22 April Kathmandu, 2020
The outbreak of COVID-19 forced schools and colleges to shut down around the globe. Due to the lockdown in Nepal, it has become difficult to expect a physical class anytime soon. During such difficult times, most colleges in Nepal have adopted online classes and are trying their best to reach out to each student. Colleges are concerned about their exams and their future.
Most colleges have already implemented online classes using modern technologies while some are still looking for possible utilization of resources. The ones who are running online classes are using online platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, Hangouts, and others. In fact, there is a 100% participation of both Bachelors-level and Masters-level students in some online classes.
We believe that lockdowns or shutdowns should be no excuse for depriving students of their education.
Let’s have a look at how some of the colleges in Nepal are implementing online classes.
Interview with Raju Kattel – Principal, Kantipur City College
Q. Are online classes being conducted at KCC?
A: Yes, we are conducting online classes for MCA (Masters in Computer Application), PGDCA (Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Application), and MAMCJ (Masters of Arts in Mass Communication and Journalism). Bachelors courses have been completed but we are planning to run revision classes for them which will be exam-oriented.
Q. What platforms are the lecturers using?
A: Currently, we are using Zoom and Google Meet for video conferencing. In fact, we have a paid version of Zoom that supports two hosts.
Q. How effective are the online classes going? Are there any issues?
A: They are going quite effectively and all the students and lecturers are participating actively. Our online classes are quite interactive as well. Students are assigned assignments at the end of the online class and they can submit their assignments online. Although the students faced some issues in comfort since they were not used to online classes at first. But now, they are getting used to it and actually are preferring it over physical classes.
However, it is difficult to successfully conduct some classes that involve practical lessons. Not just practical but subjects that involve maths and numerical. So, we are trying to develop materials accordingly to facilitate such subjects as well. Other than that, students are getting the flavor of physical classes for theoretical subjects.
Q. Do you see a foreseeable future of online classes in KCC when normal lives continue after the lockdown?
A: There are some subjects that we have to assign 3 hours of classes in a week. I am planning to conduct online classes for 1 hour and physical classes for the remaining 2. Obviously, we have to discuss its possibility and see if we can implement it after the lockdown. But it is for sure that we are not going to drop online classes at any cost. That is why we have purchased Zoom’s host and we plan to use it even after the lockdown.
Also, there are strikes and other types of shutdowns in Nepal that can occur frequently. With online classes, we can cover the courses easily even during such events. Similarly, there is a question of the validity of online courses from the Government and Universities. Suppose if we are unable to conduct physical classes for the next 6 months, then we need to come up with scopes of online examinations as well. The government and the University need to provide an evaluation scheme for students and prepare a morality of board examinations.
Interview with Sandeep Shrestha – Principal, Samriddhi College
Q. How is Samriddhi College conducting Online Classes?
A: Currently we are using Zoom as a platform for video conferencing. However, due to existing security vulnerabilities on its system, we are considering Microsoft Teams and Google Meet as well. We had already been using Google Classroom for assigning tasks and questions to the students. Currently, we are running online classes for all our courses.
Q. Are online classes running effectively? Are they any challenges for students or lecturers?
A: The lecturers are actively conducting classes as per schedule. However, a few students are facing problems with network connection and coverage. These students are at their homes in the areas where it is difficult to find Wi-Fi or any network coverage. But, we are making sure that the students with no such options receive recorded video/audio files of our online classes.
Q. What are the scopes of online classes for Samriddhi College going forward?
A: I believe we have to blend the online classes with our regular classes in the future. We can even conduct guest lectures or sessions online which would be convenient for both guests and students. It might be impractical to conduct all regular classes through online platforms but we can create a module that will help us to identify the subjects or topics that we can teach online. If we can manage the evaluation, task management, assessment, etc. from platforms like Google Classroom, then we will have no problem with adopting online classes for most subjects. We are eyeing on a long-term prospect of online classes with facility management, learning management system and live classes.
Interview with Bhesh Raj Pokharel – Principal, Texas College
Q. Is Texas College conducting Online Classes?
A: Yes, we have been conducting online classes for 20 days now. Almost all of our courses are being taught online through digital platforms.
Q. What platforms are the teaching faculty and the students using for Online Classes?
A: We are currently using Microsoft Teams which is a communication and collaboration platform of Office 365 package.
Q. How actively are the classes running? Are there any challenges?
A: Well, there is certainly active participation from both lecturers and students. We are also conducting regular classes online with an attendance of above 90%. Moreover, the attendance rate in our revision classes is above 60%.
For some students who are far away in rural places with limited network coverage, we are having issues connecting with them live. Video sharing and file sharing is difficult to attain for around 5% of our students. However, there is no difficulty for students who are outside the Kathmandu valley and can use data packs and internet offers from NTC or Ncell on their mobile phones. For the students who are not being able to connect with us live, we are using asynchronous ways to send them video recordings and files.
Q. What are the scopes of online classes for Texas College going forward?
A: There is a huge scope for conduction of online classes and we will surely include a few in our course modules. When it comes to Texas, we are definitely not going to call our students back immediately after the lockdown is lifted. Everyone has to follow social distancing and physical distancing for some time period. Colleges are the places where there are most gatherings of a minimum of 200-300 students from different faculties. It is a matter of security and safety of students and teaching faculty, and we are not going to take any risks. So, we will continue to provide online classes for at least 1 month after the lockdown. And, we will prioritize online platforms until we can be sure that there are no risks to their health.
Many top Universities around the world have already been implementing online assessments, facility management and courses. Even, students are evaluated based on the assessments and exams are conducted online. I believe we have to focus on going forward with the online mode of education and develop plans to address the concepts of ‘Technology in the classroom’ and ‘Technology for learning’. We have to accept the changing trend in technology for education to move forward.
Interview with Nawaraj Paudel -Head, Central Department of Computer Science & IT, TU
Q. Is CDCSIT conducting Online Classes?
A: Yes, we have started online classes for MSc. CSIT Semester I on a regular basis.
Q. How effective are the classes running and what platforms are the teaching faculty and students using?
A: Our online classes are quite encouraging and interactive. Out of 30 students, 29 students participated today (April 21), so I must say the involvement is quite significant. I just have to say that there are issues in practical lessons, especially when students don’t have their laptops with them. I also join in with the class often to monitor the status so, I have to say that it is going quite effectively.
We are currently using a licensed version of Zoom for conducting our classes. However, it has come to our attention that the platform has some security flaws. Also, in my opinion, Zoom is good for holding meetings but it might not be up to the mark as an educational platform. That’s why we are researching for better and more effective applications and platforms. The primary aim is to share class videos, files, manage assessments and evaluations. So it would be better to use such a complete platform which is also cost-effective. We are hoping to receive words from the University regarding policies of online classes.
Q. Is there a future scope in CDCSIT for Online Classes?
A: I don’t think it would be very effective to go 100% online with our course modules. However, we have to discuss the possibility of blending online classes with regular classes. There is a matter of resources, assignments, e-Library, and internal examinations when it comes to the scope of online classes. Currently, we are just managing during the crisis but we can surely discuss and redesign our course module if the University makes its decision on a policy for the validity of online classes.
For this, we have to invest in technology infrastructure and resources to enhance productivity and communication. In fact, I believe we need to focus on an online library that has all the references regarding different topics for the students. If there comes a time when colleges have to remain for months and years, then, of course, Universities and the government have to come up with a redesigned course module. Assessments, classes, evaluation, and examinations, every facility needs to be online in such a case which is just a hypothetical situation. But after the lockdown, I believe we can go with a blended module of online and offline courses. We can assign theoretical subjects for online classes and practical lessons for regular. That is how we hope to manage our course module in the future.
With the time period of the nationwide lockdown in doubt, colleges are providing online classes to their students. We can’t just wait for the moment to pass and deprive students of education. It is a great initiative by the colleges and Universities.
However, most lecturers and college executives are planning to integrate online activities into their course modules. It could change the trend in the education sector in Nepal and help remote areas get all the facilities online. That is how we step forward towards Digital Nepal.