a day : THE measures the Saudi government has taken as a quick response to the spread of Covid-19 include the closure of schools and universities since March 9, for an as of yet unspecified period of time.

This was preceded by some initial travel restrictions that have since been tightened. If people had not taken notice of the spread of Covid-19 before, they could surely have now, since educational institutions are closed. This was followed by the closing of cinemas and cancellation of large public gatherings.

While all these measures are positive, what made everyone sit up and take notice was the school closings.

The social structure of citizens and residents [with the exception of skill labour] is built around families. When school and university students are forced to stay at home, it impact's every family's daily routine.

Public universities in Saudi Arabia are all equipped with McGraw Hill's learning management system, or LMS, called BlackBoard.

BlackBoard has been routinely used to communicate and share course contents with students for years.

When the government took the necessary decision to close educational institutions, the order to universities was accompanied with instructions to move classes to BlackBoard's live streaming feature, which most faculty had never used and many did not know existed.

I do not know whether the deployment of an LMS, capable of delivering a lecture online, is the result of good planning and foresight, or merely a stroke of luck by selecting this particular LMS.

Nevertheless, the sudden switch-over to e-learning this way one day's notice has not been smooth.

It appears that while technologically conversant faculty of engineering and computer science departments have quickly managed to figure out how to conduct their classes online, faculty of other departments in non-technical departments, like the social sciences, humanities, etc, have not been able to do the same and require training.

Moreover, with just a fraction of faculty being able to comply with the order to conduct online classes, the situation is exposing scalability limits of online learning solutions.

Several faculty members I talked to shared that due to sudden surge in usage of the online lesson feature, the LMS is so overloaded that roughly half of the time it is inoperational.

Building and demoing an e-learning solution in a single school or classroom is one thing, but building it to be scalable so it keeps running for thousands of classes with hundreds of thousands of people at a time is another matter.

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, like Coursera, edX and others have been successfully delivering excellent learning experience for a decade, where anyone who wants to learn can do so at any time of the day.

Then why, you may ask, this insistence on making all students log on at a fixed time? Why not allow the faculty to record video lectures and upload them for students to view them at a time of day that suits them?

Apparently, there are still legacy administrative issues to consider, like taking student attendance, and even monitoring whether faculty 'is coming to work'.

Such considerations prevent the whole-hearted adoption of best practices in distance learning. We are quiet literally seeing the 20th century concerns holding up 21st century solutions.

These same concerns have cropped up in the US, where universities have started announcing closure just a few days ago.

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research and Thinking on ''E-Learning Adoption''. continues. The World Students Society thanks author Educationist Dr Ayesha Razzaque/ Michigan State University.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!