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Islamabad:March 01:While bringing innovations in the old-age crude distance learning methodologies, Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) is now offering latest technology-based learning with online blended systems, especially with a focus on rural areas, said AIOU Vice Chancellor Professor Dr. Nazir Ahmed Sangi.
During an exclusive interview with ‘The News’, he said that gone are the times when people used to think AIOU as a low standard university, it is now a university that is delivering education at par with international standards. “We have redesigned curriculum, reformed faculty, changed teaching methodology, improved assessment system and last but no the least we have used the internet technology for a batter delivery mechanism,” he said.
Belonging to a rural area of Sindh, Sangi seemed extremely sensitised over the problems being faced by the students in these areas and have launched technology based learning programmes while keeping in mind the needs of those students. “During my student life, I used to travel three kilometres to reach the bus-stop and then again three kilometres to reach my school. I know the problems being faced by rural students. In our programmes, they need to go nowhere but our campuses study homes with latest technology would give them online lectures while their viva would also be conducted online,” he said.
He informed that AIOU is establishing computer labs in rural areas where students could get benefit in their research and assignments. “We have recently inaugurated a computer lab in Umerkot while the next would be inaugurated in DG Khan. Similarly, as many as 50 campuses would be purchased in rural areas by the end of this year,” he added.
The technology based learning programme offered by AIOU is the one in which female empowerment is one of the key significant factors. Although the slogan regarding women empowerment is raised by almost every organisation, there are hardly few who have taken practical steps towards its implementation; Allama Iqbal Open University is among those few.
“Applying the world’s most practical model to increase literacy while giving empowerment, AIOU is all set to launch Rural Internet School Education (RISE) in which female faculty would be used to improve the literacy rate while using the internet,” Sangi said.
He said that the programme would focus on five main steps including curriculum development, content development, delivery mechanism, assessment, monitoring and feedback. “The internet facility would be purely ethical where there would be no pop up from porn sites,” he said.
He said the female could deliver lectures even from their home while the whole lecture would be recorded as to gauge the performance of the teacher. On the other hand, the conduct of the student would also be recorded in order to keep the programme more students centric. “Now the teachers also don’t have to travel miles. They deliver lectures from where they are but the quality is the only condition,” he said.
He said international faculty has been hired to improve the quality in higher education. “Three professors have already been hired (one from USA, one from Behrain, one from Germany) while more would also be hired to give online lectures to the students of MPhil and PhD,” he said.
He said that AIOU is following the HEC criteria for the MPhil and PhD programmes so there was no chance of having low standard in it. “The entry level at MPhil and PhD is at par with other institutions while the assessment and checking mechanism is also the same. The only difference is the fee as we cater to the needs of low income group,” he said.
He informed that AIOU is offering PhD programmes in 16 disciplines and Mphil programmes in 25 disciplines. “We have increased our faculty and have been training them every now and then. AIOU is the only university that allocated 47 million budget for the training for faculty,” he said.
He said that it was not only the theoretical education that they impart to the students of higher education but also giving them opportunity for the practical experiences. “We are training our scholars to work over the issues being faced by Pakistan and for that we have established AIOU student support fund. We are looking for international funding for the programme and hopefully we will get it soon,” he said.
Dr Sangi is focusing on technology in distance learning programmes as since last 12 years his research has been focused on Technology Integrated Education in Pakistan. He has won a prestigious National NCR IT Education Excellence Award 2010 for development of e-learning software and NCR IT Education Excellence Award 2004 for his contribution to IT education, especially online virtual classroom research. He has also won Best University Teacher Award 2008 from Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan.
His current focus is on the e-learning, multimedia instructions, e-assessments and online blended systems of education especially in deprived, low education areas of Pakistan. He had played a lead role in the promotion of computer based e-learning and online education at AIOU and he is also heading an apex level committee on e-learning at the university.The news.