State-Of-The-Art Learning Management System (LMS) To Help Improve Online Education And Make It Accessible Even In Remote Areas.

The Steering Committee Of Higher Education Development In Pakistan (HEDP), A World Bank-Funded Project, On Saturday Reviewed The Use Of New Technology Initiatives Including State-Of-The-Art Learning Management System (LMS) To Help Improve The Quality Of Online Education And Make It Accessible Even In The Remote Areas Of The Country.

The third steering committee meeting was held in Islamabad at the office of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) which was presided over by HEC Executive Director Dr. Shaista Sohail and attended by key members from all four provinces. The committee comprises senior officials from key federal ministries and provincial departments of higher education, Vice Chancellors of universities from across the country, and industrial representative.

HEDP is a five-year-long project that began in 2019 and is being implemented by HEC to expand its key higher education priorities. It aims to support research excellence in strategic sectors of the economy, improve teaching and learning, and strengthen governance in higher education, said a press release.

The project comprises five key components including improving and expanding research grants, roll out of the new undergraduate education policy, extending Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN) to universities and affiliated colleges, Higher Education Management Information Systems and Data Repository, and the establishment and strengthening of National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE). Project Coordinator Maryam Riaz gave an overview of the project, its restructuring, and future plans.

The restructuring focuses on the changes necessary due to the circumstances higher education faces due to Covid-19. Extensive use of the latest technology in higher education is a key element of restructuring. The new technology initiatives included state-of-the-art LMS to help improve the quality of online learning and make it accessible even in the remote areas of Pakistan. Blockchain technology would be implemented to ease the process of degree verification and attention thus saving the students money and time it takes to get degrees attested, she added.

It would help address and eradicate the issue of fake degrees. The latest enterprise resource planning (ERP) system including Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence would be deployed at HEC to improve the efficiencies of the organisation. A central data warehouse linked to a powerful business intelligence platform would provide reports and insights to senior decision-makers in higher education thus supporting evidence-based policy and planning.

The research grants offered under the HEDP project during 2020 covered sectors where there was a dire need for research to find practical solutions to issues being faced by Pakistan. For example, a grant award under the grand challenge fund was awarded to a research proposal in the food security sector, and would focus on making vaccines for animals to save their lives from ticks. Another grant was focused on finding the solution to the locust issue and saving crops from locust attacks. Rapid Research Grants covered issues related to Covid-19.

Participants also discussed the new undergraduate education policy which has been rolled out nationwide. Dr. Syed Zulfiqar Gilani informed the committee of the new distance and online learning policy and distance and online quality assurance framework. HEC has implemented its own MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) which would soon be opened to faculty members across the country and after that they would be able to use it for developing their own courses.

NAHE Rector Dr. Shaheen Sardar briefed the members on the faculty and HEC staffers’ training conducted over the last six months. NAHE also focused on training teachers on how to deliver courses online and use online learning management systems. NAHE was moving towards self-reliance and has generated significant funds through conducting some specialised training, she said. HEC provided internet and WiFi services to faculty and staff. This network has further expanded to remote universities and affiliated colleges, she informed.

The committee members were informed that despite the challenges faced due to Covid-19 the project was still on track and a successful World Bank mission has recently concluded. The committee appreciated the efforts of the HEDP team and offered their support and cooperation to resolve any challenges faced by the project team. The committee members expressed their interest to be more involved with the project and have frequent meetings.

This news was originally published at Pakistan Today.