AIOU’s move to online system does not help disadvantaged students

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ISLAMABAD, (UrduPoint/Pakistan Point News – June 26, 2022): Allama Iqbal Open University is the world’s fourth largest distance education institution with an annual enrollment of over one million students, the vast majority of whom belong to disadvantaged areas of the country.

However, the university management’s two online learning and management initiatives, the Campus Management System (CMS) and the Learning Management System (LMS), which replaced traditional teaching , threw students into a mess, especially the more ambitious ones.

A large number of students from remote areas do not have access to the internet and related facilities. The icing on the cake is a daily load shedding of several hours.

An undergraduate student, Naeem from Bahawalpur, sharing his ordeal with this scribe, said, “Internet facility is slow here. Sometimes websites are too busy and connectivity with university software is not not assured. So we miss our classes”. Sometimes the unavailability of online moderators is also something that needs to be addressed, he complained.

“The university stopped distributing printed books. In the previous semester, no books were provided for a course. I had to google this book. help,” said the student from Bahawalpur.

The provision of internet facilities at the university’s regional hubs across the country was a good step, but students who live far away have not been able to access them, complained fellow student Sadia from Jehlum.

Another problem, she said, was more related to the functionality of the system. “There are problems with the login system, because many users try to log in simultaneously, it does not log in”.

An Uzma student from Lahore expressing her concern said, “The system seems to be overloaded and it does not have the capacity to accommodate maximum number of students joining the class at the same time, the website is unresponsive.” Uzma suggested giving some flexibility to participation keeping in mind the current energy crisis and internet connectivity issue.

A university official familiar with the issue asking not to be named told APP that the CMS was designed to make it easier for students to get admissions, results and relevant data entry. While the two main components of the LMS were to deal with online workshops and assignment submission.

He said that after reviewing the issues with these two previously introduced software, the university reached a Rs 270 million deal with Microsoft to remove the shortcomings of the previous system and ensure hassle-free online learning. He, however, admitted that currently around 80% of students have the connectivity and login issue for classes and workshops that was being resolved.

On a matter of apparently large student dropouts due to the online switch, he admitted the problem but declined to give numbers.

A university faculty member giving his version suggested, “Keep the admissions system online, but the old traditional system should be reactivated to better facilitate students across the country.”

The situation in remote areas of Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said, was more worrying where internet access was still a waking dream.

A senior university official commenting on the matter explained that “new technology that is developed and introduced anywhere certainly has few problems and that is also the case with ours.”

While most students reacted positively to the new systems and policies, the university worked to improve them further. And our agreement with the Microsoft team to switch would certainly help solve all the problems, he assured.

“Let’s hope for good to come,” he concluded.

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