AIOU’s switchover to online system not helping underprivileged students

ISLAMABAD, Jun 26 (APP): Allama Iqbal Open University is the world’s fourth largest distance learning institution with annual enrollment of over one million students, the vast majority of which belongs to underprivileged areas of the country.

However, University management’s two online learning and management initiatives, Campus Management System (CMS) and Learning Management System (LMS) that switched over traditional education have landed students in a mess, especially the far-reaching.

A large number of far flung areas’ students have no access to the internet and associated facilities. The icing on the cake is hours’ long daily power load-shedding.

An undergraduate student Naeem from Bahawalpur sharing his ordeal with this scribe said,
“The internet facility is slow here. Sometimes the websites are too busy and connectivity with university’s software is not ensured. Thus we miss our classes”. Sometimes moderators’ non-availability online is also an element needed to be addressed, he complained.

“University stopped handing printed books. In the previous semester, there was no book provided for a course. I had to Google for that book. There was no helping material as well”, the Bahawalpur student stated.

Provision of internet facility at university’s regional centres nationwide was a good step but the students who live far away were unable to reach there, another female student Sadia from Jehlum complained.

Another issue, she said, was more related to the system’s functionality. “Login system causes problems, as many users try to login simultaneously, it doesn’t connect”.
A student Uzma from Lahore voicing her concern said, “System seems to be overburdened and it has no capacity to accommodate maximum students who join the class at the same time, the website fails to respond.”

Uzma suggested to give some flexibility in attendance keeping in mind the current energy crisis and internet connectivity problem.

A University official privy to the issue requesting not to be named told APP that the CMS was designed to facilitate students intending to get admissions, results and relevant data entry. Whereas, the LMS’ two major components were to deals with online workshops and submission of assignments.

He said, the university after considering the issues with these two earlier introduced software has made an Rs 270 million agreement with the Microsoft to remove lacunas from the previous system and ensure hassle free e-learning. He, however admitted that currently some 80 per cent students have the connectivity and login problem for classes and workshops which was being fixed.

On a query of reportedly significant drop out of students due to online switchover, he admitted the problem but declined to give figures.

A faculty member of the university giving his version suggested, “Keep the admission system online, but the previous traditional system should be reactivated to better facilitate the students from all across the country”.

The situation in distant areas of Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said, was more concerning where internet facility was still a day dream.
An official from top hierarchy of the university commenting on the issue explained that, “The new technology that is developed and introduced anywhere certainly has few problems and same is the case with ours as well”.

While most students responded positively to the new systems and policies the university was working to improve it further. And our agreement with the Microsoft team to switch over would definitely help resolve all the issues, he assured.
“Let’s hope for a good to come,” he concluded.